Last month I reviewed three initiatives aimed to assist the introduction of new talent into the profession and I promised to look at the university sector this month.
It has been some years since I did a full review of the number and types of university degrees that are financial planning-orientated and to be honest I have been somewhat disappointed by the result. I had genuinely expected that in these austere times universities would have been keen to introduce vocational degrees into areas where there is a clear need with good career opportunities. In my mind financial services and financial planning in particular is one such area. We need good quality graduates to enter our profession, whether they are seeking an administrative or technical role or whether they are keen to develop into financial planners.
Of course having a degree does not guarantee that an individual is the calibre we seek, nor can a student expect to easily walk into a job. Those days have gone. These days most degrees require the student to become analytical, to question and reason and often to be able to present and communicate. But this is just the start and a ‘good’ degree, often thought of as an upper second class honours (2.1) or first-class honours classification, is not necessarily a demonstration of the skills we seek. This is nothing new and I vividly remember the time when I was a manager interviewing three finalists for a vacancy I had as a trainee broker consultant. One applicant held a first-class honours degree but lacked personality and he was quickly dismissed. The second was more rounded with a decent 2.1 but the candidate that stood out (and the one I selected) was a girl with a bubbly personality and a 2.2. While not academically the top applicant, she already had the best combination of abilities and skills and proved to be a great asset to my team.
With almost half of 18 year olds going on to higher education it is natural that many of our potential recruits will be graduates. However the economic cost of obtaining a degree will no doubt lead to more youngsters going straight into employment, securing their professional (chartered) qualification and then maybe looking to enter, on a part-time basis, academia. Indeed many existing mature advisers have already gone down this route, something I will explore next month.
Most 18 year olds will select their degree course on the basis of their long-term employment aspirations or their A levels. In my experience very few think of financial planning as a career but this is partly our fault. How well do we promote our profession to the wider community? As an aside, Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, has recently set about creating a unified campaign to positively project the profession. I have already signed up to support. Have you?
There has been some progress with financial planning degrees now being offered by Bradford University and Manchester Metropolitan University. I am particularly pleased with the success of Bradford as I helped the local Yorkshire IFAs build the links with the university. If you Google ‘financial planning degree’, Bradford is the first degree listed but with a little more effort you will find that a number of institutions offer a financial planning-orientated degree including some that offer it as a ‘top-up’ for professionals with at least the Chartered Insurance Institute’s diploma in regulated financial planning or equivalent.