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SJP academy trains first UK trans adviser

‘If I can help people out on their journey, I’m happy to do that’

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When Jenny Sheanon walked past a St James’s Place (SJP) senior partner practice, little did she know that financial advice was going to be part of her future. 

Relocating to the west country from Peterborough, Sheanon was looking for work when a job advert for admin staff placed on the window of an SJP practice caught her eye. 

“My background had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial world, and I didn’t think anything of it,” she told International Adviser. I applied, gave my CV and didn’t hear anything at all. Then a month or so later, the principal sent me an email and asked me in for a chat. 

“He asked me what my aspirations were, and I really did not envisage me going into the financial world, because I just didn’t have the qualifications, didn’t have the background. 

But there are valuable skills that may not be tied to a background in financial services. 

After looking at how affable and empathetic she was with the practice staff, her principal encouraged Sheanon to apply to the SJP academy and become a financial adviser. 

Positive experience 

She has now become the first, or at least one of the first, transgender financial advisers in the UK. 

But has her gender identity impacted her experience of the sector? 

Well, for me, it’s never been a problem because, over here, everyone’s only ever known me as Jenny,” she said. The worst part about it is the people who knew you from your previous life. 

Yes, I’m transgender, but [the people at SJP] sort of speak to the person rather than the label. For me, on the whole, it really has been positive. 

Following her graduation from the SJP academy, word has gone around about Sheanon being one of the very few trans advisers in the UK, which has sparked interest among LGBT+ clients. 

“Once they found out about a transgender financial adviser, people have made noises towards me,” Sheanon added. 

Higher level of understanding 

Transgender clients have been the most prominent in reaching out to Sheanon with various enquiries. 

“The thing about an awful lot of people in the transgender world, is that there’s quite a high divorce rate. So, with the divorce rate and the ramifications that come from that, they hit in their finances really does require some planning. Pensions are certainly up there,” she added. 

But why do LGBT+ clients tend to feel more trusting of a trans adviser? 

I think it is basically because we understand everything that comes before you come out of the closet,” Sheanon said.  

There’s a real depth of feeling and there’s an awful lot of thought about it, and there’s a crisis of conscience. There’s real worrying about how the world is going to react again against you.

“And unless you’ve been through this, you probably don’t appreciate the depth of feeling they have to go through before coming out the closet. 

Wider financial planning 

But understanding a person’s journey is only part of what clients are looking for.  

She continued: “Well, first of all, I think the biggest thing you need to do is be able to talk to people, you need to be able to communicate with people. That’s the biggest gift. Empathy and understanding of where they’ve come from, their journey from coming out of the closet. 

That is especially true for LGBT+ clients who may find themselves in different financial stages of their lives compared to the ‘average’ advisory customer. 

For transgender people, if they’re going to come out the closet and present themselves as a female or male person, there’s a number of them who feel they can’t do that where they work,” Sheanon added; which sometimes forces trans people to move to a different part of the country where they feel more comfortable to come out. 

Obviously, we have just as many rights as every other person, but how their work colleagues can cope with it or how they’re going to react against them, is a little bit of an unknown. 

In need of protection 

Many may have to change jobs as a result, and Sheanon added that this “creates a change in their financial circumstances 

Now, if they may have to move to another part of the country, that could involve more mortgages or paying for a mortgage in another part of the country where house prices are higher than where they’ve come from. 

But many transgender people have other situations where they may require sound financial planning, such as paying for treatmentand surgeries. 

There are definitely various products out there, but there’s not only the saving up for it, there’s also having to take the time off of work and if they would be paid  or get sick pay and  maybe get income protection,” Sheanon added. There are definitely protection issues out there, which is something they possibly haven’t really thought of. 

Greater visibility 

Sheanon believes that her being a trans financial adviser shows that the industry is going in the right direction when it comes to diversity and inclusion 

I don’t know if I am the only transgender adviser in the country, possibly I am but I don’t know. I think the industry was certainly underrepresented.  

I mean, off the top of my head, how many advisers are gay, lesbian or bisexual? I don’t know. I would imagine that we’re underrepresented.  

Obviously, the financial world was biased against the LGBT+ community.” But she believes things are, indeed, changing for the better. 

Sheanon, however, is not looking to become an adviser to only LGBT+ clients.  

“Certainly, I would like to appeal to the LGBT+ community,” she saidDo I see myself as a role model? Well, I hope I do. I hate to stand up and say I’m this really fantastic person, but I’d would hope to be some sort of role model.  

“Within the transgender world, people now know what I’m doing. I’ve had more people coming to me talking not necessarily about finances, but more to do with my journey, and if I can help people out on their journey, I’m happy to do that. 

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