The benefits of digestible study guides, access to a tutor and overall structure have also been pointed to as the key benefits of studying as part of an academy.
Participants of Schroders’ Benchmark Academy have outlined their experience of studying for the Chartered Insurance Institute’s diploma in financial planning and said despite some concerns about the public fallout between the CII and the Personal Finance Society, they are optimistic about the future of the profession.
Sarah Dubbins, a paraplanner with Benchmark Financial Planning, has been in the financial services sector for 35 years and already had most of her qualifications towards the CII’s Level 4 diploma when Benchmark launched its own academy last year.
Set up in February 2022, the academy offers pathways for those growing careers in financial advice, paraplanning and administration and gives participants exam support through a structured programme along with bespoke behavioural and client skills training.
Benchmark managing director, Ed Dymott said the aim of launching Benchmark’s own academy was to “ensure a clear pathway for the next generation of the best qualified and highly skilled advisers, paraplanners and administrators.”
For Dubbins, it was the opportunity to work in a peer group that appealed to her having worked alone on her exams in the past, and so she decided to join the academy to complete her R06 financial planning practice exam.
Since launching last year, the academy has welcomed circa 90 candidates and boasted a first time pass rate of 92 per cent among its first group of candidates to complete the CII diploma.
I would love to see broader initiatives to get more young people from diverse backgrounds interested in becoming financial planners — Tom Watson, Finura
Last month, the academy also began enrolling students studying towards chartered status and the advanced diploma in partnership with the learning provider, Redmill advance.
While the academy is aimed at prospective advisers, paraplanners and administrators alike, Dubbins noted that there is an “ongoing shortage of paraplanners” entering the profession.
For companies looking to tackle this issue, Dubbins said focusing on the culture of the workplace is a good place to start when trying to retain talent.
“A supportive team environment is always appealing – you have to be happy in your day-to-day work and with the people around you,” she said.
While paraplanning is often a popular route into advice, Dubbins plan is to remain in paraplanning.