Call to embrace career changers entering advice

11 December 2023
| By Laura Dew |
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The financial advice profession should be embracing career changers and mature students, according to two commentators, as well as targeting those new graduates.

The strict educational standards and Professional Year (PY) have helped to boost the standards of the profession, but mean people from other fields can be deterred by the thought of a years-long process to retrain.

Alisdair Barr, founder of Striver, a program to help graduates enter financial services, acknowledged existing advisers have taken many different paths into the profession. 

Speaking to Money Management, he said: “If you ask any adviser how they got into it, they say they ‘fell into it’ and the problem is by not being open to that, then we miss out on that talent. We should lean into it and embrace these people who have come from other fields.

“We should have open arms towards career changers or parents who are returning to work. We need to embrace them so they can be part of the industry.

“How can we reduce the barriers and support them, and also support the industry to help them at their firms?”

This could be people who had worked in other parts of financial services before, such as wealth or funds management, or people who were completely new to the role and had experience in another field first.

Referencing changes in the Delivering Better Financial Outcomes last week to create a new classification of 'qualified adviser' to provide simple advice at banks, super funds and insurers, Barr added anything that lessened the barriers to enter the profession should be welcomed.

AMP group executive for advice, Matt Lawler, said the firm is making a targeted effort to attract mature students as well as new graduates. It has been working with Barr’s Striver this year in order to reach more graduates through events.

“Getting hold of grads and giving them an option as a pathway to financial advice has been good because economics and commerce students have lots of choices available to them, such as accountancy and law.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have mature-age students coming in, and that’s an area we need to improve. A graduate straight from school is going to take a while to get that maturity to deal with older clients, so mature age students is a real strategy we are focusing on.”

Lawler also discussed ways to make the Professional Year quicker in order to ensure new entrants are generating money and reduce the financial burden on firms. 

“Australia has enough room for 25,000–30,000 advisers, but that’s going to take us a long time to get back to, so there are some tweaks we can make particularly to the Professional Year. It’s one of the tougher Professional Years, even with accountants and lawyers, so can we make that a bit smoother?

“10 years ago people would do a weekend course and become an adviser, now it’s a full financial planning degree. Can we get those people into earning revenue – with a partner signing off on it – quicker? If we can, then the pathway will see a lot more graduates coming into the sector.”

Barr agreed and said the financial advice education pathway has drawbacks compared to other professions.

“In accountancy, people are going through their training and they are still billable, and that’s where the profession has got a problem. If it takes at least 12 months to get through a Professional Year, then it could be two years before they are able to generate revenue.

“[PY candidates] shouldn’t be seen as a burden for a financial advice firm, so we need to look at how we can get them generating revenue earlier.” 

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