It’s no secret that the average age of a financial planner in the UK is in the mid-fifties. This means that a crucial five to 10-year period is coming up for our profession. 

    As we generally get paid well for what for we do, there will be many in this cohort who have planned their own financial futures and will be retiring over the coming years. The question is, once they've left the advice profession, who is that's going to take their place? 

    The stats do not make for very pretty reading, with just 19 per cent of advisers aged under 30 years old.

    So clearly, we have a demographics issue here. What’s not clear though is how we tackle it. 

    For some reason, we love to compare ourselves to accountants and solicitors. So let’s take that comparison a bit further. 

    When a young person wants to become an accountant or solicitor, there is a fairly well defined path to enter their chosen career. They would go into a firm and learn on the job via a training contract. Then, after around three years, boom - those aspiring accountants or solicitors are now qualified and are likely to have an idea of their career trajectory from that point. 

    If you were to ask a university leaver: “How do you become a financial planner?”, I'm not sure they'd be able to answer.  

    I know from my own experience and that of the rest of our community at NextGen Planners we’ve all had such varied routes in. It's usually a case of “I fell into it”, or “My dad did it so I thought I’d give it a go”. 

    There’s no defined path like there is with the solictor and accountancy professions we compare ourselves to. It’s all a bit woolly. 

    There is an added problem in that I don’t think people really understand what it is we do. While things like apprenticeships are helping, I’m not sure firms fully understand some of the implications and nuances of apprenticeships in practice, such as the final submissions or the four days out of five in the office. 

    The promotion of the financial planning profession to the outside world seems sparse at best. I’m yet to see an example of an advice firm looking for young talent who explains what we do in a decent way. 

    There are also some other blockers. We often hear from firms who are worried about investment in staff and then the risk of them moving on. I’m sorry but, if that’s your worry, and this may sound a tad harsh, but have you stopped to consider whether you might be the problem? If you’re the one not providing new recruits with an environment that fulfils them professionally and personally, then ultimately the fault lies with you.

    Making the difference

    Before I go on, I would like to caveat the following by making it clear that I’m not perfect by any means. It’s taken me ages to create what I believe to be a half decent process when it comes to recruitment and retention, though I'll freely admit this process is still in its infancy.

    I brought in a couple of young guns last November. The people I want are those that care about other humans, and that’s exactly what I got. Most would-be planners can sit the exams, and I'm pleased to report both of my latest recruits are nearly at diploma level already. 

    For me, the differentiator is people that are keen and people that care. The environment I’ve sought to create with my staff is one of complete openness. They know our monthly bank balance, our balance sheet and how much I earn. They also know the long-term plan that we are working to as a business, and that one day they can become owners of that business. They’re involved in all company decisions, whether these are major or minor.

    Staff are also provided with detailed monthly breakdowns of the next 30 months in terms of what they will learn and what they will earn. All exams are paid for, as is all additional training. We have an awesome office (if I say so myself) and what's more, they are looked after.

    I talked earlier about the importance I place on creating an environment that fulfils your team "professionally and personally". I focus massively on that personal side. My belief is if people are happy at home, and are given the chance to grow and flourish, then they will do exactly that. 

    Recently one of the guys on the team wanted to rent a flat with his girlfriend and was struggling to get the deposit together - so I paid the deposit. Of course it was a cost, but the guy is worth it. He’s a phenomenal asset to my business - why would I not pay to keep him happy and keep him working with me?

    This personal side is so often overlooked and represents a huge reason why many may not want to come on that journey with you. Take a look around your office now.  How much do you really know about your team? What makes them tick? How can you help? How can you improve this with new entrants to your business? 

    Sometimes it's the simplest things that make all the difference.

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