Succession planning and staff retention among benefits on offer to firms taking time to mentor
Between client meetings, office administration and keeping up with professional development requirements, it can often seem as though there are not enough hours in an adviser’s day to get everything done. Many IFAs might then wonder where they would ever find the time to set up a mentoring programme to help other advisers.
Yet providing guidance to up-and-coming advisers and passing on a career’s worth of know-how has a number of benefits. It helps to ensure the next generation of IFAs learn from the experience of the previous one, can provide a smooth path for succession planning and the handing over of clients in the future, and experienced advisers might even find they learn some new tricks along the way.
Professional support is available to new and aspiring advisers, of course, through training courses, conferences and networking events, but mentoring can provide a unique opportunity to speak to an experienced IFA on a one-to-one basis, or even just watch them in action.
Personal Finance Society chief executive Keith Richards says: “The profession has recognised the need to attract new talent for years and it is widely accepted that there currently exists an information gap. The most significant factor in bridging this will be in creating effective succession plans, with an emphasis on learning.”
This is something that has been on the mind of chartered financial planner Filip Slipaczek for many years.
His mentoring programme started at home when his two sons Max and Alex were young; they have now joined the family firm.
Slipaczek says: “IFA numbers are dwindling and not enough new trainees are coming through to replace those who are retiring, so mentoring is imperative. Many firms have got to the point where they are building up their assets under management but not thinking about an exit plan or continuity for their clients in the future.”
At initial client meetings, Slipaczek and both of his sons all introduce themselves. “Some people prefer to deal with me because I have more experience, but others are actually put off by the fact that I’m 60 and would prefer to deal with someone younger, who won’t be retiring in the near future,” he explains.
His mentoring of Alex, who gained chartered status last year, included support through exams and encouraging him to go for work experience and secondments at other businesses so that he could gain an understanding of different parts of the industry.
Alex believes that receiving such support has not only helped his career but encouraged him to mentor others too, as he realises how valuable that additional support was to him.
He has joined the Insurance Institute of London’s mentoring programme, which links up advisers at different stages of their working lives to provide support to each other.
He says: “I wanted to use my spare time to give something back. We have informal meetings and are available to each other through text. I see it as everyone helping each other.”
Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford is another adviser who has benefited from mentoring within the family. He believes this does not need to involve a formal programme but simply a commitment across the entire firm to understand that everyone deserves support to progress their career.
He says: “This might include taking a colleague out for a coffee to review their progress while studying for an exam, or encouraging a co-worker by nominating them for an industry award.”
Other steps include encouraging employees to attend conferences, training courses and industry events, he adds, or to let colleagues sit in on client meetings to gain more experience.
Bamford says: “Mentoring shouldn’t just be limited to those within a firm either; we find a paid intern each summer and usually offer shorter periods of work experience for aspiring financial services professionals throughout the year too.”
Addidi Wealth founder Anna Sofat agrees mentoring can come in a number of guises. Within her own firm, she says mentoring is largely informal, with new advisers sitting in on client meetings. She also provides mentor-ing to clients who are small business owners looking for more guidance, as well as for non-profit projects and businesses seeking angel investors.
But Philippa Gee Wealth Management managing director Philippa Gee points out that mentoring might not work in all firms, particularly if resources are tight or the business is undergoing a change of direction. She says: “In this case, it would be entirely sensible to outsource. The crucial point is to identify what structure will best support the individual and see how that can best be delivered.”
Sofat says she also employs external resources to provide mentoring, including using coaching services and contractors. One member of staff is receiving mentoring through the 30 Per Cent Club too, a group that campaigns for greater representation of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies.
For those looking for something more formal, the PFS runs the Aspire Apprenticeship programme, a structured course that aims to help new advisers to learn on the job. In an effort to harness technology and stay up-to-date, the professional body is also set to launch a new e-mentoring programme, Connect, this year.
This will be an online platform that aims to make it easy to establish and develop mentoring relationships between advisers.
Richards explains: “We want to offer a service that allows members to learn, interact and share their knowledge and experiences in a different way.” He hopes the development will mean that all advisers have access to mentorship, regardless of their location.
Providing mentoring to colleagues and staff may require valuable time and resources, but it can bring a multitude of benefits in return.
Employees who receive support from their workplace often tend to stay at the company for longer, for example.
Meanwhile, bringing on the next generation of advisers is not only good for the future of the profession but for clients seeking continuity for their financial planning needs.
Slipaczek says: “I think our business has grown and benefited from mentoring. Clients come here and they see a business that is planning for its future.”