Fancy a job where the hours are flexible, where you will gain important and respected professional qualifications, meet new people, have almost unlimited earning potential and plenty of chance to travel the country? Expressed like that and the life of a financial adviser sounds distinctly attractive, so how can it be that, at a time when record numbers of bright graduates cannot find good full-time roles and are forced into “Mcjobs” to make ends meet, the financial services industry finds itself in a constant battle to recruit the next generation of advisers?
Across the UK there are currently estimated to be around 26,000 people working as financial advisers, with an average age of 58. That represents a dramatic slump over the past couple of decades from the time where there were around 250,000 people working as financial advisers. Why numbers have fallen so dramatically is open to some debate – RDR has undoubtedly been a factor in encouraging many to sell-up or retire, but industry experts also point the finger at factors like the banking crisis 2008 and recent ‘scandals’ around banking (LIBOR manipulation, PPI, ‘’dark pools’’ etc.) as other factors making the financial services industry less attractive.
What is abundantly clear is that the UK financial services industry as a whole is not doing enough to promote itself as an attractive career option. Financial advice is often perceived as a career for 50-something year old men, given that much of the work is focused on those in middle age and in retirement, yet despite the expected growth of robo-advice, auto-enrolment, pension freedoms and the many challenges of handling inter-generational wealth mean there has never been a greater need for sound face-to-face financial advice.
Taking auto-enrolment as just one example, there are currently some 40,000 employers a month going through their “staging dates”, which gives a good idea of the scale of advice needed.
There are more than 250,000 qualified accountants in the UK, so it is not that young people have turned their backs on a financially-orientated career, it just looks like the financial advice sector has failed to get its act together and promote the attractions of an industry that not only has become far more professional in the face of ever tighter regulation, but one which offers great variety in building and managing relationships with individuals and businesses, and helping people in that crucial area of managing their wealth and achieving their financial goals.
Younger people needing help with their financial affairs don’t necessarily want to deal with an adviser of their parent’s generation, who they may perceive as patronising and out of touch with their needs and their lifestyle. They are far more likely to respond to someone of their own generation, so a lot more needs to be done by the industry to work with careers advisers at schools, sixth form colleges and at universities to market financial advice/wealth management as a viable alternative to traditional white collar professions, and one where professional qualifications ensure ever greater standards of professionalism are being achieved.
Surely it is time for the industry as a whole to unite and launch a generic programme to “sex up” the appeal of life as a financial adviser. After all, it is a career that is a good deal less susceptible to economic peaks and troughs than others in sales and business development, is one where the rewards are good and there are clearly defined opportunities to progress and above all it is a service that will be required by almost everyone at some time in their lives.
But it’s not just graduates who can be attracted into the world of financial advice and there are a great many people in diverse walks of life to be attracted into a new career by the flexibility and lifestyle which it offers. One successful exponent of this process in the St. James’s Place Academy, which has trained and recruited advisers from many walks of life, including the armed forces and from professional sports like cricket and rugby, where their drive, spirit of teamwork, leadership and networking skills make for a rich pool of potential new talent to be tempted into the industry.