With industry efforts, more students will choose financial planning as a career choice. However, attracting top graduates to your practice may be tougher than it looks
A career in financial planning has not always been a popular path for many university students, but some are fighting to change that.
With an aging population comes a greater need for financial advisers, and a steady flow of new industry entrants is crucial to avoid a shortage, says FPA head of academic relations Howard Cook.
“What I say to students is that you’ve got an aging population in Australia and an aging population in the financial planning cohort,” he says.
“There is obviously more people with a need for financial planners and there are going to be a lot of financial planners leaving, which is going to create a hole.”
Promoting financial planning as a career option is also the goal of Grad Mentor, a company which connects fresh graduates with advice firms.
The group’s director, Alisdair Barr, says the upcoming legislative changes to adviser education standards – which will include a requirement for new entrants to hold degrees – could attract more students to the profession.
As awareness grows and more graduates start looking for their first jobs, an opportunity will emerge for existing advice practices to boost their businesses with fresh talent.
However, that may be easier said than done. Mr Barr warns that not every business has what it takes to attract these grads.
“It doesn’t suit every firm,” he says.
“For a firm to really attract solid talent out of university, there are certain things they need.”
Many of the challenges advice practices face when recruiting can be attributed to the small talent pool.
In addition to not being a traditional career, such as accounting or direct finance, financial planning does not have a clear pathway, Mr Barr says.
That is what he and his company are trying to change.
“We need to be better at portraying the profession internally as a place that makes a profound difference to Australians every day,” he says.
“We can have a rewarding and successful career in financial planning and I think we need to focus on that. There’s flexibility in it, there are great people inside the profession and what we’re doing is making it clear that it’s a place where young people should strive to be.”
Less convincing is needed on the other end, Mr Barr says, with many practices on the hunt for new entrants because of the benefits of fresh graduates.
“They come in with a clean slate. Because they don’t come in with experience, they don’t come with habits,” he says.
“They are open to the way that you do business and they are open to learning. They can be developed in the way that you want them to be developed. They’ll learn the way you want things done. They come with new ideas as well and they’re tech-savvy.”
While new graduates may cost less financially, they could cost the company more time wise.
“They take a higher investment in time to get them to whatever success looks like,” Mr Barr says.
FPA’s Mr Cook says they will also meet the soon-to-be minimum qualification standards, and may not have to undertake further study.
“With recent grads, you can get people with a good education background that you can then develop and expose to different roles in financial planning,” he says.
Demand for top adviser talent is also growing in South Australia and Queensland, according to the Salary Survey 2016 report by recruitment consultancy firm Robert Walters.
The firm states more advisers can expect to be offered sign-on bonuses and relocation cost as part of a package to entice them to move.
What grads want
While there are perks to bringing in fresh faces, not every firm will be able to enjoy them.
Mr Barr says graduates who are job hunting are looking for certain key company qualities.
One of those is purpose.
“New entrants who come out of university naturally have aspirations. They want a business that has a purpose that aligns with the Gen Y group and links to a bigger cause,” he says.
They are also looking for career progression and good leadership. Mr Barr says young people want to work in a place that is led by people they respect, trust and aspire to be like.
Companies that offer both flexibility and stability are also highly sought after.
“I don’t think flexibility means necessarily that they want to work three days from home. I think they want to be aware that they have a career that allows them some forms of flexibility,” Mr Barr says.
“I think stability used to mean that we will never lose our jobs and we couldn’t get fired but I think now they need to feel like they are part of a team. That’s what stability means for them, when they feel like a valued member of a purpose.”
Mr Cook adds that there are a lot of university students looking for companies that offer internships.
“They want to be able to look [at what the job is like] and see what opportunities are there,” he says.
Find a culture fit
As choosy as some job hunters may be, they are not the only fussy ones.
Mr Barr says he keeps an eye out for good work ethic and attention to detail when connecting grads with hiring firms.
“I look for people who are 110 per cent givers, not 90 per cent,” he says.
“I think small- and medium-sized financial planning firms really need people who are going to roll up their sleeves and put in the work.”
As for professional experience, Mr Barr says the majority of the people he works with do not hold any. He does, however, value any previous customer-facing roles.
“[For instance] they worked in a retail bank as a customer service operator,” he says.
“If they worked in a family business, that is good too because they understand it is all hands on deck when need be.”
Perhaps more crucially, Mr Barr says there must a culture fit between the firm and the grad.
“Culture is really important. It’s the click. It’s the ‘I like you, you like me. You’ll fit in here’,” he says.
“I think it’s really important that a business knows what its culture is before it starts looking for people, so that they can really articulate it.
“That’s the secret.”
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