Before I became an adviser I studied a degree in financial services at Glasgow Caledonian university, which has stood me in good stead in the years that have followed.
A while after I joined Murphy Wealth, I went back to the university and told them I’d be keen to get involved with their work as a way of giving something back.
Our relationship has now been going strong for eight or nine years now, and has included lecturing and sponsoring the best student prize in the second year. It’s progressed to offering an internship for financial services degree students between their third and fourth years, and we’ve ended up hiring three people who completed the course.
We may or may not end up taking people on from the internship, and will only take someone on if they’re suitable and if they’re going to add something to the business. Once the students have left university, we offer a two-year graduate training programme with the expectation being that they will join us full-time at the end of it. Having gone through the process with our earlier graduates, we designed the programme based on the likely roles the graduates will end up in.
Our partnership with the university is also starting to go beyond our own firm. We have been through a number of interviews now, and think there’s scope for some kind of masterclass that we can run with the students around how to position themselves as better applicants, in order to make them more attractive employees not just to us but to other firms more generally.
As we are growing, the single biggest challenge for us is recruitment. By working with the university in this way we can access the best and the brightest students and get them joining us at this early stage in their career, and it makes our recruitment job a hell of a lot easier. This allows us to develop graduates and set them on a path, rather than having to hire from other firms and perhaps having to pay to retrain them or pay a small fortune to get them on board.
Our approach to bringing on graduates
One thing this isn’t about is treating graduates as dogsbodies or cheap labour. We want people coming in and seeing this as a great place to work and to seize the opportunities available. They are definitely not there to simply make the tea or pop to the shops. We only take people on with a 2:1 or above – these are smart young people we’re talking about. You’ve got to give them the respect they deserve, and value them for what they can bring to your company.
In terms of their progression, graduates tend to come out of uni with a lot of theoretical knowledge, but need to learn about the practical application of that knowledge. Despite securing very good degrees, graduates still need to learn the basics, and understand what it is that we as advisers do.
For us administrative roles are a good place to start as it’s about understanding how the advice is put together, so that if and when they progress to becoming a trainee client manager (our version of a paraplanner), they understand the advice process end-to-end.
This will be supported by completing their diploma, before moving to things like cashflow modelling, presentations and actually becoming a part of client meetings. It’s up to them in terms of the path they want to take, whether that’s in the client management team or as a client-facing adviser.
Where it becomes challenging is it takes a certain type of person to want to win new business. They can be a great adviser in the purest sense, but perhaps not so great at the pitch stage and at generating opportunities.
Further down the line I think we’ll have to look at creating our own academy within the business to develop some of those softer skills. The university courses are great at what they do but don’t really teach things like emotional intelligence and rapport building.
We were initially cautious in our approach and what we offered to graduates. You need to have a clear sense about what you are willing and able to do. We did it slowly and tested what worked as we went along, and that suited us to do it that way. It also helps in terms of building credibility with the university you’re working with that you understand what their students need.
Time and resource is absolutely key. If you’re not the person to give this, you need to make sure you have the right team in place and that there is someone to support those graduates you are bringing in.
Yet having done this for a number of years now, I would massively recommend other advisers get involved. Contact your local university, ideally one that offers a relevant financial services or business course – no doubt they will be delighted to hear from you. From there, try taking on an intern for a short period and just see how it goes.
Attracting more of these smart, young people into advice would be a great thing for our sector. When we look at the future, whether it’s the future of our business or the future of the profession, these guys are it.