New kids on the block
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New kids on the block

There is always a degree of difficulty for new grads wanting to break into an industry, but for financial planners, lending a helping hand to the next generation might be in their best interests.

Ask a classroom of first-graders what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll hear a chorus of careers such as “astronaut”, “doctor” and “teacher.” But that might no longer be the case. With rising professionalism boosting the public profile of financial planning, it’s becoming a more popular career choice, particularly for graduates looking for a fulfilling occupation. According to Securitor and Licensee Select head of strategic growth Annick Donat, “fresh talent” is just what the industry ordered.

“With an ageing planner population as we know, [hiring graduates] is a great way to groom some really strong, well-credentialed, bright young enthusiastic successors,” Ms Donat said.

“In a population that isn’t generally advised, if we can get some young graduates that believe in being advisers, that whole different change of demographic will hopefully help more people get advice.”

Jane McNeill, director of banking and financial services at recruitment company Hays, says that if a practice wants a loyal employee with long term potential, graduate hiring might be for them.

“If they have the right attitude you can mould them into the role and your way of doing business,” Ms McNeill said. “You’ll also have a wider pool of quality candidates available for future promotion.”

Ms Donat said with the industry gaining profile, one of the key differences between this generation and its predecessors is that graduates are making an “active choice” to join the advice industry, rather than falling into the position through other pathways.

“They’re coming up very well credentialed and they are making an active choice to be a financial planner,” Ms Donat said.

“So they’re not just doing commerce or accounting or an economics degree, they’re making that conscious decision.”

Foot in the door

With financial planning becoming a more active choice, the range of programs available to connect graduates with the industry is growing. AMP have been running its annual University Challenge for three years, designed introduce university students to financial planning and allow them to experience it first-hand.

Students competing in the challenge need to submit a discussion paper on a hypothetical financial planning case study. The top five teams then progress to “finals day” where they compete in a technical quiz and present their discussion paper to AMP coaches.

Winning students and their university receive prize money as well as a networking opportunity at AMP’s annual conference.

“[Financial planning] is something that is fairly new as a profession so I think what we need to be doing is more and more creating that awareness about the new profession,” AMP Horizons director Amelia Constantinidis said.

“I think as we more and more think of the shift to professionalism … it is really more about how do we make sure that it is an emerging profession that they have an option to join.”

FutureMap managing director Alisdair Barr started Grad Mentor approximately 18 months ago, after realising there was a gap in the industry.

“One of things that I’ve found is that the students are sort of, they can’t really touch and see what the opportunity is and quite often don’t’ know what’s out there,” Mr Barr said.

“Overall the main driver in Grad Mentor is building excitement for young people in this industry.”

The business works with universities to mentor final year students looking for a career in financial services.

Together with events company Business Connector, Grad Mentor runs Graduate Connector events, designed to give students a door into the industry.

Students submit resumes, and are then behaviourally interviewed by Mr Barr. If students are successful they are coached on interview skills before the Business Connector night where students and businesses have 3 minute job interviews.

Successful students then go on a 12 day formal internship with a business with the possibility of it turning into fulltime employment.

Business Connector chief executive Mike Boorn Plener said the selection and training process means Graduate Connector isn’t random matching making “like speed-dating on steroids” but a curated event.

“Most graduates that are coming out they obviously lack the business experience,” Mr Boorn Plener said.

“They’ve got all of the book knowledge but they’re missing the understanding of ‘well this is how we do this in real life, and they’re all missing that equally.”

“The [event gives] the businesses a chance to see some of the best talent coming out of universities before they go through the traditional, large-scale corporate graduate programs,” Mr Barr added.

What do graduates want?

While graduates tend to be technically proficient financial planners, what they are lacking is the life skills and experience. Ms McNeill said this is one of the core difficulties of recruiting a graduate.

“They are unproven and you have to train them- that is why it’s so important to determine their work ethic and motivation,” Ms McNeill said.

“Graduates typically look for an employer that is willing to invest and train them for the future and an organisation that can offer career development.”

Ms Donat said she recently met two women who were looking to start their second careers in financial advice.

“They wanted to be financial planners, they loved helping people and they wanted to work for themselves but they wanted to be groomed within a business,” Ms Donat said.

“That’s the other benefit for a financial adviser is that they… should look for someone that is looking to be groomed.”

Ms Donat said it’s important for businesses to be prepared to train a graduate by having a proven induction plan.

She said that when recruiting into her own business, she looks at how she can get them involved quickly by breaking down what’s important, what do they have to learn and who do they have to meet.

Mr Boorn Plener said one of the biggest hurdles for graduates can be their own determination to land that first job at all odds.

“It’s a two way match and I think that is quite important an element of the whole thing,” Mr Boorn Plener said.

“For a lot of these grads, the challenge that they have is they’re going to go out there and they’re looking for a first job. If someone says yes, they’re not really going to be choosy about it which is not necessarily to their best advantage.”

Hiring new talent

Most graduates are lacking practical know-how so when doing his interviews for Graduate Connector, Mr Barr said he primarily looks for a good work ethic and general communication skills in lieu of experience.

“I look at whether they can think of their feet, answer questions, demonstrate how they’ve been able to deal with tough customers, deal with being under pressure, how they’ve been able to work in a team and even, have they come prepared,” Mr Barr said.

“Basically businesses want people that are genuinely interested in the industry, have a bit of “get up and go,” are intelligent and can fit into the team.”

AMP Horizons tend to take older applicants rather than straight-from-university graduates but said passion for the industry is important regardless of the age or experience of the candidate.

It’s one of the core things the bank looks for when hiring for the program.

“For us, it’s making sure they’re proven in what they want to do, and that they really consider financial planning as a career as opposed to its ‘just another job’ which is critical for us especially given the investment that AMP provides,” Ms Constantinidis.

“We look at some core skills around client focus and client engagement… because you can always train the technical aspect but some of the other aspects are more difficult to train.”

These core skills are what Ms McNeill said the industry expects from graduates if they are going to be groomed into a business. However she said that having the right personality is also important as graduates can often be long term employees.

“Generally financial planning businesses look for graduates with strong communication skills, good commercial acumen and strong aptitude towards sales,” Ms McNeill said.

“We advise employers to look for attitude and aptitude rather than just academic grades. In a role like FP strong work ethic will be important.”

Ms Donat agreed that attitude was the key to finding a graduate that would fit into a financial planning role.

“Look for someone with some personality- that whole “people empathy,”’ Ms Donat said. “So the people that I’ve spoken to the ones that really stand out for me are the people that really want to help others.”

However, Mr Boorn Plener said the key to hiring a good graduate is simple.

“You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a good cultural match… between the people that are on either side of that equation,” he said.

“What you really have got to look for is someone that you’d just love to work with and if you do then good- I think you should hire them. It’s as simple as that.”

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