Zoe Aldridge faced the same Catch 22 situation many aspiring adviser are encountering: employers want client-facing experience, but do you get experience when you have not been allowed in front of clients and have not received training? Fortunately Aldridge found a solution. Here is her first-hand account of her advice journey so far.

Like many graduates, I was not aware of financial planning as a profession at first. I had studied law at university and left with little clarity about what I wanted to do next.

I spent 15 months applying for graduate schemes at accountancy firms, including at Mazars. But it was a financial planner from Mazars Financial Planning who eventually gave me a call.

They said they were looking for people to join their graduate scheme along with seven other graduates. It soon became apparent the advice profession was one that was evolving fast so I jumped at the opportunity.

As graduates entering the workforce, we are too often rejected for not having the two-five years of professional experience. So a graduate scheme is an effective way of providing young people with exposure to this profession and the various roles available within it.

Scheme structure

The first two years after joining Mazars, I provided back-office support for paraplanners and planners while completing my level 4 diploma. This mainly involved sourcing policy information from providers and, once our technical knowledge was up to scratch, writing reports. This technical development went hand in hand with our studies.

We were also given the opportunity to shadow planners during client meetings, which provided a great insight into the role for which we are all in training. A small portion of our time was also spent liaising with the Mazars investment management team to produce tailor-made investment instructions for clients.

The centralised nature of the training meant that we were surrounded by experienced paraplanners and planners who were there to support us in our technical development.

Smashing stereotypes

The graduate scheme at Mazars has proved successful, with many of the firm’s current advisers having come up through the scheme.

It offers a chance for young people like me to start afresh in a profession that hasn’t always given off the best impression. I think as more young people enter the profession, the stereotype of financial advisers as salespeople will disappear and we will become more recognised as holistic advisers whose ultimate aim is to help clients achieve their long-term financial goals.

I am in my third year at Mazars now, working in the London office as an assistant financial planner. I work directly in support of seven client-facing planners, which will inevitably help to mould me into the planner I aim to become.