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Hard times

With direct sales a dying breed, there is not such an obvious entry into becoming an adviser. Long gone are the days when you could transfer from a different profession and carve a career within financial services. When I began recruiting in the late 80s and early 90s prior to the reviews, I enjoyed placing nurses, teachers, milkmen and police constables, etc, as financial advisers. Brokers, lenders and providers now expect to recruit staff that can hit the ground running and struggle to fill vacancies.

I believe that firms need to make their financial packages and back-up services more attractive. Salaries on the support side have stagnated. I registered my first paraplanner vacancy in about1995 for a Surrey-based firm and the salary was £25,000. As there were no paraplanners at that time, the company was considering FPC-qualified sales support administrators looking for progression or advisers looking to move away from selling. Twelve years on, salaries for paraplanners are still rising in Surrey, paying around £25,000-28,000. The same thing seems to be happening in the City and Central London. Some IFA firms have realised this. I would like to see others follow suit as it will attract more movement in the market.

There is a lot more buoyancy within the mortgage sector. This is a much quicker career route for people wanting to work their way towards advising. Lenders and packaging firms employ a high degree of admin staff from different backgrounds. Estate agents, banks and building societies will take on trainee advisers as there are less exams and it is a lot less hassle to acquire authorisation.

Financial services is not the only industry to be effected by this candidate drought. A survey compiled from detailed questionnaires sent to over 3,500 professionals in London and the South-east showed that the shortage of candidates will continue throughout 2007, according to 61 per cent of HR professionals.

The majority expected the trend to continue and 18 per cent expected it to accelerate to between 10 per cent and 20 per cent for the remainder of the year. Research found that the increase in demand for candidates is not driven by booming business alone – technology, changing job roles and the introduction of new legislation also had a profound effect on the whole recruitment process.

Finding, developing and keeping talent was also among the top concerns for HR executives for 2007, according to another poll from a cross-section of industries. Both these surveys draw similar conclusions from different perspectives but it is clear the key challenge is improved candidate attraction and retention.

If you buy a house, everybody knows to contact a conveyancing solicitor. Likewise, you would appoint a lawyer if you want a divorce. When starting a business, you would talk to an accountant from the offset. We all need financial advice but not everybody is aware of it. Why is being a financial adviser quite often ranked in surveys as being one of the worst jobs? Yet people that have financial advisers would vote the service they receive as being quality and professional alongside accountants and solicitors?

People have an image of a financial adviser being a hard salesperson. Financial services needs to be promoted by the Government as being vital and of utmost importance to us all. That way, more and more young people would see it as a quality profession that would give them a long term and stable career for life.

Karen Halliday is a director at Insight Financial Services Recruitment.

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