Chapter 2 – Raising awareness of financial advice as a career
Attracting new talent to the profession
Based on our conversations with experts across the industry, we’ve identified three areas where we believe it would be fruitful for advice firms to concentrate:
• Focus on bringing through a younger generation of talent, who can support
more experienced members of the team from day one.
• Focus on promoting diversity, to increase the pool of potential talent and appeal
to a broader range of clients.
• Have a dedicated focus on paraplanners as well as advisers.
The benefits of focusing on young talent
When talking about how to close the advice gap, there’s a tendency to focus on the benefits to clients, including those currently not receiving advice who would benefit from doing so.
But there are also huge benefits to advice firms from bringing in young blood.
“Younger advisers can bring lots of benefits to an advice firm,” says Fairstone’s Louise Sagar.”
“They offer fresh ideas and bring enthusiasm and new energy to a business. They can also provide a lot of support to more established advisers, taking on some of their client base and freeing up their time.”
“Almost always, younger clients want their advisers to be a similar age,” adds Alan Marks, Managing Director at Harrison Spence, a London-based firm that specialises in buying and selling IFA businesses.
“And although recruiting a younger adviser to attract younger clients might not always make sense in the short term, over time their wealth is likely to grow and they will come into an inheritance. This is what feeds your business and provides longevity – which ultimately adds value to it.”
Some clients also like the idea of an adviser being with them throughout their life, which is another reason that a younger adviser may be preferred. But you shouldn’t have to wait years for young recruits to prove their worth.
“Taking on a younger adviser with a smaller client book can also have an immediate commercial benefit,” says Marks.
“It means the existing and more established advisers in the firm can pass on their lower value clients to that new adviser, freeing them up focus on the higher value clients, and to find more of them.”
Even someone who currently has no client book can be worth taking on, and this can be a good way of recruiting promising raw talent.
This is precisely the approach taken by Owen Cook, an adviser at Ablestoke Wealth Management in London.
“Two summers ago, I had a guy do some work experience just for two weeks. He really enjoyed it and said, when I graduate, if there’s a role available, I’ll be happy to put myself forward. He got a First from Nottingham in maths, but he was also captain of the football team, which basically meant he would have a solid grasp of numbers, but he would also be a really good bloke with people skills. So a really good mix.”
Cook decided to hire him straight out of university.
“Our strategy was for him to come on board as my right-hand man, to help with all the RDR admin that’s got to be done for my clients, ongoing reviews, all that stuff. So, it’s kind of a paraplanner support role, working under my wing, just learning everything. He’s been introduced to my clients, so they are used to responding to us both.”
While Cook’s new recruit is already adding value, he should go on to become an essential part of the firm’s strategy for growth.
“He’ll probably be licenced in another year,” says Cook.
“So, he will have had two years of experience, plus two years of me essentially funding his salary. I can afford to do that because I’ve got an established client base. That’s a slow growth strategy. Then I’ll probably need to recruit another person, because as he goes on to generate his own clients and business out of my client base, I’ll keep on bringing on board new clients and more assets.”
The benefits of focusing on diversity
As well as being open to hiring young talent, firms would be well advised to take active steps to improve the diversity of the profession.
“We know from our own research that 83% of graduates would prefer to work for companies that have a clear Diversity and Inclusion policy, so that’s definitely something that advice firms should consider,” says Cary Curtis at Give A Grad A Go.
Not only does this broaden the pool of potential recruits, it’s essential to closing the advice gap and reaching new clients.
“If we want to grow the profession, we have to build an industry that is going to engage all areas of society,” says Jackie Lockie, Head of Financial Planning at the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment.
“That means that the profession itself should be reflective of the society that it serves. And so, you need to be able to attract different people from different walks of life, from different racial backgrounds and upbringings, so that those seeking advice can relate to them, and they can understand and explain things in their different terminology. We’ve got this advice gap already, if we don’t have a diverse population of advisers and paraplanners to serve the public, then the advice gap is only going to get bigger rather than smaller.”
“We should be looking at ways to open up the industry to a wider and more diverse talent pool of all ages and backgrounds,” agrees Openwork’s Claire Limon.
“We know that what’s really important is the relationship that you have with your adviser. If you’ve got somebody who’s like my daughter, 19, she’s not going to sit in front of a 55-year-old man in a suit and listen to him. That wouldn’t engage her, because she would want to talk to someone that was more like her, perhaps younger and female. Likewise, people from other backgrounds will likely want to work with people who they feel really understand them.”
The benefits of having a dedicated focus on paraplanners
Serving more clients isn’t just about recruiting more advisers.
“I think another big part of the solution is actually to look at administration and support functions, such as paraplanners,” says Quilter’s Scott Stevens.
“Paraplanners have a hugely important role within an advice business” says Laura Russell, Head of Paraplanner Development at Succession Wealth.
“They are often the ones with the critical analysis skills and technical knowledge who come up with ideas of how best to meet the client’s objectives. That frees up more of the adviser’s time, which they can then devote to their clients, because they know that their paraplanner can put together all the necessary research and analysis for the advice they want to provide.”
