Once upon a time, almost every adviser entered the profession via major banks and providers. These players encouraged staff to take professional exams, providing a rich seam from which firms could mine an endless stream of young candidates keen to move into the more demanding independent advice sector.
Once RDR took effect, we lost that source of new blood and the industry now finds itself with a serious shortage of advisers, paraplanners and qualified administrators. This has caused many prophesies of doom and gloom for the future of our profession.
I am constantly surprised by the short-term mentality of some advice firm owners.
Fears of the rising cost of regulation and professional indemnity, coupled with the opportunities provided by the still-buoyant defined benefit transfer market, all contribute to the sense of living for the moment, of making hay while the sun shines and not investing in the future of our profession.
But we cannot leave others to create the advice teams of the future. It is down to us to invest in a new generation of rounded, knowledgeable and qualified individuals to work at all levels in our businesses.
We started our graduate trainee programme in 2013 and so far eight young people have entered the profession thanks to it, half of whom have already become advisers.
Not every trainee has stayed with the firm (the scheme does not offer a guaranteed place at the end of its three years) but we have retained two shining stars who are now successful young advisers.
We are also committed to developing our own paraplanners. We offer the opportunity to our administrators to skill up as well as taking on external trainees. We encourage all admin staff to work towards financial qualifications, too.
We took on our first two apprentices last year and they are now following a broad programme of development that will give them the skills to become full financial administrators.
Of course, all of this has cost money. In fact, it represents a very substantial investment. There will be those who feel other firms will benefit more than we will, but a passive approach – sitting back and letting others take on the responsibility of developing skilled staff – is not my way of doing things.
The great thing about taking a more active approach is that you have the opportunity to instil the right mindset in your trainees. They will not only gain the right qualifications and knowledge but will also have developed good client relationship skills.
What is more, you can ensure they understand the importance of the compliance framework you have put in place and will never compromise the standards you have set.
By investing in our teams, we can also engineer the development of our client proposition to encompass new methodologies.
We have invested in money-coaching training, with one of our advisers becoming the first chartered financial planner in the UK to also be a certified money coach.
Our investment in this area has also delivered a further two money coaches within the firm. Indeed, I am in the closing stages of the money coach training myself and hope to complete it later this summer.
As principals of advice firms, we must face up to our responsibilities and tackle the skills shortage head on. Anything else is simply unworthy of those of us who aspire to stand tall in the world of financial advice.
Carl Lamb is managing director of Almary Green