How do we get fresh blood into financial services – and particularly the advice sector? It’s a question that has had us scratching our heads for more than a decade.
Despite our best and repeated attempts to sell our industry to young graduates, the harsh reality is many of them would much rather work in more glamorous sectors such as technology or the media.
A recent survey by KPMG of more than 1,000 workers found 65% of people who worked outside financial services would not consider a job in the sector. I’m always a bit wary of surveys, but that is a pretty startling statistic.
Why? Well, as much as we would hate to admit it, many people – rightly or wrongly – think working in financial services, or being an adviser for that matter, is pretty dry. The well-worn cliché of a pin-striped City worker working long hours in a deathly dull job is hard to dislodge in people’s minds.
Why is the Tech scene so attractive?
One way or another, we need to alter that perception of our industry if we are to attract the top talent. To do that, we need to be bold and show that financial services is a modern, forward-looking industry, rather than a relic of the past.
And we should ask ourselves: what is it that makes the tech scene more attractive than, say, being a financial adviser?
Surely, it can’t just be the electric pink walls and ping pong tables you often see in Silicon Valley offices – or even Silicon Roundabout, for that matter? No, it’s a question of work culture.
Tech firms are often seen being ahead of the curve when it comes to mental well-being and flexible working, while creativity is nurtured and encouraged. Financial services is seen as none of these.
While Goldman Sachs relaxing its dress code recently made for good headlines, it merely served as a reminder to the rest of the world how old-fashioned our sector can be sometimes.
But it needn’t be that way. I was heartened by an interview I read recently about the somewhat quirky approach of this firm called NextGen Planners.
The community’s young co-founder, Rohan Sivajoti, dressed in a Silicon Valley-style plain black t-shirt, explained how he lets his staff choose their own holidays, dress code and even how much they all get paid from a certain pot of money.
Speaking to Citywire, Mr Sivajoti said: “We have no holiday policy. People work when they want, go on holiday when they want – just as long as they do their job, that’s all I ask of them.”
“People generally don’t take the mickey. We don’t have a clothing policy – nobody ever turns up naked. These things don’t need policies.”
How can financial adviser recruitment get there?
One had a feeling reading the piece that by empowering his workers in this way and making them responsible for their own choices, Mr Sivajoti would ultimately reap the rewards. And not only that, but he would probably have no problems attracting new talent.
Firms with active financial adviser recruitment processes need to note that modern workers want to be treated like adults and to work in a more inclusive and flexible environment. How we achieve that will be different in every case – it’s really about understanding what makes our workers tick.
And if we can convince young graduates that we can offer them a fun, progressive and fair environment to work in where there are real prospects for progression, then eventually they will be beating down our doors.
As an industry, we can learn a lot from modern employers like Mr Sivajoti. Hats off to you, sir.