Much has been written and spoken about concerning the need to change the image of the industry and indeed, to encourage young(er) blood into financial services as a whole.
A career in financial services is not perhaps the most obvious nor attractive choice for many young people and yet we are told that the financial advice industry is facing a supply and demand problem in terms of new recruits.
But why is this? Is it perhaps that graduates and those young people entering the workplace for the first time are being put off by the industry qualifications that must be followed and passed? Does regulation and compliance repel them or is it perhaps that the problem is one of perception, with financial advice still not being seen as a ‘profession’ as such, even though it absolutely should be.
I think that the reputation and image of financial advisers has been poor in the past and this perhaps affects how people regard this career choice. Furthermore, there are still perceptions that there are ‘dodgy’ financial advisers around; ‘wideboys’ and ‘sharks’ and unfortunately, I think that this image may take a long time to disappear.
For one reason or another, I think it may be the case that financial advising is something that people ‘fall into’ rather than actively enter. Furthermore, those whom work in financial services didn’t initially seek to make a career in the sector: it wasn’t on their game plan.
At a recent careers convention that Brightstar attended as part of our commitment to our Young Learners Programme, it was interesting to put the theory to the test that becoming a financial adviser isn’t an attractive or even considered career choice for young people. We talked extensively to young people about their career choices, repeatedly asking the question “Have you thought about a career in financial services at all?” to which most replied, “No, not really.”
It is this reality that has led us to feeling quite passionate about how we can expedite change. Moreover, we have committed to holding ‘taster days’ at Brightstar and to offering a meaningful and structured work experience programme to young people who might be considering a career in this sector. We are also offering internship opportunities and trying to redress this apparent supply and demand problem.
It is interesting to note that once engaged in conversation with young people at the recent careers convention, there was definitely a genuine interest from them in the potential opportunities available. Being able to use skills such as problem solving, communication, relationship building as well as an obvious interest in numbers, gained a keen ‘buy in’ from our audience and before we knew it, our list of youngsters wishing to be considered for our Young Learners Programme in its various facets was growing quite quickly.
Success? Not quite. Furthermore, on the very same day of attending the careers convention, I had been in London hosting a Women in Finance Event. Joining together with sector colleagues, our aim was to secure further commitment to the Women in Finance Charter and ultimately, to achieve gender parity in the financial services sector and greater representation of women at senior level.
With this in mind, I attended the careers convention with the hope of ‘recruiting’ potential young women to the sector. Disappointingly however, our stand seemed relatively unappealing to the girls. Furthermore, on closer inspection after the event, our previously mentioned list showed us that just 15% of our young people were female.
To me, this identifies the root of the problem: to start with, educational institutions are not encouraging girls into financial services and/or are not finding girls with the interest in such careers. It made me wonder further whether the way that financial services careers are ‘pitched’ and ‘sold’ is more appealing to boys.
In an attempt to attract applications from women as well as men, for example, organisations are now looking more closely about how job adverts are drawn up and the language that and style that is used, so perhaps companies going into schools and colleges and educational institutions themselves should also look at how these careers are presented and marketed, us included!
In conclusion, we need to think about and join together to make a concerted effort to attract young people and (particularly, more young women) into the sector. We cannot rely on people just ‘falling into’ these careers if we are going to continue to service need: a more proactive and targeted approach is required. To change the profile and image of this sector, we have to change our thinking and tact and for me, this begins in schools and colleges where our next generation are ready and waiting.