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Into the mix

The traditional sink-or-swim method of recruiting and training financial advisers is no longer the answer to the challenges our industry faces in attracting new blood.

We need smarter and more efficient approaches, partly because we cannot afford to squander big numbers of new recruits who have the talent to succeed but who may not be identified by such a crude process.

Further, in a business climate where costs are high and margins are tight, we do not want to waste money on an inefficient process that sees us spend thousands of pounds on candidates who ultimately do not make the grade.

Different business models will find different ways of meeting the challenge. As a national network, we have developed our own model, which combines a centralised approach to learning, with the resource of a large field force to provide mentoring and support for new recruits. Of course, no approach is infallible and it would certainly be over-optimistic to believe that we can distil the skills required to be a good adviser into a computer-based learning programme.

While product and regulatory knowledge can be delivered through traditional study, we cannot overlook the interpersonal skills that enable the best in our sector to build strong relationships with their clients and also the entrepreneurial flair that enables successful salespeople to anticipate market trends and consumer needs, to continue to develop their businesses.

For this reason, we have chosen a mixture of study and formal training, with a longer term mentoring programme in which experienced advisers can help new recruits find their feet and develop their skills and confidence. We are finding high numbers of people making the grade and also good early production.

Adviser firms can also help their chances of success by recruiting in areas where they are likely to find people with suitable backgrounds and experience. While the first on this list is, of course, recruiting industry professionals but we all now realise that endlessly poaching from each other is not going to solve the fact that there are not enough salespeople in the industry.

There are signs that recruiting people from other financial services roles, such as bank and estate agency staff, will bring people with useful knowledge of financial services although many will need support and training to develop sales skills. Similarly, people with sales backgrounds in other industries have potential as long as they have support in learning about financial services.

A third option that few firms explore is graduate recruitment. This tends to be more costly and can be riskier than other options presented but the right graduates bring with them the advantage of being fresh from the learning process. Their aptitude to studying and passing exams should make regulatory and product training relatively straight forward for them.

Once firms have established which sectors are most appropriate for them to recruit from they need to think carefully about they type of people they are looking to recruit. In terms of attracting the right people a good training and support package, with the possibility of financial support, can itself be an important factor. New recruits need to know that by joining a firm or network they will be getting as much training and support as they need.

Perhaps firms, networks and the industry could work together to define the essential elements of an induction and training programme, which should include, at the very least pre-course training, foundation courses and supervision.

Of course, the process does not end once a new adviser has signed up with a firm. With us, it is the start of a three-year training and development process. This in turn leads to a programme of continuous professional development that helps advisers keep abreast of industry and regulatory requirements as well as offering support, advice and training on growing their businesses.

When you consider that the average cost of training a non-industry recruit is in the region of 10,000 in the first year alone, it pays to invest time and effort to find and develop the right people.

Phil Mogford is recruitment director at Openwork

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