We have just recruited the fourth intake of graduates to our trainee adviser programme. In this age of spiralling costs and tightening of belts, this might seem like a surprising decision, but it makes perfect sense for us.
It is not just about having a source of advisers in the future. Our graduate trainees provide a key service throughout their three-year programme. They spend the first year working with our administrators, learning the nuts and bolts of what goes on in an advice firm and understanding the compliance framework. In years two and three, they move to a paraplanning role and get to use the reporting tools that underpin our analysis of client needs and objectives and how we put together our recommendations.
They work closely with advisers and accompany them on client visits, learning about their priorities and motivations, and getting a feel for how a relationship should be developed.
During the three years, they are also put through their paces with industry examinations and expected to achieve DipPFS by the time they emerge from the programme. On top of that, they are included in research and development projects, and provide support to the investment committee. They are mentored by chartered financial planners throughout.
It is certainly not an easy ride but we believe our rigorous programme allows us to develop rounded, capable and knowledgeable individuals that can take on a junior adviser role.
That said, there is no guaranteed job with us at the end of their training contract. Our first intake of two trainees has just graduated and we have given one a full-time role.
In creating junior advisers, the big questions are how to further develop them to take on client banks of their own and how that development can be cost-effective for us as a firm. We do not for a minute expect to launch them out there without support, as there is no substitute for real experience.
However, we see this dilemma as an opportunity for us to work smarter within the firm. Our junior advisers will provide essential support to the more senior – and very busy – members of the team. They can provide a first point of contact for a client and are able to resolve many of their queries. As authorised individuals they have the expertise needed to undertake review work where clients’ affairs are straightforward, leaving those more senior to oversee the overall strategy being adopted.
Of course, it is critical to manage the risks to the business in using inexperienced advisers in a client-facing role and, as such, we have stringent compliance and supervision processes in place to ensure procedures are followed to the letter.
However, having spent three years with the firm as a trainee, the junior adviser will understand the standards to which we work and the importance we place on providing the highest standards of advice and compliance.
The concept of spreading the adviser workload between a senior and junior adviser delivers on all counts: it allows the senior to take on a wider client bank, it gives the junior client exposure and, importantly, it helps keep our costs down, which keeps our fees at a reasonable level. Ultimately, the client is the winner.
Carl Lamb is managing director of Almary Green