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March 7, 2024

Introducing Chartered Financial Planner, Carla Smart.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, my hope and wish is that we will continue to encourage more women to invest in their futures.

When we heard the UN’s theme for International Women’s day this year was to be ‘Invest in Women – accelerate progress’ we thought who better to catch up with than Skybound Wealth’s Group Head of Pensions and Chartered Financial Planner – Carla Smart.

For any women considering a career in financial advice, her journey is a remarkable story that takes in three continents, multiple qualifications and promotions, two children and a happy marriage.

“In 2006, after having studied English and Hispanic studies at university, I began my career as a mortgage administrator for Savills Private Finance. Looking back, at a time when there were fewer conversations around diversity, I was extremely fortunate to be supporting a team of female mortgage brokers who taught me a great deal and made me believe that through hard work and determination, I too could follow in their footsteps. From those early days, I was keen to progress and, recognising the importance of continuing professional development, began my quest for financial qualifications through the CII.”

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As the financial crisis of 2008 unfolded and the mortgage market ground to a halt, Carla took a year out and combined a trip to Argentina with a year of teaching and studying before heading to Barcelona where she began working in international wealth management.

“I was quickly promoted to be an advisor and then spent a couple of years living and working in Paris.  By 2013, nearing the end of my 20s, I was ready for a new challenge and joined GWM based in Geneva. During those early years, I learned about the Swiss market and, in the days before ‘Teams,’ saw a lot of Switzerland as most meetings were face-to-face!”

In 2016, Carla married Edward and their first daughter, Frida, was born a year later.  She recalls reflecting during her time in Paris, that she didn’t think it would be possible to do this job and have a family.

“My previous company had been very strict around working hours - if an adviser wasn’t at a client meeting, he or she had to be in the office from 8am to 6pm. While GWM proved to be more flexible, I did feel somewhat apprehensive starting maternity leave and I wondered quite how I would manage my family / work life balance when I returned to work.”

Prior to going on maternity leave, Carla remembers working with several clients who held UK pensions and, a month before returning to work was offered the technical support position of ‘Pension Specialist.’

“I accepted, but, very importantly, I also continued to manage and build my own client book. As a new mother returning to work, I welcomed the new challenge and the opportunity, therefore, to work more closely with my colleagues in order to help them with their clients.  

“The industry and the company have since evolved, as has my family! We welcomed our second daughter Scarlett in 2020.  In the same year, Skybound Capital acquired GWM and has since expanded into different territories, and increased its number of operating licenses, the most recent being FIMNA in Switzerland.”  

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Alongside this growth into new areas, advisers have seen opportunities to upskill in order to obtain the knowledge and expertise to provide suitable and qualified advice to clients in the jurisdictions in which Skybound operates.

“During my career, I have completed numerous qualifications both in the UK and overseas and in 2021, I was proud to become a Chartered Financial Planner with the CII. In my current role as ‘Group Head of Pensions,’ I feel privileged to be a member of the Skybound leadership team, which meets regularly to drive further business growth and the delivery of a first-class service and proposition to our clients as we go forward.”

According to research carried out by the FCA in 2022, only around 16% of financial advisors in the UK are women.  And whilst Carla’s progression has been a source of inspiration to many, she suspects that internationally the numbers may be lower still.

“While I’m very grateful to a number of male managers and colleagues who have provided me with opportunities to progress my career, I have been very fortunate to work with a number of talented female advisers. In 2013, I worked closely with Majbritt Bridges who was a great mentor and support. After having forged a successful career in financial services, she has since gone on to co-found a startup company in Switzerland which is doing exceptionally well.

I’m also delighted to have worked alongside Fiona Neill for many years, first in Paris and then at Skybound. She has worked hard to help build a fantastic business at Skybound in the UK. In recent years, it’s also been great to see Taylor Condon’s career develop, and she has been a strong advocate for female inclusion and connection.

Despite the extent to which these and other women have therefore demonstrated that they have the ability and determination to become successful financial advisors, women, sadly, continue very much to be disproportionately represented in the industry. So, what can we do to attract more women to the industry?

“Skybound Wealth already has an established graduate program and, as a result of that, I get to see first-hand, talented and driven graduates joining Skybound and developing their careers. I hope that by sharing my journey here, this may encourage more young women to embark on what is a rewarding career in financial planning.

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Carla feels more female advisers are needed to help close the gender investment gap a little further. “While research has shown that women are generally better savers than men; BNY Mellon carried out an interesting study in 2022, interviewing 8000 men and women across 16 markets and found that women are less likely to invest than men. By encouraging more women to invest, it is likely that this would not only benefit their own lives but also have a positive impact in the wider world, as the study showed that 66% of women who currently invest try to do so in companies which they like and which support their personal values.”

On the need for more female advisers, Carla said:

“Many of my clients are female and have expressed a preference to work with a female adviser. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, my hope and wish is that we will continue to encourage more women to invest in their futures whether that be saving for their retirement and/or their children’s education, or through embarking on a career in financial services.”

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Written By
Carla Smart
Pensions Manager & Chartered Financial Planner
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