Coming up in the financial services industry as a young whippersnapper, my career route was fairly typical at the time.
After somehow finding my way to university (my attendance record at sixth form college suggested a very different outcome), I landed on a graduate trainee scheme with a life assurance company. Six months in a regional office led to six months as a telephone-based broker consultant, then on to another life assurance company and into the field.
With this grounding in the world of retail financial services, plus the Financial Planning Certificate and a few of the Advanced Financial Planning Certificate exams under my belt, it was time to become an IFA. A year or two more as a trainee, in a role we might today refer to as paraplanning, and I was signed off as a “competent” adviser.
In much the same way that we best learn to drive once we have passed the driving test, learning to become an adviser is best done working with real-life clients. Role-plays are useful, but can never truly replicate advising actual clients.
That learning experience never ends. All advisers should commit to lifelong learning, not only with their professional qualifications but also the acquisition of new skills and broader knowledge.
I have had the pleasure of seeing three younger colleagues making progress in their careers as they become financial planners. With the traditional career path of broker consultant to adviser now largely non-existent, it becomes the responsibility of advice firms to nurture young talent and provide pathways to professionalism.
This is a big ask in the current economic climate. Smaller firms, in particular, run significant risks in recruiting and training staff, hoping that one day they will repay that investment with productivity. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard firms invest a fortune in time and money on training staff, only for them to join a competitor.
Another challenge comes in the form of the role our newly trained financial planners are leaving. Paraplanners are in high demand and limited supply. It is not the most commercially sensible decision for our firm to change the roles of three excellent paraplanners, landing us with a fresh recruitment challenge.
But homegrown planners must trump those trained elsewhere and imported. Embedding cultural values and a certain way of doing things is essential if planners are to reflect our values.
We rarely come across graduates longing to become financial planners in the same way they pursue a career in law, accountancy or medicine. That needs to change.
But we are approached on a regular basis by our podcast listeners and others who are genuinely excited about planning as a second career in their late 20s or early 30s.
We can no longer rely on life assurance companies to train and deliver experience. It is up to us to encourage bright young things (and equally-as-bright older things) to join the profession and fill the gap.
Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice