Bringing the Next Generation Into Our Profession

By: Sarah Elson
Director
Berry & Oak

At the PFS Annual conference on 2 November 2021, Sarah Lord said it is expected that 20% of advisers will retire in the next five years and anything up to 35% will retire in the next 10 years. This is a scary thought, having attended many financial conferences over the years and knowing the average age of a UK adviser.

This adviser exodus must create opportunity. But not just this. Every week on LinkedIn there are a number of companies looking for team members to join their firms, whether that be experienced administrators or experienced paraplanners.

Across the UK, the number of graduates leaving education looking for employment is at an all-time high. Yet, according to the Telegraph, there is just one job available for every 40 graduates.

How can we bridge the gap between all the companies searching for talent and all the next gen talent desperate to find a career?

Is a change in mindset required?

There are so many advantages of bringing a young person into your business. Yes, you need to invest time to develop and train them, but you are developing and training them in your way of doing things, they have no preconceived ideas of how things should be done. What more could you want than that?

I’ve often heard people say yes what if I spend all the time, effort and money developing someone in my business and then they leave. Yes, that will happen in some circumstances, but at Berry & Oak we think about it this way,

“What if you didn’t train and develop somebody and they stayed!”

Earlier this year we went through the process of designing, advertising, and recruiting for a Graduate Scheme at Berry & Oak. I don’t think that any firm is too small to go through this process.

Experience will be different depending on the firm size. For example, in a larger firm, there are more people in the team to help train and time can be spent in different departments. In a smaller firm like ours we’ve found having a buddy to support the graduate has worked. This means they’ve been able to be involved in lots of different areas of the business from Day 1.

One of the reasons we felt it was important to create the graduate programme was to provide a clear, but fluid structure so that everyone knows where they are and where they are headed. A clear structure with a degree of flexibility is important as it is hard for someone who has never worked to know at the outset what career path they want to go down.

Of the 40 graduates we interviewed, 39 said that their career goal was to be a financial planner. Our graduate scheme keeps this in mind, but also gives our graduates the flexibility of going down another route, such as a practice manager, paraplanner or a compliance role if they find that is what they prefer. It’s like the branches of a tree. There are a number of branches to take as they develop and understand all the roles within the business and discover what they are good at and enjoy doing.

For an employee to really flourish and succeed, it is important to give them the chance to work in different roles and then decide what they want to do. They might find the role they love the most is completely different to what they expected!

Yes you were reading correctly, we had over 40 applications!

For a small family-owned firm, based in a small Yorkshire village, we received just over 40 applications. All of these were from high quality applicants with a variety of skills and qualifications looking for the opportunity to start their career in our profession. From speaking to other firms, they have had similar experiences.

We started the process looking for one graduate trainee, and at the end of the process, the quality of the applicants was so good that we actually recruited two people. 

Holly and Lily joined us in July this year on our graduate training programme having just finished University in the summer. We are really proud of what they have achieved during the time that they have spent with us. As part of their role, they’ve also taken on individual responsibility for some projects within the business, Lily has built our new back office factfind and Holly has become our Charity Champion and as a result we have created a partnership with “JUST ONE Tree” to reduce our carbon footprint.

Young people can bring skills and knowledge into the business that even experienced professionals wouldn’t ever think of. It is something I wish we’d started years ago.

Our top five things that made this a success
  1. Invite the applicants to create and submit a short video early on in the process. This is a great way to get to know the candidates early on and it’s surprising how many people don’t actually answer the questions that you’ve asked.
  2. Create a clear scoring and screening system that you follow for each stage of the process. To ensure we remained fair and consistent in our approach, we used interview questions, a Kolbe score and assessment results to make our decision. Thanks to this, performance at every stage of the process was taken into account.
  3. Recruit someone that fits with your firm’s culture and values.
  4. Build relationships with schools, colleges and universities local to you. I’m sure they will be happy to share your role with their students of you ask them nicely. NextGen planners also run bootcamps in conjunction with the Personal Finance Society that are also worth attending. It is actually through NextGen that Holly and Lily found out about the role and how we came into contact with them both.
  5. Hold an assessment day. Our day comprised of accuracy and numeracy tests, interviews with the Berry & Oak team members, and a presentation on how the candidates fitted with our values. It’s also a great way to see how the candidates interact with each other in a team environment.

The whole process is something that we have learnt from and reviewed to make it even better for when we repeat it again next year.

Now, we plan to repeat this every year so the graduate will then come into the business and be trained by Holly and Lily as they move on to the next stage of the programme.

If you’re reading this and have been thinking about recruiting a school leaver or graduate into your team, I fully recommend it. We all need to give the next generation that chance to shine, grow and develop in our profession.


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