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Gaining entry into the advice profession

The news Standard Life is launching a financial advice arm following its acquisition of Pearson Jones shows the industry is turning its attention to the growing need for advice in light of the pension freedoms. 

Standard Life intends to create an academy and take an active role in recruiting and training people for a career in financial advice. But is the industry as a whole currently doing enough to provide that career path?

First steps

Chartered Insurance Institute relationship manager for education Caspar Bartington  says: “Companies today can engage with the future workforce, which is something the financial services sector has not done a lot of in the past.

“They can recruit apprentices and support the school events we do. We can help them make contact with schools and provide links to universities so they can talk to students in lectures or seminars.”

New entrants cannot be put into a client-facing role straight away, so the first step is often an administrative role. From this, they may choose to move into paraplanning and, eventually, into financial advice.


The Financial Skills Partnership develops apprenticeships in providing financial services, which are available for people over the age of 16 who do not have a degree. The National Apprenticeship Service funds apprenticeships across all sectors in England. If an apprentice is aged 16 to 18, neither the apprentice nor the employer has to pay for the training but employers of older apprentices will typically pay half the cost of the 18-month programme.

Bartington says apprenticeships provide a very structured way for school and college leavers, or second jobbers, to get hands-on development that leads to the completion of CII qualifications.

“This is a good model as the employer has someone qualified to support that person. It gives confidence to someone not long out of college because they have more support than they would with a standard qualification,” he says.

The Beaufort Group has been involved in the development of the Government’s new Trailblazer standards for apprenticeships. Executive chairman Simon Goldthorpe points out apprentice-ships allow firms to develop employees to fit their specific businesses as apprentices have not learnt bad habits from elsewhere.

Graduate schemes

Bartington says the number of graduate schemes has increased since the RDR as advice firms have more time to look at succession planning and developing the talent in their businesses.

Internships for university students are also increasing. These involve firms taking on someone for a short period, usually up to three months but possibly as long as a year.

“Employers get to see whether someone can work in the business or not. It’s like an extended interview,” says Bartington.

Second careerists

St James’s Place, meanwhile, runs a six-month core academy programme for second careerists who want to become SJP partners. It also runs the Next Generation Academy for people that existing SJP partners eventually want to take over their businesses. This programme lasts 12 months.

The academy was originally intended for the children of existing SJP partners but now candidates do not have to be relatives. 

SJP development consultant and academy head Keith Riddell  says there are no age requirements but candidates are required to pass the RO1 exam to show they have the academic aptitude to pass RO2 to RO6. At the end of the programme candidates will be diploma qualified.

He says: “We look at developing client-facing skills, not just technical knowledge. Candidates learn to use their knowledge in real life and apply their technical knowledge through case studies.”

Building a business

After a few years in the industry some advisers may want to set up their own firm but find it difficult to raise the cash. The Beaufort Group can help by lending them the money and providing the infrastructure, including the back-office system and paraplanning.

Goldthorpe says: “If they are confident they can build a client bank, we will do the rest and provide them with a cash buffer. If they want to get directly authorised we can help them do that.”

The risk is once a young adviser is established, Beaufort may never see them again but the firm hopes the entrepreneurs will continue to use its various services once they are established.

Adviser View: Carl Lamb, managing director, Almary Green

We take on two graduate trainees a year. We’ve done that for the last two years. All of them have a first in maths and social skills are also important – if you can’t interact, it’s a dead loss. Over three years you can ascertain if people have got the calibre to be trainee advisers. Our graduates start learning basic administration in the first year and over the next two years they move on to paraplaning. After three years the danger is someone else could poach them but you’ve got to look at the age of the people in your business and invest in the future.



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There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. “St James’s Place, meanwhile, runs a six-month core academy programme for second careerists who want to become SJP partners”

    I am no fan of SJP, but you have to hand it to them. They make money and this is exactly the right idea. These people have to be solvent enough to earn little or nothing during their induction period.

    Basically Financial Advice should be a second career. I have been around long enough to know that in general people prefer to deal with people with experience. Sure exams are important, but experience is also vital as is commerciality.

    Having a second career should mean that you have had commercial experience in another field and are (it is to be hoped) solvent with some capital adequacy of your own. A little snow on the roof is no bad thing either. People need to trust who they are dealing with and it certainly helps if you are able to ‘walk the walk’ in addition of being able to ‘talk the talk’.

  2. A case in point recently, a lady in her early fifties suddenly decided she wanted to be a financial adviser. She had no industry experience, wanted to work a two day week ,with one to one training from the Managing Director. She did not like walking up the stairs in our building, or the staff parking arrangements, and wanted a high salary because she knew what sort of house the owner lived in.

    Obviously she had nothing to offer the firm, but had that been someone who had undertaken some training at their own cost and was serious about a career, then they could have been making a positive contribution from day one and worked towards adviser status. At least the candidate and the employer would be sharing some of the risk.

    There is no doubt that new blood and talent is needed, but turning out the finished product will take a lot longer these days. We need a mix of skills to be a credible profession, the days of fleets of new company cars driving off at the end of the initial sales training courses are hopefully behind us.

  3. I’m all for new blood entering this industry but the industry has to make it easier for them. Then there is the big question; ‘do they know what to expect?’ Are really prepared for everything they do being scrutinised and claims made against them using retrospective rules? Do they know what it costs in fees and levy’s just to operate? FCA fees, PRA fees, FSA fees, MAS (formerly CFEB) levy, FSCS levy and FOS general levy. Of course on top of this there are operating costs and PI Insurance. They might of course find themselves in a well paid job but just out of interest where are these jobs? I agree with Harry, entering into financial services should come after you’ve done something else and proved you’ve got a backbone. I was at a protection seminar a few years back and the ‘expert’ cascading his wisdom was asked what his background was. His reply; I’ve come from an administration background and he had never sold a protection policy in his life. Experts with no experience, how do you demonstrate credibility in front of a client?

  4. I would not advise anyone capable of becoming a good financial adviser to become a financial adviser. This is because they would probably have the skills and talent to work in a different industry, one which was not so full of regulatory hurdles and stupidity. This could be a wonderful career but for the silliness of our regulatory framework in the UK financial services industry.

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