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Forging career paths through apprenticeships

Looking ahead, this situation is likely to be exacerbated unless action is taken to encourage and inspire more highly skilled young entrants to consider a career in financial planning.

Action is needed now to ensure an effective career pathway is developed. While many view paraplanning as a route to becoming a financial planner, others see it as a career in its own right. Whichever way you look at it, as a profession we need to look very seriously at how we can encourage more people into a rewarding career in financial planning. To date, the most common route has been for recruits to start as administrators within an advisory business, progress to paraplanning and maybe ultimately become a regulated adviser or financial planner.

But that does not mean paraplanners are less well qualified. The recent news that paraplanner Joanna Hague CFPCM of Doncaster-based Investment for Life has become the UK’s 1000th practising Certified Financial Planner professional was particularly interesting. CFP certification is the global standard of excellence in financial planning with more than 153,000 individuals in 25 different territories now authorised to use the CFP marks. Ms Hague’s success highlights the fact that many paraplanners are now notching up advanced-level qualifications such as CFP certification or Chartered Financial Planner. The paraplanner survey carried out by IFP in 2013 showed that more than 20 per cent were qualified to level 6 or above. Paraplanning is a career choice in its own right and one that attracts high-calibre people.

So how do we boost the numbers of paraplanners in the future to ensure financial planning businesses have access to people with the right skillset? Training people from scratch is an expensive business, especially for small firms. One interesting development of late has been some fantastic work by the government that centres on apprenticeships in England. IFP sees the recent creation of a high-quality, ground-breaking scheme focused on IFA Networks as a great entry route into the financial planning and advice profession. We believe the right scheme could provide an ideal grounding for people who aspire to be paraplanners and financial planners. The idea is that trailblazers will give employers the opportunity to lead the development of new apprenticeship standards and the high-level assessment approaches that sit alongside them. Once approved, the standards developed by trailblazers will become the apprenticeship standard for that occupation – in this case, financial planning/advice. Financial planning professionals can have their say on this now and help shape the future for our profession.

These government changes are creating a unique opportunity to create career pathways and better opportunities for young people in financial planning businesses. As part of a project to pilot this new approach within financial services, a group of IFA networks has created a new apprenticeship focused on an entry-level administrative role within either the network head office or a financial planning or advice firm. It may well form the first step on a career path that leads to potential recruits becoming paraplanners, for example, and perhaps ultimately advisers or planners. It could form part of an alternative to graduate entry for bright young people who have chosen not to attend university.