Mentoring is often pitched as something advisers do for clients rather than something they can benefit from themselves. Advisers are accustomed to financially educating clients or supporting small businesses that have ambitions to grow. Put them on the other side of the fence, either as mentees or mentors to other advisers, and their experience is likely to be limited to specific events such as studying for professional qualifications or taking a new recruit under their wing while they settle in.
But mentoring and networking with industry peers can be helpful to advisers in a wider sense of learning from somebody else’s experience throughout their careers.
Founder of IFA social networking site LifeTalk Philip Calvert says mentoring is “grossly underused” across the whole industry. “The idea that nobody is joining the industry is incorrect. There are newbies coming in and they are looking for people to pick up guidance and help from,” he says.
“It happens on an informal basis. On LifeTalk we see questions asked in the forum about which is the best career path: financial planning or paraplanning? It never ceases to amaze me how willing financial advisers are to help each other. They answer questions in great detail and will often say just give me a call.”
Even the most experienced advisers need a sounding board, he says.
“Very few advisers will admit to getting everything right. Even successful ones like to chat and kick ideas around. The modern way to do it is to ask questions online. I don’t know whether people form relationships in the real world but I assume that many do.”
Age is no barrier
Jan Murray, marketing director at Mentormatchme.com – a website that matches mentors and mentees – says: “ From our experience of running mentoring programmes we find that people of all ages and experience levels seek out and benefit from having a mentor. No matter how experienced you are, you still come across new challenges in your career and to be able to draw on the experience of someone who has already been through a similar challenge can be very useful. It can be beneficial to have access to a mentor who is in the same profession but is outside of your organisation as they are able to take a more impartial view and act as a good sounding board.”
She adds that younger professionals also becoming mentors as they still have experience they can share with others, particularly students and those starting out in financial services.
Not a one-way street
The Institute of Financial Planning director of professional standards Sam Rees-Adams recognises mentoring is traditionally seen as something that benefits the mentee rather than the mentor but says it does not have to be a one-way street. “It can be of as much value to the mentor as the mentee,” she says.
Rees-Adams believes everyone can benefit from mentoring because there is never a point in anyone’s career where the learning process stops.
Murray agrees. She says: “We find that many mentors are looking to develop their mentoring and coaching skills but often don’t get the opportunity to do this within their own organisations, so mentoring programmes provide them with the opportunity.”
Mentors may also solve new challenges that they may not have otherwise experienced and seeing things from the mentee’s perspective can broaden their insight and experience.
“Other benefits include enabling mentors to reflect on their own practice
and skills,” says Murray. “They often learn new skills from their mentee through ‘reverse mentoring’,” she says.
For advisers who are looking for a mentor or mentee but do not know where to start Mentormatchme.com enables both to input their requirements and expertise, then connect with people that meet those requirements.
Trade associations can also help. The Chartered Insurance Institute, the Insurance Institute of London and the Personal Finance Society are working together to set up a mentoring scheme for all ages that should go live by the end of this year.
PFS chief executive Keith Richards says greater professionalism and the rise of chartered status in recent years has led to an increase in the number of graduates and young professionals looking to enter the industry and take up careers as chartered professionals.
“It is very timely that the support and guidance the existing membership can give to these new entrants is made available via a mentoring scheme,” he says.
“Research of our membership has already been carried out to find out how individuals who have reached a variety of levels of qualifications would like to have been mentored through the examination process. It has been interesting to see the wide variety of styles of support that are both available and wanted. Some are happy to have all their mentoring online while others are looking for a more personal engagement with regular face to face meetings,” he says.
Richards says online and telephone-based mentoring means support can come from anywhere in the country. “We suspect this will be the most effective route,” he says.
Adviser view: Martin Bamford, managing director, Informed Choice
Mentoring tends to be something that offers most tangible value to the person being mentored but done well there should be benefits for both parties. It is really important to encourage new talent in this profession, so more mentoring should be encouraged.
Like all of us, I struggle to find the time to connect with my peers as often as I would like. On the rare occasions we do get to spend some quality time together, it’s always immensely valuable. The opportunity to share ideas and learn best practice is often the most important part of attending conferences and seminars.
Using social media to network is definitely more time efficient than attending physical events. The networking that takes place online is not as valuable as getting to spend time with people on a one-to-one basis, but it certainly plays a useful role.