Renewed optimism about the UK economy could be filtering through to recruitment in the advice sector. Specialist financial services recruitment firms are seeing a rebound in the jobs market, which reflects the FCA’s report of a 6 per cent rise in adviser numbers since the introduction of the RDR.
But there are pockets of demand among employers rather than job opportunities across the board. A shortage of suitable candidates in areas such as paraplanning is also providing a challenge for recruitment firms and the adviser firms they represent.
Keillar Consulting managing director Harris Keillar says: “There’s a demand for paraplanners because it’s a new world we are in where nobody is actively trying to sell products – they are providing financial advice instead – but it is necessary to have that kind of information at your fingertips.”
Keillar says some candidates are experienced paraplanners who want to move jobs because they believe their current employers do not provide true financial planning. He says: “Applications are also coming from ex-bank financial advisers but they tend to be not wanted by some IFA firms. Those people are seen by the IFA as not as good, even though they are level four qualified. But other IFAs are keen to get those people for the same reasons that others do not want them, so it’s an interesting market.”
David Shirley Associates founder David Shirley specialises in adviser recruitment and has seen no change in the job market post-RDR. He says most candidates he sees are former bank advisers but their background counts against them for practical reasons.
Shirley says: “People with a bank background have no client base and quite often it’s their first foot into IFA land and self-employment. They can’t bring their clients with them as the bank owns them – as much as anyone can own a client. That’s a stumbling block in getting them out to our IFA clients, who want them to bring some clients of their own before they introduce that person to their clients.”
Even if someone gets past this stumbling block, it is not easy to build up a client base and financially support themselves as they wait for the income to trickle in from fees.
Shirley says: “The problems are: who do they talk to and how do they support themselves while they wait two, three or four months for the advice fees to come through? If someone was made redundant from a bank and had been at that bank for a while, they would get a lump sum. But not everyone would have been there long enough to have a lump sum.”
Coast Specialist Recruitment executive consultant Karen Halliday says it is difficult to fill self-employed roles because employment packages are good. She is seeing demand for chartered financial planners, people with pension transfer or auto-enrolment experience, and paraplanners.
“People want paraplanners all the time but companies outside London can’t compete on salaries. If London companies offer about £45,000, they’ll offer £35,000 in Surrey, so more people want to work in London to get the higher salaries,” she says.
Keillar says another difficulty in placing paraplanners is that some IFA firms do not know exactly what they want their paraplanner to do. He says: “They don’t know whether they are after a trainee consultant, a second pair of eyes for the IFA or experience of financial modelling systems – and they’ll want to pay them fourpence. That can mean we’ll get more and more outsourced paraplanners.”
James Associates director Simon Benstead says some paraplanning positions are remaining vacant for longer as IFA firms hold out for applicants who tick all the boxes. Other firms end up compromising their initial requirements – perhaps by employing a paraplanner who is not fully qualified.
Benstead says: “I have just introduced someone to a client who wanted a paraplanner. This person had been an adviser, so although he hasn’t done all the reporting work, he has got a diploma.
“The question for clients is: can they afford the time to train people up if they haven’t got all the qualifications? If they are a small firm, they will want someone who can do the job straight away.”
The difficulty in meeting training costs is also affecting opportunities for graduates. Shirley and Keillar are not seeing much activity in entry-level roles but Benstead says: “We have had graduate appointments where applicants needed to demonstrate that they want to do this rather than anything else.
“You would think there would be a lot of suitable applicants but I’ve had clients this year, and last year, who have been disappointed by the volume and the quality of applicants. Having said that, a graduate appointment is easier to fill than a vacancy for a fully qualified paraplanner.”