The New Year is traditionally a time when many people reassess their professional roles and decide a change may be worth pursuing. For many people I suspect this involves looking for a new job – indeed recent research published by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) revealed that 37% of workers say they are planning to leave their current jobs in 2015, a significant increase on the 19% who answered the same way in 2014 and the 13% in 2013.
But what about the financial advisory profession? How many advisers reading this article are considering a career change? I suspect very few although, given the average age of advisers, I wonder if most aren’t looking forward to retirement with some considerable relish. To be honest, I can’t blame those advisers who might be looking for an early exit – this job comes with some significant pressures to deal with whether they are in the form of regulation, increased costs, political interference, constant change, professional development requirements. The list goes on.
Unfortunately having to cope with these ongoing developments and the growing requirements placed on advisers has – in this country at least – somewhat detracted from the attractiveness of financial advising as a career choice. I am always interested in the ‘job reaction’ you get from people when you tell them what you do. How are financial advisers perceived? Are they thrown in the same pot as estate agents or journalists or parking wardens? I hope not given the job advisers do and the focus on quality and service.
Then again, the nature of what a financial adviser is and does has been systematically depowered by the continuous regulatory changes and developments. It is about to become even more confusing for consumers in April when a whole host of pension ‘Guidance agents’ are unleashed on the at-retirement market with only a requirement to have “some pensions knowledge” as the recent Citizens Advice job specification put it.
Of course it doesn’t have to be this way. Last year research conducted in the US by Rapacon placed being a financial adviser as one of the top ten jobs to have in the future. It is clearly a sought after career choice suggesting to me that the profession’s reputation across the pond is not just intact but strong and enticing to those looking at their employment. Can we really say the same in the UK?
So, how can we improve the reputation of the profession, ensure it is attractive to new blood, and develop greater consumer understanding of what advisers do, their value and worth, and why it’s a job worth having? Like most things, I believe it’s important to start with yourself. To that end, it’s about being the best you can be in your individual role which does mean self-improvement, lifelong learning, a commitment to continuous professional development, etc. If advisers are focused on self-betterment, on improving themselves and increasing their own standards, then this will clearly feed into the service they offer which will improve reputations and generate strong feedback and referrals.
Advisers need to be fully focused on their own roles which means not getting into a rut and instead retaining interest in the job and everything about it. Learning more and securing greater knowledge is a fundamental way to do this – we have recognised this for some time which is why we established a CPD library containing both structured and unstructured material which is easily accessible and allows the adviser to continually load up on new information. It will not only help the adviser improve their service offering but feed through into a growing positive reputation for the profession.
A profession renowned for its security, its prospects and the quality of its overall offering will clearly be attractive to those who are working in other areas or have yet to start work. While the legal, accountancy, and banking sectors have been tapping into the graduate market for decades, establishing these careers as worth pursuing, unfortunately the advisory community has not been working at the same level.
If we do want to bring new blood into our community then we certainly need to begin pushing and marketing the profession in a much more focused and structured way. Our professional and trade bodies must work closely together on developing an ongoing campaign that supports individual firms’ own recruitment policies if we are to raise the profile of being a financial adviser and make it stand out from the crowd. This should be a long-term commitment that highlights the positives of the profession and sets out the very tangible and compelling reasons for being part of it.
With the New Year being a time when many people consider what they should be doing next now is certainly the right point to secure our own professions’ future.