It’s no secret to anyone working in regulated financial advice that numbers of financial advisers are decreasing. We have seen advisers tumble from hundreds of thousands in the 80s and 90s to somewhere in the region of 20,000 today.
The average age of someone holding FCA’s CF30 designation is apparently 50. The actual figure is debatable I’m sure but having spent the last 20 years around people in these roles, the vast majority have more grey hairs than me. So it is safe to assume that the role is performed on the whole by people of a more mature age.
During the 80s and 90s, if you were at a crossroads in your career, had some life experience and could talk the hind leg off a donkey, then you could become a financial adviser. This approach taken by advisory firms and providers alike has without doubt produced some excellent advisers many of which have gone to build successful practices of their own. Of course it’s very different today with level 4 as a minimum entry barrier to the industry.
The issue facing the industry though is that these very same advisers who have grown through the industry during the 80s, 90s and 00s have, or are about to retire. Post-RDR, many commentators have spoken and written about the ‘advice gap’ which is partially attributable to advisers focussing on high net worth clients as well as the collapse of bancassurance and direct sales teams. The ‘advice gap’ could in theory become even wider should the industry fail to bring in a new breed of adviser over the next five years or so to offset the loss of advisers that are due to retire over the next five to 10 years.
So, how is the industry tackling this issue?
Quite frankly, in my opinion it’s not and whilst a number of companies have taken matters into their own hands such as St James’ Place for example who offer an ‘academy’ which is specifically aimed at career changers and graduates. The vast majority of companies however, small, medium and large don’t offer many solution to educate or upskill and very few have tackled the issue with Generation Z in mind. Many existing learning solutions around upskilling regulatory knowledge include reading chapter and verse through hundreds of pages of a paperback, or sitting in an office enjoying death by power point on the subject matter by a grey bearded expert.
Now take Generation Z and I will use my 17-year-old daughter as a great example of this. She communicates in characters of 160 or less, has over 1,000 Facebook friends and spends most of her time pouting for Snapchat conversations. She is skilled at tweeting, facetiming, Facebooking, and snapchatting simultaneously and at breakneck speed. Generation Z is tech-savvy, and when it comes to financial services we need to adapt our largely mundane learning and upskilling solutions to suit this new generation. If we stand any chance of bringing a new breed of advisors into the market we have to, at the very least educate them in a way understand and relate to.
Digital learning helps in many ways to solve this problem. Cloud-based technology that adapts to all learning styles and that Generation Z truly understands. Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from any device. Video tuition, gratification from immediate results from online tests with instantaneous feedback, bite sized chunks of learning that can be easily assimilated and neat applications such as instant messaging to instructors, point and click ratings of courses and in platform peer to peer email systems. If the learning is delivered though a user interface that works on any device including smartphones, then we are half way there to engaging this new generation of learners.
For employers, the ability to take this technology and white label it to their own brand offers an instant, technically brilliant and content rich solution that integrates with their own learning and development departments. If this then becomes available to all in their business they can look to upskill administrators to paraplanners and paraplanners to advisers. For advisers their journey to chartered and beyond is easily accessible.
Utilising technology like this in financial services bridges a gap with Generation Z, whether that’s your existing employees or attracting new employees into your business. Tech engages this generation, they understand it and turn to it for most things in life. I am not saying that tech will fully solve the rather large issue we have over a decreasing advisory population but I am saying that using technology to deliver regulatory learning and upskilling solutions will engage Generation Z better than a 600-page book ever could.