Annika Peters is on the board of FrauenFinanzBeratung Barbara Rojahn & Kolleginnen in Stuttgart. She works here advising - predominantly female - private investors. We talk to her about the profession of financial investment advisor, what makes it tick, and whether it is well suited to women.
Annika, you advise customers every day on matters of finance, retirement planning and insurance. What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I like about my job is that it's very varied. Every customer has a different situation and very different issues arise for which I then look for solutions. The feedback is also great, especially when you've advised women and helped them on their way to financial independence. I think the exchange between women is more relaxed and intensive; it's also very personal. After all, our consulting includes both knowledge transfer and individual advice. It gives me a good feeling when my customer has an "aha" moment and I've actually been able to help her.
What do you see as the three most important requirements to become a counselor?
This certainly includes a certain empathy and enjoyment in dealing with people. But also, of course, specialist knowledge. After all, I have to be able to cover the areas that are discussed during the consultation. This ranges from economic topics to social security issues and political changes that you have to keep an eye on.
What are the technical and professional requirements to be able to work in consulting?
You don't have to have studied math, but a good command of a calculator is certainly good! You should already have a feeling for numbers and a desire to familiarize yourself with technical topics, for example a new financial planning tool. After all, you sit at the computer a lot and have to make calculations. You also need a basic knowledge of topics such as law and taxes. You also have to have a desire to evaluate and analyze financial products. For that, I need an understanding of how they are structured. It helped me a lot that I worked in asset management for a while.
The financial market is developing very quickly, and there are always topics and products that didn't even exist 10 years ago. What about continuing education?
Continuing education is very important in our industry. It feels like every day a new ETF or another product comes onto the market. In addition, topics such as crypto-assets and robo-advisors come onto the market, but also regulatory topics: Now brand new since August 2, for example, the query of sustainability preferences with clients, according to MiFid. As a certified financial planner (CFP®), I have to continuously educate myself, on the one hand from a regulatory point of view (we need 30 continuing education points per year), but also from the client side. Some of this can be done via the Internet, but some of it also takes the form of face-to-face events.
Investment advice doesn't exactly have the greatest reputation among the general public. Does that hurt you? How do you deal with this sometimes very negative image?
I think that is a great pity. The bad image of financial advice is partly reinforced by financial bloggers. They often say that you don't need advice at all. For me, there is far too little differentiation between dependent and independent advice. Independent advice costs money, but we stand on the side of our clients. Of course I have to be paid for my work. In our case, even the initial consultation costs money. In my day-to-day business, this is fortunately accepted without any problems, and I don't notice anything of the bad image of financial advice. Our customers almost always come to us on recommendation, and they know that we'll give them the knowledge they need to make good decisions in the end.
The topic of sustainability seems to appeal particularly to women. How can this topic be combined with financial investment advice?
It has been proven that women ask more often about sustainability topics than men. 70% of women explicitly want sustainable investments. Sustainability issues can be combined well with investment, but I have to discuss with the customer which method of sustainability she wants and then be honest about it. I have to be honest with my customers and tell them that 100% is not yet possible. I have to get my customers on board so that they can make an informed decision. That extends the first consultation, purely temporally seen. At FrauenFinanzBeratung, we produce our own series of online webinars for this purpose. These are 1-hour videos; we produce one of these every month or so.
Is the profession of financial investment advisor actually suitable for women? Do women perhaps even have advantages over their male colleagues here?
I think so! Women are said to be more careful with money and have better empathy. I've also had men specifically look for a woman as a consultant because they think they are more conscientious and calm. Of course, not every woman is like that, and not every man is like that. But basically, I think the profession of financial investment advisor is very suitable for women!
And is it suitable for women with children?
Yes, because I can usually plan customer appointments well, often months in advance. Most of the time, there are no issues where you have to react acutely, but most issues can wait until next week without any problems. Part-time work is also possible in financial consulting, which is what many mothers want, for example. They may be able to put themselves in the shoes of other women who also have children. We are all about creating a financial life concept, which is also important for men.
Speed is rarely a requirement with us because we work with long-term investment strategies. We do not do day trading. With long-term financial planning, you don't have to suddenly change everything in times of crisis. Maybe you have to hold hands, but you can do that by phone, even from your home office. And in our office, it's great that in a stressful situation I know I'm not alone; we have a back office that takes care of a lot of things for us.
That's a big difference: Am I a lone fighter or do I work together with other women in the office? I find it much easier together. But of course, lone warriors can also join forces and network together.
And what can you earn as a financial investment advisor?
The earning potential is good! Starting salaries as an employee are around 36,000 euros gross per year for a full-time position. But that's open to the top, depending on the portfolio I manage and the sales I make. Over 100,000 euros is also possible in our industry, but it takes a few years to build up a portfolio like that.
Between you and me, what do you think about Bitcoins?
I am not a Bitcoin fan. There's nothing behind it. I don't see any ecological reasons for investing in Bitcoin & Co. They are not part of sound financial planning and are fraught with risk. But I have to explain the connection between risk and return to a lot of female customers.
Thank you Annika, for this refreshing interview!