January is traditionally a time for some people to reassess their professional roles and decide a change may be worth pursuing. For many I suspect this involves looking for a new job. Indeed, recent research published by the Institute of Leadership and Management revealed 37 per cent of workers are planning to leave their current jobs this year; a significant increase on the 19 per cent that answered the same way in 2014 and the 13 per cent in 2013.
So what about financial advisers? How many of you are considering a career change? I suspect very few although, given the average age of advisers, most are probably looking forward to retirement with some relish. To be honest, I cannot blame those who might be looking for an early exit. This job comes with some significant pressures whether they are in the form of regulation, increased costs, political interference or professional development requirements. The list goes on.
Unfortunately, having to cope with these ongoing developments and requirements has – in this country at least – somewhat detracted from the attractiveness of financial advice as a career. I am always interested in the reaction you get from people when you tell them what you do. How are advisers perceived? Are they thrown in the same pot as estate agents, journalists or parking wardens? I hope not given the job advisers do and the focus on quality and service.
Then again, the nature of what an adviser is and does has been systematically depowered by the continuous regulatory changes. It is about to become even more confusing for consumers in April when a whole host of pension “guidance agents” are unleashed on the at-retirement market, with only a requirement to have “some pensions knowledge” as the recent Citizens Advice job specification put it.
Of course it does not have to be this way. Last year, research conducted in the US by Rapacon placed being a financial adviser as one of the top 10 jobs to have in the future. It is clearly a sought after career choice suggesting to me the profession’s reputation across the pond is not just intact but strong and enticing to those looking at their employment. Can we really say the same in the UK?
With this in mind, how can we improve the reputation of the profession, ensure it is attractive to new blood and develop greater consumer understanding of what advisers do, their value and worth, and why it is a job worth having?
Like most things, it is important to start with yourself. To that end, it is about being the best you can be in your individual role, which means self-improvement, lifelong learning, a commitment to continuous professional development and so on.
If advisers are focused on self-betterment, improving themselves and increasing their own standards, this will clearly feed into the service they offer, which will improve reputations and generate strong feedback and referrals.
Advisers need to be fully focused on their own roles, which means retaining interest in the job and everything about it. Learning more and securing greater knowledge is a fundamental way to do this. Not only will it help the adviser improve their service offering but it will feed through into a growing positive reputation for the profession.
A profession renowned for its security and prospects will be attractive to those working in other areas or have yet to step onto the career ladder. While the legal, accountancy and banking sectors have been tapping into the graduate market for decades, establishing these careers as worth pursuing, the advisory community has not been working at the same level.
If we want to bring new blood into our community then we need to begin pushing and marketing the profession in a much more focused way. Our professional and trade bodies must work closer together on developing an ongoing campaign that supports individual firms’ own recruitment policies if we are to raise the profile of being a financial adviser. This should be a long-term commitment that highlights the positives of the profession and sets out the very tangible and compelling reasons for being part of it. Now is certainly the right point to secure our own profession’s future.
Derek Bradley is chief executive officer of Panacea Adviser