There is seemingly no end to the possibilities that lie ahead for the Financial Adviser School under the ownership of Old Mutual Wealth. Almost six months ago the firm bought the school, which is run on a not-for-profit basis, from Sesame Bankhall. With the recent appointment of Darren Smith to head the school, the aim is to offer a wider training programme.
Old Mutual Wealth chief distribution officer Richard Freeman says: “We want it to be broader than just level four and just face-to-face advice. But we’d always be in a position to support face-to face-advisers. We could have different tiers and modules for chartered advisers, administrators and paraplanners but that is way off. For now it’s about proving the model and scaling it up.”
Currently, the school helps students become level four qualified, equips them with soft skills for building long-term relationships with clients and teaches business skills over a nine-
to 10-month programme.
There are two study options – one for trainees with little or no financial services experience and the other for existing mortgage and protection advisers. Freeman says most students are sponsored by advice firms, but the school is able to put the smaller number of non-sponsored students in touch with potential employers on their database. Costs vary depending on which study option is chosen and whether students are sponsored, but are broadly around £8,500. A discount that runs until the end of September reduces this to £6,500.
Freeman says: “We wanted to build something to bring on the next generation of face-to-face advisers on, as that is difficult and time-consuming for advice firms to do. I talked to chief executive Paul Feeney and we felt it would be good for the industry, the brand, the community and clients to start putting something back in.
“A few of my colleagues said why don’t we build our own school but we looked at the cost and it was more competitive to buy the Financial Adviser School when that opportunity came along.”
Freeman expects around 100 students to pass through the school over the next 12 months.
Old Mutual Wealth says the school gives people a career, not just a qualification, and this is because it focuses on the practical side of the job with things like role play, not just the theoretical knowledge needed to pass exams.
Freeman says: “I remember joining the industry and it wasn’t about courses, it was about how to have a conversation, how to build relationships and how to get a client to take action. Anyone can do an online course but advisers need soft skills and the ability to understand all the parts of process and ethics.”
Adviser view: Martin Bamford, managing director, Informed Choice
It makes real sense to broaden the focus of the school, as it has become unrealistic for new joiners to the sector to quickly become level four qualified advisers. It takes several years to acquire the skills, knowledge and experience needed to become a proficient adviser in an increasingly complex world. Starting a career as a paraplanner or administrator is a sensible route to becoming an adviser in the future, so for the school to focus on this route will eventually result in the entry of more advisers to the profession.
Within our own business, we have one trainee paraplanner who wants to become an adviser in the future and we will shortly be hiring another in a similar position. As a medium-sized IFA firm, we would not want to hire a trainee adviser, but a trainee paraplanner can offer real value to the business from day one. Paraplanning and administration are hugely important roles within IFA firms, so anything that can be done to encourage more new entrants to these roles should be encouraged.
Some will undoubtedly develop careers in paraplanning or financial services administration, which is just as important as finding those who have the right attributes to become client-facing advisers.
Adviser View: Chris Daems, director, Cervello Financial Planning
The work that Old Mutual Wealth are doing in respect of the Financial Adviser School is a positive step. Anything which encourages young people to join the profession will be of benefit over the longer term. Part of this encouragement is the process of broadening the support provided and eventually providing support all the way through from a totally unqualified position eventually all the way through to chartered status.
Financial planning and advice as a profession has to attempt to compete on an equal footing with the other professions like law and accountancy. In these professions there is a clear path, and support from some of the larger accountancy and law firms, in ensuring that budding accountants and lawyers have the right support. We need to do the same for budding financial advisers and planners.