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On the line

As with investment themes, there are long-term movements in recruitment requirements, within which there are ripples and eddies that are more localised in time and/or geographic location. Knowing where the recruitment market is at any one point in time is useful from both the employees’ or employers’ standpoint, in that it has an impact on availability of positions and suitable candidates.

Over the past decade, there has been a large shift by product providers from dealing with introducers directly on a face-to-face basis to working via the phone. Only five years ago, the phone-based teams were often considered second rate. Now the higher activity levels and greater acceptance by IFAs of dealing remotely, even for complex products, has led to much higher profit margins for phone teams.

This has had a large impact on broker consultant recruitment and career prospects, as dealing remotely requires fewerexternal consultants leading to fewer branches and thus fewer opportunities for career progression. Trainee external broker consultants almost always come from the ranks of the phone teams although relocation is often required.

Career prospects are still bright for external broker consultants, however, as niche players will require face-to-face representation. In terms of riding these trends from a practical recruitment perspective, product providers seeking an external BC should be more open to recruiting phone consultants from a competitor. Existing external broker consultants should be able to show that they can work from home effectively as opposed to requiring branch support.

– There are overlapping trends within this area which encompasses direct sales, whether by IFAs, bancassurers or multi-tied advisers:
– The increasing age of advisers.
– The increasing fragmentation of distribution models – clear within the industry, though not obvious to customers – whole of market, fee only, multi-tie and tied.
– The increasing professionalism and qualification levels of the consultants
– within the industry and their support staff. The rise in the power of networks (distributors) and the reduction in product providers.

The above trends have significant implications for everyone in the industry.

Many life insurers have gone or merged in the last few years. Save & Prosper, Sun Life, Royal Life and Allied Dunbar are only a few examples. Ten, 15 or 20 years ago, if you wanted to change careers, you could get a position fairly easily with one of the above.

Now the questions asked of a potential consultant wishing to move into the life insurance industry are, do you have CF22 or CF21? Have you had CAS for 18 months?

This lack of fresh talent is good from an existing consultant perspective although it bodes ill for the future and I would make a plea for employers to be more relaxed in their requirements.

One consequence of the above is the rise in demand for paraplanners. Not that many years ago, I would spend a long time trying to persuade IFAs of the usefulness of having a trained support person who would do more than “just” admin.

Now the demand is enormous and it is here that I think innovative distributors will do very well if they can be flexible.I see paraplanning recruitment as a potential panacea for the above issues as, if used efficiently, they can be used to train new starts to the industry, can accommodate flexible working either for returners or people who wish to reduce their hours for whatever reason and can be used for salespeople at whatever stage to use their skills in a less stressful role.

Harris Keillar is managing director of Keillar Resourcing.

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