Last week, it was my privilege to host the Future Asset Conference at Strathclyde University in Glasgow to help introduce the next generation of young women to investment.
As well as making a speech to the 300 or so schoolgirls in attendance, I got to introduce and host a Q’n’A with Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats (who seems to be in the news quite a lot at the moment…can’t think why.)
I imagine this is Jo saying to me: “I mean…who knows what the hell is going to happen?!?”
I also hosted a panel with three women who had overcome huge obstacles in their lives – disabilities, mental health problems, family drug abuse – to achieve incredible things, from cycling across the world to competing in international sports tournaments.
I was thrilled to be asked to host the conference as a ‘relatable’ young female role model for the audience. But I also had the chance to write a column for the Scotsman about what Future Asset is and why it matters. I’m sharing it here so you too can understand why I was so passionate about supporting Future Asset last week. Here it is!
Not so long ago, I was a state school pupil in Edinburgh, more interested in music and make-up than Isas and pensions.
It was only when I left university and stepped into the real world that I began to understand how important money is (the theft of my piggybank in a burglary in my early 20s, containing most of my earnings, was an eye-opener!).
I was fortunate that my father is Simon Bain, a now-retired and a much-respected financial journalist, who encouraged me to pursue my newfound interest. Today, I have a fascinating career writing and talking about finance. But I am saddened by the sheer number of young people – particularly young women – who have a negative view of the financial industry.
Furthermore, women still typically earn less, invest less and retire on less than men. While the gender pay gap is still a very real problem, we should also be worried about the gender prosperity gap. A continued reliance on a male partner’s investments and pensions puts many women in a fragile position – one that can’t just be resolved through higher earnings.
I am far from alone in believing that more brilliant women from different backgrounds working in our financial institutions will create an industry more relevant and accessible to half our population.
“A continued reliance on a male partner’s investments and pensions puts many women in a fragile position – one that can’t just be resolved through higher earnings”
There has never been a better time to be a woman in finance. Firms are strengthening their commitment to gender equality, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes business sense.
Which brings us back to Future Asset. Set up in 2017, the organisation’s purpose is to help young women understand the world-changing potential of investing, build valuable skills and see a way into this industry.
It’s driven by a tireless steering group of top women in Scottish finance and this year, the conference launches a competition, where entrants research and pitch investment ideas and recommended firms for investment.
Real investors will assess the entries based on the girls’ understanding of business models, practices, sustainability and opportunities for growth. The schoolgirls will be helped by firms including Artemis, Baillie Gifford, Cornelian, Kennox and Stewart Investors.
A career in asset-management isn’t for everyone, and Future Asset doesn’t pretend it is. But even if many of the attendees decide this world isn’t for them, I’m sure they’ll come away feeling more confident and optimistic about their future, knowing there isn’t only one way to be “successful” in today’s society.
Because while understanding how finance works is crucial, it’s the means to an end, not the end itself. What really matters is being able to live, work and manage money so you can fulfil a purpose and help others around you – whatever field you choose.
Iona Bain is host of the 2019 Future Asset Conference. She is a financial writer and founder of the Young Money Blog.