The term ‘advice gap’ can be construed in a number of ways. It can be used in reference to a person’s wealth and whether or not they are considered wealthy enough to warrant financial advice, and the gap that exists for those with less accumulated wealth. Additionally, it can refer to the perceived deficit of adviser: client ratio, as we face as more and more advisers leaving financial services (retiring or otherwise) in greater numbers than we are seeing new faces join.
So, focussing on the latter…. It’s been well reported that there’s simply not enough financial advisers and planners for the number of people who need advice in the UK and with constant news of rising population levels and in an age where people are living longer, there needs to be serious consideration, and action, around how we attract, and retain, the next generation of finance professionals. Yes, times are changing and we’re moving in the right direction to break down those misconceptions but seemingly, not at a quick enough pace and the threat of the adviser gap is becoming more urgent.
In my relatively short period of time within financial services (a little over 3 years in case you’re wondering), I’m no stranger to hearing the phrase ‘I fell into it’ when someone is asked how they came to join financial services. I too, would say I somewhat fell into the world of finance. The stigma of financial services being dry and transactional, not very exciting and only for those good at maths is still very much prevalent in 2020.
The only way we will build capacity across the full industry is to, collectively, shine a spotlight on the range of careers available in financial services and demystify the myth that the only worthwhile careers available are that of advisers and planners. Paraplanners, Financial Administrators, Technical Researchers, Marketing and Sales and even Workplace Culture roles, such as mine, are all rewarding careers in their own right and shouldn’t always be assumed that they are stepping stones towards more well-known careers such as advising.
There’s a huge disconnect with the general public and the industry as a whole and so it’s the responsibility of those within it to showcase it in the Hollywood-like lights it deserves. So, what we can do to play our part?
I’ll be honest, I’m still struggling with how to articulate my answer when I get asked what it is I do – however, I do think that is more symptomatic of the number of ‘hats’ I wear and the conceptual nature of ‘workplace culture’ – and although my ‘elevator pitch’ still leaves a lot to be desired, what I’m not guilty of is shying away from the answer entirely. I talk about my role and typically give examples of a normal working day to demonstrate the huge variety it has, and how it’s an exciting time to be part of financial services.
Telling those closest to us about our roles – what the job entails, what we like (and don’t like) about it, helps to educate those around us which in turn creates a ripple effect of education to wider circles which is exactly the type of awareness we need to be stimulating.
Capacity and skills need building at all levels and across all roles in financial services. It’s on this premise that we built The Art of Finance – a colourful and creative brand that offers a blend of skills training and personal coaching needed to achieve success in a range of roles. We intentionally focused on the largely under-represented and less known roles in finance when we launched last year – such as paraplanning, compliance and financial administration – because they are roles that are crucial to any advising firm looking to thrive or strive, and also because they are all relatable and worthy roles within their own right, whilst offering flexibility and further progression for those who choose to seek it.
The most recent course, The Art of Financial Administration, was designed to dispel the myth (largely of those outside of financial services) that financial administrators are clerical based administration roles, with very little room for professional development and career growth. Due to its technical nature, our view is that it should be considered as a career with exciting prospects in its own right, and across The Verve Group, our administrators are considered an equally valuable cog in the ecosystem that we’ve created. If we don’t encourage a diversity of roles now, then naturally we can expect to see a skills gap elsewhere in the business, and indeed industry, later down the line.
An illustration of The Verve Group’s talent management approach.
There’re loads of other people in the financial services who are doing great stuff to open the eyes and minds of the public and intentionally breaking down myths in a bid to encourage them into roles within finance and it excites me every time I see new initiatives launched. This isn’t the job of just one organisation or body, we all have a responsibly to shift perceptions – it’s the only way we achieve systemic change.