Advice sector must do more to reach out to young people

Bartington-Caspar-2016-CUT

I recently delivered the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Discover Fortunes event to a group of 16 and 17-year-olds. Personal Finance Society members kindly gave up their time to support the event and talk to students about how they got into the sector and why they have stayed in it.

At the end, 20 of the 25 students signed up for our PFS Discover membership. These new members will soon find out more about our sector through case studies, news and job information. We have thousands of such members keen to work in financial services and insurance.

Since setting up this offer, there have been considerably more opportunities in insurance than financial planning, which is a shame, given the level of enthusiasm students have for the area when we work with them.

On the face of it, there has never been a better time to get into financial planning. The average age of advisers seems to be stuck above 50 and companies are concerned about succession planning and investing in staff who may leave after they have been trained.

Clearly, the majority of companies are reluctant to recruit people that do not have sector experience, professional qualifications or both. The old training ground of the life companies and banks has dried up.

So what can the sector do to offer more opportunities to young people, so we do not lose them to other financial and professional services companies?

In the past, apprenticeship programmes did not quite work. There was a financial administration standard and then a financial advice one, with nothing in between to offer structured progression.

The good news is this is changing. We now also have a paraplanning apprenticeship, which builds on the financial administration apprenticeship. By the end of the year, there will be a financial advice apprenticeship too. Funding is available at all levels and the apprenticeship is delivered by an external provider, meaning you can focus on business as usual.

While there are very few degrees that offer exemptions from our financial planning qualifications (the university academics rarely have the technical expertise or experience) the companies I speak to with graduate schemes recruit based on soft skills rather than the degree studied.

We carried out research with careers staff at schools, colleges and universities. The key motivators for graduates came out as brand recognition, work-life balance, social value and salary.

As a sector, we have a strong story to tell on these areas – provided we reach out in good time. If we do not, we will be further overshadowed by other sectors with larger budgets and bigger schemes. You can do this through on-campus events delivered by the CII, through content for our targeted members or through your own links with universities and summer placement programmes. Want to make these connections? We have links with every UK university.

The key motivators for school and college students were a little different. Nearly 90 per cent said salary was the key motivator, a long way ahead of brand recognition (40 per cent), work-life balance (25 per cent) and social value (20 per cent).

Getting into a classroom, delivering events or supporting our in-school sessions all help to educate students and teachers about their options. Many are pleasantly surprised apprenticeships can still lead to a successful career. Some chartered companies are recruiting apprentices as administrators, with a view to developing them to become paraplanners and financial planners of the future, with the company ethos running through the young professional.

This year I am working with employers to help our young members build their soft skills through mock interviews, mock assessment centres, CV workshops and other areas, such as managing your digital footprint and resilience. Nothing extraordinary there but it offers companies the chance to meet targeted young people, it offers young people the chance to network with prospective employers and it offers us all the opportunity to level the playing field of recruitment.

If companies want to develop their future workforce, there will need to be an investment of a little time and money. This might mean some difficult choices for businesses (investing in someone who may leave is not risk-free) but the alternative is for people to continue to be unaware of our sector because there are no opportunities for them in it.

Caspar Bartington is relationship manager, education, at the Chartered Insurance Institute