Recruitment: investing in the future

With the war for talent set to resume in the wake of the global financial crisis, some are arguing that the only way to develop the industry to its fullest potential is to invest in the future. Caroline Munro reports.

The financial services sector may start the war for talent where it left off before the global financial crisis, but some argue that the only way to develop the industry to its fullest potential is to invest in the future.

The financial services industry as a whole has come under pressure from the Government, the public and the media.

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Additionally, the wave after wave of proposed reforms means that the industry has no choice but to make a concerted drive towards professionalism. There may be a skills shortage, but employers are nonetheless being more selective about who they hire.

Trevor Punnett of eJobs Recruitment Specialists agreed that companies are being more cautious about the people they employ.

He said even towards the end of last year he was finding it difficult to fill certain roles due to a shortage of quality candidates with the level of experience and qualifications that his clients were looking for. Should demand increase, he foresees that it will only become more difficult.

Punnett said that in order to address the skills shortage and attract more people to the industry, some of the larger institutions and banks were investing in development programs for their staff as well as graduate schemes.

"I think there will be more of that in 2010," he said, adding that it was surprising that more organisations had not done so earlier.

However, he conceded that some dealer groups are making more of an effort to take on younger, talented advisers and have them grow within the organisation to simultaneously provide a solution to the skills shortage and to their own succession planning issues.

AMP and Suncorp are two of the larger organisations that grow talent from within through their own development initiatives.

AMP Financial Planning has enjoyed the benefits of its Horizons Academy, which recruits candidates from outside the financial planning industry and trains them with the aim of starting up their own AMP-aligned financial planning practice.

If they feel they are not ready to go out on their own they can join the AMP Financial Planning network of advisers.

Steve Hemich, director of AMP Financial Planning, advice and services, agreed the hurdles to entry to the profession are going up and that his company would have to adapt.

But he said that AMP did not anticipate problems in sourcing a pool of people interested in entering the financial planning industry who could be trained through the program.

Although it is engaged in a consolidation process, Suncorp still has graduate programs in place to develop the particular skills they need for their operations.

"We have very strong graduate programs in place, particularly in the technology area where we are working directly with the university sector," said Suncorp human resources group executive, Scott Alomes.

Consultant Peter Dawson of The Freshwater Partnership believes that the financial planning industry is doing much to make the industry attractive to new entrants who are not deterred by the hurdles and the great changes that the industry is facing.

Speaking about the transition to fee-for-service, for example, he said there is a whole generation of young planners coming through who see the new model as a way to professionalise the industry and are excited about change, as witnessed at some of the Association of Financial Advisers’ GenXt program events he has attended.

"You can tell from the enthusiasm from the young advisers going through that program that there is a whole new generation coming through that is just embracing the industry, and embracing change," said Dawson.

The Financial Planning Association’s Future Financial Planners Council has also played an important part through it’s work with the university sector to promote financial planning as a career choice.

Finance Sector Union’s Rod Masson said that he would like to see the industry continue the drive towards professionalism, which should involve having a longer-term outlook rather than having knee-jerk reactions to immediate needs.

He feels this ties into what the Government is aiming for through the Australian Financial Centre Forum, which seeks to develop Australia as a financial hub by investing in people and skills.

"Companies are doing a bit of an analysis about what the future skills requirements of the industry are," said Masson.

"So we hope for, and would certainly commend, a more longer-term view being taken by the industry as it looks not just at what is required to meet short-term profit results tomorrow, but what is required for the industry in the future."

He hoped that companies within the industry would seek to build better relationships with the universities, so that a pipeline of talent with the prerequisite skills for entry could be developed.

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