When I was in my early 20s in the late 1990s, I became authorised to give financial advice. At that time, many young people came from the insurance industry, having gained product knowledge from the many training courses, as well as having financial support and rewards for passing the then-new regulatory examinations.
After cutting their teeth in the insurance company or non-finance world, many young people branched out to smaller advice businesses. The professional bodies were there to support our endeavours, helping plug our knowledge and skills gaps.
There are not now many of those sorts of insurance jobs around. From my personal experience of training for the certified financial planner (CFP) examination, many of the graduates who wanted to go into finance were attracted to what they perceived to be the ‘big money’ world of investment banks.
They were pleasantly surprised to discover, through the CFP certification training, the positive, life-changing potential their financial planning skills could have.
The Personal Finance Education Group, along with bodies such as the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) and Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), encourages schools and universities to incorporate personal finance knowledge into their syllabi. So, given that the background has changed, and there is now more financial education in schools, how can we encourage more students who are leaving school and university into financial planning?
Professional bodies offer educational support and in addition the CISI’s Educational Trust offers awards to promising young talent. But the spotlight must fall on ensuring smaller financial planning and advice firms do more.
Larger firms such as Succession and 1825 have development programmes to attract and train their own paraplanners and financial planners in-house. Other firms such Paradigm Norton have graduate recruitment schemes.
There are many smaller firms, such as Cooper Parry Wealth and Bloomsbury Wealth, that look to recruit people with the right attitude, whether they be graduates or not, and then look to develop their talents. Some individuals will find they prefer the more technical side of advice and prefer to become paraplanners, as opposed to client-facing financial planners.
Developing in-house talent
The main reason for attracting and developing in-house talent is the lack of developing ‘bad habits’ from staff already employed in planning firms. Smaller firms want staff to work closely together for the benefit of their clients in the style in which their firm operates.
Some planning businesses have relationships with colleges and universities and offer summer internship placements to students.
But recruitment and retention cannot be left to the financial planning companies alone. Professional bodies and other organisations have a role to play. For paraplanners, there are the CISI and CII and recruiter Powwow. There is also Next Gen Planners, which offers digital meetings to learn from some of the experienced advisers in the profession.
Mentoring is one area that could be developed further. Julie Gustafson at Manager Tools uses an analogy on how to help boost employee skills: “I might want one of my staff to improve their presenting skills, to help present a financial plan in a client meeting. I might set them tasks, namely; to find three books on the subject, to prove that one had been ordered, to prove (by photo) that it had been delivered and the first chapter had been read, by telling me three things they learned from chapter one.”