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Sam Rees-Adams: Who’d work in FS?

If you could go back in time, what career advice would you give your school-leaving self? Perhaps it’s worth sharing your experiences


Hands up who wants to work in financial services?  If you were to pose the same question to a room full of school leavers, you would probably see more blank faces than raised hands.  Financial services is not very well understood, certainly not in terms of the breadth of opportunity it can offer.  A recent survey by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment shows there is still an image problem, with 53 per cent of young people saying they thought working in financial services would be “boring”.

Financial services has had its share of scandals and bad publicity, all of which makes the job of selling it as a good career prospect that much harder.  Harder but certainly not impossible. Medicine, accountancy and law  remain consistently attractive career choices yet they are hardly free from scandal so what can we learn from them?

They are good at explaining what they do.  Or at least enough for people to think they understand what they do. They use consistent terminology (doctor, solicitor, accountant) that is easily recognisable to the public. 

They are seen as stepping stones as well as good careers in their own right.  Many people with a law degree will never practice law but that is viewed as positive rather than negative and suggests marketability.  Many senior roles across all sectors are held by accountants. The perception of opening doors is a powerful selling point.

We can all play our part in changing perceptions and getting the message out there about what fantastic career opportunities exist within financial planning. If we can show the diversity, progression and marketability we will be well on the way to attracting new talent.   

Interestingly, the CISI survey showed only 19 per cent of young people thought a typical day in financial services would involve talking.  Financial planning is all about people: talking and listening to clients and helping them to achieve their goals. This makes it rewarding in two ways: not only is it well-paid but it really does change people’s lives for the better. We know that is the reality, so what can we do individually to help get the message out there? 

If you could go back in time, what career advice would you give your school-leaving self?  Clearly that is impossible but there are plenty of students who could really benefit from it. 

Most schools, colleges and universities would bite your hand off if you volunteered to talk to students about what you do for a living and why it is such a great career choice.  So why not find a local school and offer your services?  If you love what you do and believe it is a great option, then spread the word.  If your company does not already offer work experience placement and/or internships, why not give it serious consideration?

Be passionate about what you do and help to get the word out there.  Financial planning needs a constant supply of new talent to ensure long-term success and for that we need ambassadors. 

Successful people know from personal experience what a rewarding and exciting career financial planning provides.

Sam Rees-Adam is professional standards director at the IFP



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