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Firing Line: Jason Flood

Firing Line: Jason Flood

“The need for advice is swelling. Ultimately, keeping pace with the amount of change in our market is a really massive task.”

It may sound like an obvious statement, but Jason Flood – director of wealth management firm St James’s Place (SJP) Academy – said this is why he is on a mission to address the growing skills gap and breathe new life into the market.

For young people coming into the industry, financial services is seen as an attractive industry, but Mr Flood added that they do not always consider careers in advice.

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This is changing, however.

As the industry moves towards becoming more professional this has raised its profile, but it still lags behind other financial services sectors, such as banking.

This is where Mr Flood sees the academy as having a big role to play.

It has three main arms. 

The mainstream academy is aimed at individuals who have had a previous career in another sector. They will attain a Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) diploma in regulated financial planning.

Then there is the next generation academy for younger people, typically in their 20s, who will become qualified to diploma level and subsequently work with a mentor in order to gain more experience.

The third group takes existing support staff and helps them become paraplanners. A paraplanner works with an adviser to complete non-client-facing tasks such as preparing a client’s financial plan. Previous graduates from the academy have included ex-soldiers, athletes and footballers.

Mr Flood said that attracting younger people and second careerists into the industry will help breathe new life into an ageing advisory sector. So much so that in some cases existing SJP advisers who were considering leaving the sector have decided to stay on longer.

Mr Flood said: “Second careerists bring fresh thinking because they have transferable skills and specialisms from their previous careers we can learn from. We are finding that a number of the academy partners are breathing new life into our existing partners. Seeing younger dynamic individuals coming into advice is really pushing them to stay on.”

However, Mr Flood said one area that needs improving is the number of women entering the IFA sector.

He said: “Women make fantastic advisers. They have some natural abilities. Their communication skills are usually very high and their client care is excellent.”

As a second careerist himself, Flood is perhaps in a better place than most to lead the academy.

Twenty-five years ago, after years of being a squash coach, his interest turned towards the financial services sector, which led him to undertake a career change programme.

Mr Flood said: “I realised quite early on that the people I was coaching were giving up because they had dodgy knees. This made me start to think that maybe this is not a long-term career for me.”

Starting out as an adviser in Acuma, he went on to join SJP as a business development officer. A chance conversation with SJP senior director Peter Edwards led to him running the firm’s learning and development functions, which at the time were going through a period of change.