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‘Youngsters have fresh ideas – advisers can benefit from a different perspective’

It took just five minutes into a meeting with Peter Pledger, the newly appointed chief executive of National Skills Academy for Financial Services, to identify his intrinsic passion for training young people for high-skilled jobs.

This fervour has to some extent been moulded by his experience in his previous posts as the chairman of the Confederation of Apprenticeship Training Agencies – which boasts the Duke of York as a patron – and chief executive of South London Business – where he delivered one of the first Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATA) in England.

At the start of the millennium, Mr Pledger was appointed by the Secretary of State as executive director to lead London West Learning and Skills Council, and was responsible for the annual planning and funding of post-16 education across six local authority areas.

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It is therefore unsurprising that Mr Pledger, who began his tenure with NSAFS in January this year, has earmarked injecting new blood into an aging adviser community as one of his key goals.

The NSAFS currently offers an apprenticeship programme in which regional development managers and business development managers at the company work with employers to help identify training needs and suggest suitable solutions.

Mr Pledger mused on the idea of an operating framework within the NSAFS, which is not too dissimilar to the process adopted by ATA which recruits, employs and arranges training for apprentices on behalf of employers.

He added: “Many advisers are reluctant to employ and train young people because they do not have the time or resources to do so. However, doing so can add real value to adviser firms.

“Youngsters have fresh ideas – advisers can benefit from a different perspective. If you are going to sell to the millennials, you have to have individuals in the business that understands and can relate to them.”

The NSAFS, an independent charitable organisation, and body for training and development in the financial services industry, launched in May 2007 with the backing of the FSA to bridge the skills gap. It does this by providing training and development from entry level through to continued professional development.

It offers support to firms within the financial services sphere in recruitment, induction and skill development, and boasts a suite of products and services. These include online modules on regulation and soft skills workshops, aimed at helping employers streamline their business models.

Succession planning is one of the key areas the body provides guidance on specifically for financial advisers.

Mr Pledger said: “One thing that is critical for advisory firms is to have that long term plan. The plan cannot simply be based on replicating the past because what happened in the past is not necessarily going to happen in the future and things are changing drastically – technology is one of these things.

“There is an idea that in the future people will receive financial planning through an app. This may happen, but if I could predict the future, I would have picked the numbers for last Saturday’s lotto draw.