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Advice sector must do more to reach out to young people


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


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There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. What planet is this chap on?
    16 & 17 year olds. Pre A level in the main. Those with good grades will go to Uni and then end up in deep debt. They will therefore look for the best possible jobs if they get a decent degree. Goldmans, KPMG, E&Y, Bain etc will offer starting salaries which our sector cannot match. So what are we left with? The dross. Poor GCSE’s and if we’re lucky an E in A level macrame knitting.
    There is a good reason that the average age of advisers is 50+. It has often been a second career. No bad thing as candidates will have real world experience, some measure of commerciality and at least won’t be looked down on as spotty youths trying to tell their grannies to suck eggs. Ageist? Probably, but that doesn’t make it invalid

    • Harry, my trainee Ryan joined me when he was 21 after leaving school with A-levels. He passed his level 3 in mortgages and equity release within a year of starting with me and only has R02 and R06 to go before finishing his level 4. He has more life experience than the graduates I took on before and is better suited to the soft skills of advising than the graduates who applied to work here before. He has no debts as a result of studying in house for an apprenticeship to level 3 (equivalent to the first year of a bachelors we are told) and we are talking about him moving straight on to his level 6 as he’s in the swing of studying now. When he’s finished he’ll be earning as much if not more than many who went to Uni to get their level 6, but will have earnt as he learnt with no debt.
      Those who didn’t go to Uni are not all wasters Harry (I didn’t go to Uni, but my wife’s been twice!) When I joined the Army, you only needed 4 GCEs to apply for a commission… I joined in the ranks with 10 O levels and A levels, but soon had a few hard lessons taught to me about qualifications compared to capability. My boss ( a Sargeant when I joined) left as a Major….. massively more capable than me. no O levels, let alone a levels, commission from the ranks with an engineering background.

      • Level 3 is equivalent to a levels, 4 1st year batchelors and 6 full degree.

      • I didn’t say that those who haven’t been to uni are wasters. I just commented on the story as put. 16 & 17 year olds.
        The best from uni get the best jobs. The starting salary at some of the firms I mentioned are around £30k p.a I know because 3 of my nephews were/are with GS, Citi & Norton Rose.
        The truth is that our sector is hardly likely to attract the best. Others may well be adequate and compitent (but unlikely at 16 & 17) and please don’t forget that on average we have amongst the poorest educational system in the developed world. I couldn’t believe how poor when I had the ocassional work experience youth.

  2. Harry, I think you are in serious danger of missing the point. The profession must attract significant new talent in the next 10 years or the “second careerers” you describe will have no succession planning. We should be encouraging talent from all aspects of FE, especially those who are interested in a vocational career path which the new apprentice structure will provide. Unfortunately there is a danger that your comments will become a self fulfilling prophecy if the next generation thinks we are just old men shouting at clouds.

  3. The financial ‘advice’ sector is consuming itself from within, due to its obsession with driving down charges and thereby margins.

    It further compounds the problem by carrying an ever-increasing abundance of fleas upon its back, whose primary intention is to live well from others efforts. Throw into the mix the ‘free to use’ complaints process, which invites anyone and everyone to ‘have a go’ and it is not difficult to see why; a) the older heads are frustrated and b) there is a lack of positive inertia towards the future (remembering that a large part of the advice sector focuses on smaller businesses with limited scope to pay competitive salaries to new degree-level entrants)!

  4. I agree entirely and recently made similar comments elsewhere to the same effect.

    It’s great that we now have a profession structure – admin/Paraplanning/advising exams and there is a desire to take such exams.

    The real difference we have to accept is that advisers of the future will NOT have the same DNA of those of the past.

    IFA’s will employ advisers going forward and they will bring to the table no existing clients or FUM. Protection of assets is paramount.

    Solicitors don’t take on self-employed staff nor ask at interview if they have existing clients! Welcome to the post RDR world!

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