Earlier this month, I spent a fascinating day as one of the judges for the Personal Finance Society’s Chartered Financial Planner awards. The judging panel quizzed those shortlisted for the individual chartered award and the representatives of the firms who made it to the final three in the chartered firm award.
I have been lucky enough to serve as a judge several times before and the experience is always an intriguing one. It is a window into the way that some of the elite of our profession operate; how they present themselves to clients, how they think about planning and how they position their businesses, both now and for the future.
I cannot give away any secrets from the judging process. The winners will be announced at the PFS annual gala dinner in Wembley next month. But there are things we can all learn from those shortlisted.
Take the businesses in the chartered firm award category, for example. They were three very different organisations, ranging in size from fewer than 10 staff to more than 60. They operate in different markets and different parts of the UK. They have diverse business models; both in terms of client acquisition and how they structure their fees.
But despite these differences, one theme emerged quite clearly. All three companies have a clear desire to recruit, train and develop the staff they will rely on for their future growth. They have decided that, to get the people with the right skills and attitudes, they need to grow their own.
“One theme emerged quite clearly. All three companies have a clear desire to recruit, train and develop the staff they will rely on for their future growth.”
All three firms had their own graduate and staff development programmes, with a clear vision of the kind of skillset and behaviours they wanted to encourage. They were all actively going out direct to universities to try and build bridges and sell the profession to a future generation of planners. And in return, they were finding talented young individuals who were willing to work hard and invest in the further study necessary to succeed.
Six or seven years after first reaching out, these companies are seeing a new generation qualify as chartered financial planners, taking meaningful roles in their firms and completely imbued in the values and ethics of their business. It is something I recognise from my own business, where we have two home grown advisers that have developed from young recruits into chartered financial planners.
Growing your own financial planners is a long-term proposition and it is not without its downsides. Some new starters may drop out along the way. There is always the risk you can invest for years in a promising individual, only for them to qualify and be tempted to work elsewhere.
But, equally, with a four or five year “extended job interview” of your training process, you absolutely know that, when that person sits down in front a new client, they will be delivering advice exactly as you want it. And that should reduce business risk.
Above all, if you are a business owner, hiring and investing in the right staff today and giving them the scope to grow might well provide your exit route 20 years from now.
Stephen Womack is a director of David Williams IFA