The average age of an adviser in the IFA community is in the mid-50s, and we are forever wondering where the next generation is coming from.
Business is booming, the banks have effectively ceased face-to-face advice, direct sales forces are gone and consolidators are hoovering up client banks at an alarming rate. But who will service these client banks with the requisite interpersonal and technical skills in the years to come? More importantly, who is going to train the younger generation in the art of delivering financial advice?
In the 1980s there was an explosion in people selling financial services and some great training offered by the life insurance industry. But it is not there any more. Like many current advisers, I started as a trainee life inspector for General Accident Life nearly 30 years ago, learning about pooled investment risk, caveat emptor, and the need for life assurance.
I moved onto pensions and investments over an 18-month training programme that included sales training courses, joint calls with experienced salesmen and group presentations. This was a great breeding ground to move into the IFA market, but this route is not there any more.
At MPA Financial Management, we decided a couple of years ago that, to develop as a company, we needed bright graduates to come into the market with their natural IT skills and train them ourselves.
With limited resources, I decided to offer a career path and make the advice profession one graduates could not ignore. I wanted a programme that allowed graduates to experience all aspects of the business, so at the end they would find a role suited to their skills and us as a business. They would work in new business administration, investment reviews, report writing, suitability, research, finance and human resources.
During this time, they would be working towards their Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) exams, so there is a pathway to diploma status. We run a training session every Friday morning so we can go through exam questions and techniques, and how it all fits in with the psychology of clients and sales process.
We try to take them on joint calls as much as possible so they can see how we put all this technical knowledge into practice, and how we interact with clients.
There are financial incentives to pass exams and progress, and at the end of the process we will have well trained paraplanners and advisers. They will have a diploma in financial services and their careers will be well under way.
We have also enrolled six staff on the new Personal Finance Society (PFS) Adviser Apprenticeship scheme. At the end of it they will have an apprenticeship in financial services and a diploma to boot. The sky will be the limit.
The next plan is how to retain these quality staff as we develop as a company. We must keep challenging them, give them extra responsibilities so they can thrive in the environment and pay them what they are worth. We are looking at buying other client banks at the moment and in the future we will have excellent, technical, and rounded advisers that can take the company forward.
This has made me want to take more exams to show the staff you are never too old to learn, and with the right technique the exams are not impossible. I enjoy the challenge.
Phil McGovern is managing director of MPA Financial Management.