Opinion  

Is it time to take old-fashioned sales culture off the curriculum?

Matt Gunn

Matt Gunn

Adviser academies are now a well-established route into becoming a financial planner, and there are plenty of options available within the industry.

Which academy is right for you will depend on a number of factors, including your level of experience and qualifications, with programmes on offer for everyone from graduates looking to start their career in the advice industry to career-changers and mortgage advisers looking to expand into wealth management.

Following nearly four years spent in paraplanning roles, I did a lot of shopping around for a suitable academy to join.

An important factor in my initial selection process was looking at the available progression opportunities, as in my opinion, there continues to be too great a focus on age in determining the time taken to progress into an adviser position.

Not wanting to ‘wait in the queue’, I was seeking an environment where progression was based on merit and ability, as opposed to arbitrary measures like age and length of service.

However, a key element in my actual decision-making process, and an issue that a lot of aspiring financial planners may recognise, was that the majority of academy schemes offered a low base salary with an incentive element tied into new business generation and volume-led commission.

In our post-Retail Distribution Review landscape, I found this quite surprising, and at odds with the transparency that this initiative seeks to promote within financial services.

A focus on culture

This led me to think more widely about how our industry develops the advisers of the future. If we want to promote being a financial planner as a career with a professional standing equal to that of an accountant or solicitor, then the industry needs to rethink the structures within which we learn our trade.

If the next generation of planners is developed within an incentive culture tied to volume as opposed to outcomes, then we are heading in the wrong direction.

Culture and values are becoming recognised as an ever more important element in business and finance. We have all witnessed the growing popularity of ESG investing, which has only been accelerated by the pandemic, as people increasingly seek investments that align with their values and encourage positive social and environmental change.

ESG risks were linked to Deliveroo’s recent troubled IPO for example, as a company in the spotlight for a less than exemplary culture in relation to workers' rights.

Consumers are increasingly boycotting the products of companies whose values they view as contrary to their own – they are voting with their wallets.

What is more, as the younger generation enter the workforce, they are choosing to select or select against potential employers who do not align with their own ethical stance and beliefs.

While this is most noticeable in the young, it is probably fair to say this is a trend that has the potential to extend throughout the working population as a whole. Individuals are increasingly gravitating towards employers that have a defined and positive impact on their communities, society, or the wider world.