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Heather Hopkins: Young, aspiring financial planners need to be nurtured

Last week I met John, an aspiring financial planner who is less than a year into his job at a mid-sized IFA firm. John told me he had always wanted to be a financial planner. He’s interested in money; he wants to make some and he wants to help people manage theirs.

He had been trying to get a job with a firm since he graduated from university but had struggled to get anyone to give him an interview.

He sent more than 20 letters out to firms and the first response he got was from the one he is with now.

John is training towards his qualifications and, in the meantime, is establishing introducer arrangements with law firms and accountancy practices.

Business owners often talk about the need to recruit more planners. The latest FCA figures show a 3 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of CF30s, but an 18 per cent increase in the number of people paying ongoing advice charges. Demand is clearly outstripping the supply.

A recent survey we did for Fidelity FundsNetwork backs this up, with just 16 per cent of advisers saying that finding new clients is a top challenge for their business.

In fact, less than 5 per cent said finding new clients was their number-one challenge.

So why did John have such a tough time getting a job? Perhaps surprisingly, he is not alone.

We are currently doing some work with younger financial planners, asking them about how they got into the industry.

Many fell into it by accident. A lot started out working for providers but we have come across a fair few who found it hard to break into the profession.

Some were downright discouraged from pursuing a career in financial planning.

Given this piece appears in the International Women’s Day issue, it seems appropriate to mention one young female planner who told us that, when starting out, she received a number of negative comments about being “too young” and “lacking life experience”, and that “some clients won’t like that you’re a woman”. As well as being a successful financial planner, she now devotes a portion of her time to doing community outreach to encourage young people to pursue a career in the profession.

We asked the younger financial planners we have been speaking to about the support and training they had received when they started out; what was most useful and what more could have been done.

The results should offer some tips to those looking to hire and train new financial planners.

Most had support with exams, shadowed senior members of the firm and attended free and paid-for seminars. A few had access to mentoring and networking groups.

All those we spoke to valued this support and said it was critical to their success so far.

Several said they would value soft skills training too. As one young planner told us: “Exams test knowledge but to connect with people requires something more.”

A few said they would also value a training contract with a clear development path.

All the financial planners we have spoken to so far plan to remain in the profession. But they want to know what the future holds for them.

This is normal for any young, ambitious and talented employee. Establishing a career path with benchmarks can help boost retention and job satisfaction.

The challenge to established firms is to open their doors to young planners and give them a shot.

If you know of local businesses looking to hire, refer keen applicants on. And make sure that your best new starters have some clarity on their career path.

Heather Hopkins is managing director at Next Wealth

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