So what can the industry do to encourage more people to pursue careers as paraplanners?
“I think some more formal definitions of paraplanning would be helpful to attract more people into the industry, as there’s still a lot of debate about whether it is a profession,” says Russell.
“When you compare it to other professional services, like accountancy, we don’t have those same clear-cut standards and there is massive variation in terms of what paraplanning means to different firms.”
While the role of paraplanner can sometimes be a steppingstone towards becoming an adviser, it doesn’t have to be.
“There is a genuine career for paraplanners, and that does entail not becoming a financial adviser, and not all paraplanners want to become advisers either,” says Stevens.
“We are currently working with some of the governing bodies around looking at a paraplanner qualification, because I think it’s important that we also increase and use the same standards of what we mean when we say ‘paraplanner’.”
This may attract more potential recruits, but firms will need to think carefully about how they can create opportunities for new talent looking to join the profession.
“Small firms don’t always have the time and the resource to be able to put in to train up a paraplanner,” points out CISI’s Jackie Lockie.
“That means if you come out of university, for example, you might be really interested in paraplanning, but who do you apply to for your first job? You don’t have any financial advice qualifications yet, but you’re willing to do them. But where do you go?”
As Lockie points out, while there is an incentive for the industry to create more paths for new paraplanners and advisers, at the firm level there can also be disincentives.
“Some of the larger firms have graduate recruitment schemes, but not all of them. A lot of them have a mini job recruitment scheme, but a lot of them don’t have anything in place at all. For those that do have a scheme in place, there will be a risk that they might lose their new employees to another firm once they are fully trained. This can put off some smaller firms.”
Nonetheless, there are a number of promising initiatives across the industry.
Examples of current recruitment initiatives
“If you think about the time when most people are considering a career, it’s in their final year at university,” says Rohan Sivajoti, co-founder of NextGen Planners.
“That’s why we run bootcamps at universities to introduce students to the profession. We feel that’s the area to go at. Those who are completing their degrees but are not yet sure where to go.”
And the early signs from the NextGen bootcamps are extremely positive.
“The first one we did in Manchester, we had 16 students attend, and all of them had an interview at the end of that process,” says Sivajoti.
“We’re saying to advice firms, if there’s a university near you that you want to work with, let us know, and we’ll set up a bootcamp for you. From an employer’s perspective, you can go and meet all these candidates and cherry pick the best people from the day. From a recruitment perspective it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Openwork also has initiatives aimed at attracting more university students to the profession.
“We’re already working with the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (PIMFA) on more formal partnerships with universities to try and encourage people to consider a career in financial advice,” says Claire Limon
“We single out those studying economics and maths, as well as those studying psychology who are good at understanding how people behave. We’re working with Gloucester University and have been sharing our training and learning material so they can use it in their courses.”
Quilter, meanwhile, has a work experience programme aimed at 17 to 22-year-olds, and also plans to promote financial advice to sixth form students.
“I will usually finish with a 35 – 40-minute talk around what is the City? and ‘what is financial services?’,” says Quilter’s Scott Stevens.
“But anybody who’s doing an arts degree suddenly dismisses it and says it’s not for them. Whereas actually, most of those doing those arts degrees would lend themselves very well to being a financial adviser. So, a lot of it is about education and demystifying what is a financial adviser really does.”
Quilter also has plans to target universities.
“We’ve already identified 20 universities that we’re looking to actively partner with,” says Stevens.
“The programme starts off as a week, and then for those that enjoyed it and want to learn more, they could then apply for another month’s worth. The hope being that if someone had attended both, at the point they graduate, they already have a good idea of what the industry is like. We’d then have a readymade stream of the brightest and the best students would be coming through and joining us. Clearly, the programme will now have to be digital only for the time being [because of the coronavirus pandemic], but that does mean we can open it up to more people.”
The programme will offer a combination of insights into what a role in financial services looks like, with background about the industry. Participants will get 13 discrete 30-minute interviews with people who are doing everyday jobs at Quilter.
“They will see somebody from marketing, somebody from sponsorships, a financial adviser, a paraplanner, etc,” explains Stevens.
“Obviously if we can make this a success, we can do it every year, and it’s very scalable.”
Quilter is also creating assets such as videos that its advisers can use to give careers talks in local schools.
However, while there are clearly lots of good recruitment initiatives already in place, particularly among the larger networks, the overall picture is not so rosy, with only 19% of firms saying they have a graduate training scheme in place. That figure rises to 54% among larger firms with 10 or more advisers, yet that still leaves almost half without any formal programme in place to train the next generation.
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The advice gap looks set to grow substantially – with significant implications for the financial advice profession.
Chapter 1 – Why the advice gap looks set to grow wider
Learn why the advice gap looks set to grow wider and why outdated perceptions of the profession are making recruitment more difficult.
Chapter 3 – Harnessing technology and new ways of working
Technology has huge potential to help close the advice gap, but where should you start, and what are the barriers that still need to be overcome.
Still want more? Here you can find extended conversations with some of the report’s contributors.
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