Firms rarely take on would-be financial advisers with no previous advisory experience these days. Why would they when there are experienced advisers available and the requirements to get them up and running are considerably less onerous? But the industry needs would-be blood and it’s worth considering how to get this into your business.
For somebody aiming to become a financial adviser for the first time, the process is very similar to passing your driving test. To become an adviser you have to study, practice, take, and pass a series of examinations and assessments. To be awarded your full driving licence you have to learn, practice, take, and pass a written and a practical test. Success deems you competent to carry out that function, be it driving on the roads, or giving advice on your own. The big difference is that once you have passed your driving test you’re no longer supervised, whereas once you have proved yourself competent to give advice, you will always be supervised at a certain level.
So it’s important for a would-be adviser to realise and accept that the learning is continuous. Unlike the driving test where success means you can throw your “L” Plates away with an option to replace them with the Just Passed “P” Plate, within the Financial Services industry the adviser automatically swaps the “L” Plate for the “P” Plate. At least until such time as the level of ongoing supervision is reduced.
The actual requirements for the successful transition from Trainee to Competent Adviser Status will vary between T&C Schemes. Some require more assessments than others, and with some schemes it is possible to complete the assessments in a very short time. But cutting short the assessment time may mean cutting short the learning time, which is not necessarily a good thing for the Trainee, because it eliminates the “road time”, that essential “time on the job” factor.
This “road time”, for both the newly passed driver and new adviser alike, is massively important as to how each will conduct themselves when out in traffic, or when working with clients, and it can’t be learned in a short space of time. Each will experience different scenarios on very journey. With the newly-passed driver this might be changes in road conditions as a result of the weather – rain, fog, snow and ice for example. For the new adviser this might be different levels of client understanding or reactions, or maybe how different clients provide information or agree to the level of remuneration required to give and implement the advice.
The reality for a would-be adviser right from the start is that it is essential that the training is conducted over a reasonable period of time. Back in the early 1990’s a would-be adviser might be given a couple of weeks training, take and pass some exams, and be released to work it out for themselves with little or no active supervision, providing they wrote business. Today we take a completely different view.
Let’s say that, for example, our would-be adviser already holds the appropriate qualifications. Maybe they are working as a Para-Planner and want to make the transition to becoming an adviser. So we’re off to a good start because that person already has the technical knowledge and how to apply it in order to give advice, at least in the written form anyway. Now we have to teach them how to get the information required to give advice, and how to physically present the advice. Two completely different skill sets. Acquiring information requires the ability to build relationships, and to use an enquiring mind to understand the clients’ circumstances and objectives, and to help the client see the value of the advice. Presenting the advice is also about communication, but it’s also about the way the communication is delivered. The would-be adviser needs to be able to be fully competent in all these areas.
Not only does this give them a head start on getting that “road time “ in, but it will also help them to decide whether it is the right career path for them
So before we go down the long route of training this person to become an adviser, we need to assess whether or not they can demonstrate these all skills to a reasonable level. If they lack the ability to get the facts, or if they cannot articulate themselves when delivering information, we may have to consider whether or not they will make it out there.
Once this has been established we should, if the person is not already doing so, get them to accompany existing advisers on as many client meetings as possible. Not only does this give them a head start on getting that “road time “ in, but it will also help them to decide whether it is the right career path for them. Plenty of people in different occupations have gone down the route of training and taking examinations, only to find the reality is not what they expected.
If our would-be adviser likes what they see, then the next stage is to take them through a process of formal training and practice. But before we do, consideration should be given to the type of clients that the would-be adviser would be dealing with. In buying the would-be adviser “road time”, it may be appropriate to ask them to initially work with simpler cases, for example enrolling employees into company pension schemes, dealing with other areas of the same employees financial circumstances, group presentations etc. And, although obvious, we should also consider whether we have clients to supply to our would-be adviser. After all, not all firms have banks of “orphan clients”, employ an active marketing campaign, or have existing advisers who are able (and willing) to release some of their existing clients to the would-be adviser. Existing advisers moving firms inevitably (at some stage) bring their own clients with them. Would-be advisers have no clients and the days of “cold calling” are well gone, so why would you want to give them one more challenge, and perhaps the biggest challenge of all?
With the training period completed, the next stage is to formally assess the trainee adviser. Again, consider the type of clients that the Trainee will initially be dealing with. A “mixed bag” is often better than a run of similar cases. Usually this is done in a secure and safe environment by means of role-plays. Probably in one Fact Find role-play and one Presentation role-play. Successful completion by being deemed “competent”( with almost certainly development needs) means, depending on the T&C Scheme, that the Trainee can now start undertaking live meetings with real clients, all under supervision. Again, depending on the T&C Scheme, this could be anywhere between three and six meetings where the trainee adviser competently demonstrates how to “know your client” and can “deliver advice”. These don’t necessarily have to be the same clients for each demonstration, since the timing factor of the research and the availability of either the clients, or the supervisor, may mean that the trainee adviser might need to conduct more Fact Find meetings than required to fulfil the Presentation Meeting requirements.
It’s worth noting here that there will be a lot of value in the trainee adviser being assessed by more than one supervisor. Different assessors see different attributes (and failings) and the benefits are well worth passing on, not just to the trainee but also to the assessors and the business. Consider getting somebody from the Compliance team involved as well, as this will also promote the understanding of the advisory process in action.
Once Competent Adviser Status has been achieved, the supervision and training can be relaxed depending on the individuals’ performance and needs. But even those Trainees that take to the role like “ducks to water” still need close supervision and support over the next few months. There’s a lot to learn and although learning never stops, everybody needs support to maximise both their performance and their enjoyment of the role. And it goes without saying that this benefits the clients too.