Author: Arah Perrett, Business Consultant 
 
I recently spent time with female business owners of financial planning firms. At the moment, they are quite rare; approximately 15% of UK financial planning firms are owned by a woman. I was interested in the challenges they may face developing a practice in a male dominated environment. Almost to a woman, the words ‘gaining credibility’ came up as one of the biggest challenges. 
The attitude of colleagues, and even family members, can give rise to a sense that others don’t always believe that they can succeed. 
 
Alison Rose, CEO of RBS says this in her review of female entrepreneurship: ‘these barriers were, for many women, intensified by their perception that there is an underlying attitude among some men – whether family members, potential funders, possible mentors or business partners – that women do not really belong in the entrepreneurial world.’ 
 
What is credibility? 
 
The Cambridge English Dictionary describes credibility as ‘the fact that someone can be believed or trusted.’ It arguably has a look. When I googled credibility, these were some of the words and phrases that came up. 
 
Balanced posture, a serious expression, appropriate eye contact, moderate to low pitched voice, attentive and well dressed. 
 
How to be more credible 
 
Enhancing credibility has three main stems; who you are, what you do, how you look. 
 
Here are just a few ideas to consider: 
 
Have a virtual makeup lesson – a great confidence booster 
 
Upgrade your wardrobe – people deduce much more from our clothing 
 
Attain Chartered Financial Planner status – a mark of excellence within the industry 
 
Use a video conferencing system for public speaking 
 
Increase your self-awareness and behave intentionally 
 
Get feedback from people that you trust. 
Credibility and trust 
 
Having highlighted some ways to be more credible, I want to sound a note of caution. Credibility ideally is seen in the wider context of being trustworthy. 
 
The trust equation developed by David H. Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galeford is an example of how credibility and trust are linked. 
 
The theory indicates that we trust those who are credible, reliable and the kind of person with whom we can share a measure of intimacy.  
 
In other words, someone with whom we feel safe. 
 
Self-orientation is the most impactful factor of all. The higher one’s self-orientation, the more likely it is that a person will put their needs above those of others. 
 
Charles Green suggests that businesses often focus too much on credibility and not enough on developing the qualities and skills associated with developing intimacy and emphasising low self-orientation. 
 
Now, here’s the thing – the women I meet are brilliant at providing emotional safety and demonstrating that they care; the very things that matter most to their clients. 
Conclusion 
 
Working on being credible is important – it is a key part of the trust equation. Demonstrating competence and a willingness to learn are important requirements for the modern-day Financial Planner. 
 
It is equally good to celebrate all the other elements that women bring to financial services, that help to make the industry a great place for existing and future clients. 
 
Thank you for reading this! I hope you have found it helpful. Please get in touch on 01452 489 942 if you would like any other information. 
 
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