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We need to attract the next generation

Noel Butwell

Noel Butwell

The advice gap remains an important agenda point and challenge for our industry.

Its foundations are myriad. However, as I see it, there are few key issues at play.

First, demand for advice has outstripped supply. Research we conducted in 2017 found 13 per cent of advisers didn’t have the capacity to take on new clients at retirement.

We know pension freedoms are part of the reason why.

People have a greater variety of options, and this has made making good choices more complex.

As a consequence, the services of financial advisers, and indeed the wider savings and investment industry, are more valuable than ever.

The increased demand is almost exclusively coming from people at retirement.

For a younger generation that has had less time to accrue wealth, the perceived cost of advice and a lack of awareness of its benefits are fundamental issues we cannot ignore.

If the value of financial advice is not appreciated by young people, then an assumption it is unaffordable or unnecessary could mean they are less likely to explore it as an option at a later stage – which is problematic when we know the need for advice is rising. 

The conventional wisdom is technology holds the answer.

What the future looks like is hard to predict with any great certainty, but I think we can say a mixture of automated services and digitally enhanced solutions – some already making waves in the market - will increase the availability and appreciation of financial advice in the long-term.

Technology will allow advisers to deliver an individual and tailored service to clients in a scalable way and make services which were previously restricted to the very wealthy more accessible to everyone.

But, to get to this point, investing in new technology is only half the battle.

We must give the human capital needed to deliver the innovation that will revolutionise our industry equal recognition.

Financial advice is already a highly skilled profession.

This will only become pertinent as digital technology is more firmly embedded in the services that advice businesses offer, and the support systems advisers have at their disposal become more complex.

We need access to the next generation of talent if we are to truly democratise financial advice.

This is no mean feat. In our increasingly technology-centric world, competition for digital skills is fiercer than it has ever been.

It is a shortage that is impacting every sector, but it does not help our industry is already dealing with a shortage of talent.

Figures from advice network Openwork in August revealed nearly three quarters of financial advisers believed industry trade bodies and financial services providers needed to work together to attract more recruits.