Courses and training schemes aimed at bringing new talent into an industry can only do so if they generate enough interest to make them viable. Earlier this year, the University of South Wales closed its BSc Financial Planning, Investment and Risk degree course to new applicants because demand was lower than expected.
Financial planning degrees equip people with knowledge they can build on in the “real world” of work and universities tend to have links with those working in the industry to avoid a dislocation between formal qualifications and actually doing the job. But there are other, more vocational, routes into the industry, such as apprenticeship and graduate training schemes run by advice firms.
So what elements make a course or training scheme successful? And what must they provide trainees to become the quality professionals clients need?
Getting the right mix
Anyone who wants to become an adviser needs to be qualified to at least level four standard. Other prerequisites like communication skills and relationship building are perhaps more suited to a vocational training environment. As new advisers need a mix of the academic and the vocational, how can they get both?
Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment deputy head of financial planning Jacqueline Lockie saw first hand whether financial planning is a suitable subject for undergraduates while working with Manchester Metropolitan University on its financial planning course.
She says: “The undergraduates do not really understand or appreciate the impact of becoming a good financial planner. Most who were interested in the financial planning degree course were looking at accountancy degree courses first. As the years went by, the numbers dropped. This is partly due to the fact most employers are still not looking for financial planning graduates.”
NMBA managing director Tom Hegarty is concerned whether colleges and universities that run financial planning courses can teach trainees about the realities of the job. He says:“Knowledge, skills and behaviour can’t just be taught and learnt through qualifications. Experience is key to this as well. As you develop, you learn these things in the workplace.”
However, as Tilney head of financial planning Andy Cowan points out, on-the-job training needs will vary between individuals.
He believes any training, including study plans for formal qualifications, has to be bespoke based on an individual’s experience and capabilities.
He says: “A proper assessment of skills and knowledge is required.” At Tilney, much of this is done through the interview and recruitment process but Cowan says it continues after joining the firm.
The Personal Finance Society’s adviser development programme, Aspire, combines apprenticeship funding and PFS sponsorship. It includes all six diploma exams and support material, while regional exam revision sessions and soft skills workshops are also available.
PFS chief executive Keith Richards says: “We believe courses should provide a mixture of both vocational and educational training. ”
Adviser view: Siobhan Thomas, founding director, Seer Green
I have experience of running a training scheme and I found it needed to have an on-the-job element – shadowing advisers – as well as a level of academic knowledge and some commitment to taking exams.
If someone got in touch having just done the exams I’d be interested. But if they’d never had any experience in a practice, they wouldn’t have that knowledge as a foundation. You have to be in a practice and go out with the advisers to see clients. Clients want someone who can break the jargon down in an understandable way. That’s a skill you’re not going to get from reading books.