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IFA View: Self-employment – the flexible option

Lisa Winnard Sesame Bankhall 2012

Data published this week by the Office of National Statistics showed that over 4.2 million workers in the UK are now self-employed. This has increased by 367,000 in the last 12 months alone – representing over 14 per cent of the entire UK workforce.

Whilst this is not as high as some of our European neighbours – for example In Italy 24 per cent of the workforce is self-employed – it is the UK’s highest figure of self-employment since records began.

So, is self-employed the new employed?

Over recent months, we have talked about younger workers looking for a more flexible approach to work – not being tied to a desk nine to five but instead opting for better technology, better connections and simply owning their own destiny.

Older workers are also wanting to work longer but, again, are looking to work with more flexibility, perhaps reducing hours and utilising the experience they have gained. In many cases this involves working in consultancy roles which fit with their own lifestyle and on their own terms.

The data tells us that self-employment in over 50’s is also increasing as people opt to work beyond retirement.

The world and indeed structure of work is certainly changing, pushed on perhaps by the fact that we have seen more people face redundancy not once, but in many instances, twice or more. It is therefore no surprise that people look at the world of work differently and take matters into their own hands.

The self-employed see the job market as much more fluid, which offers the opportunity to work across various different organisations and many appear to consider being wedded to one company as becoming a thing of the past.

In the adviser community, where the majority of advisers are self-employed, why is it that we have not historically created strong entry routes into our sector?

At a time when the world of work is changing and self-employment is becoming more popular, our sector should see more new advisers looking to join us.

So, what are some of the characteristics of self-employed workers? This week, my HR team has been learning about strength based interviewing, and whilst you may wonder how this is related, it made me think about the characteristics of self-employed workers.

Strength based recruitment is about tapping into a person’s strengths and seeking out what motivates them. This method looks at what a person does well, what they feel good about doing and how often they practice it.

I thought about the strengths and characteristics of the students coming through the Financial Adviser School and I have to say I am always inspired.

These students rarely come from a specific educational background or skill set, and certainly are not the same age group.

What is common is the evident motivation to succeed, the commitment to make it work through retraining and re-education and more importantly, the shared desire to work with people and to be able to make a difference. This is not about previous industry experience or exams, but transferable skills and the courage to move into a new industry and new future to become a self-employed financial adviser. It will be interesting to see how the succession pipeline of self-employed advisers in our sector develops over the coming years.

Lisa Winnard is director of HR and development at Sesame Bankhall Group

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