When parents sit down with their children and discuss future careers around the dining-room table, financial planning often isn’t one of the options discussed.

But the founder of graduate talent resourcing firm, Grad Mentor, Alisdair Barr, says that needs to change to ensure the long-term viability of the advice industry.

Barr says there is rightly a huge industry focus on issues like professional development and succession planning.

“But we’re not thinking about the profession in 20 years,” he says. “And that’s the people coming into the profession now who are key to the sustainability of the profession.”

Barr warns that if talented young people aren’t attracted to the industry a talent gap will appear in “five, ten or fifteen years”.

Zurich Financial Services Australia has announced it has deepened its support of Barr’s company in a bid to bolster the ranks of Australia’s “best and brightest” choosing financial planning as a career.

Zurich will host eight Grad Mentor speed-networking events in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth this year. The first was held in Sydney on March 1.

Barr says Grad Mentor raises awareness of financial planning as a career path at campuses. Students are then screened using psychometric testing and behavioural interviews.

A handful of students are picked for the “high energy, high impact” speed-networking events where they spend five-minute blocks meeting a number of potential employers who can offer them internships and trials that can lead to full-time jobs.

“It’s a way for businesses to see top-quality graduates who are passionate about financial planning all in one place,” Barr says.

Grad Mentor has placed 60 young Australians into the industry in each of the past two years, and expects to place 80 this year.

Lack of a career path

The planning industry has lacked a clear career path for graduates, Barr says. Unlike the likes of law and accounting “financial planning isn’t traditionally on the table”.

Law and accounting provide graduates with certain and structured career paths. Students know which degrees they need and which firms hire, and can then progress through a career path from manager to director and partner.

“You just don’t have that in financial planning,” he says. “We need to give structure to the way we bring people into the profession.”

But Barr says financial planning is a highly attractive career. He says the problem solving, client focus, ongoing relationships and the ability to impact client’s futures is appealing to young people.

Barr himself spent 15 years in financial planning. He started in paraplanning, before developing into a business development manager and taking senior leadership roles supporting financial planning practices across Australia.

Professional development opportunities

Head of distribution for Zurich’s Australian Life and Investments business, Kristine Brooks, says her company is committed to facilitating professional development opportunities for talented new entrants to the industry.

“At a time when education standards for advisers are under the microscope, we want to give a greater voice to young advisers at professional development events, who can not only learn from some of the most experienced advisers in the industry, but also share their own unique ideas and fresh perspectives with the profession,” Brooks says.

Brooks says a recent Zurich survey found that 32 per cent of advisers would consider providing internships for young entrants starting out in the industry.

Barr says when financial planning eventually features as a serious career option in discussions between parents and their children, then “our job is done”.

Ben Power is a writer and journalist. He has written on business, finance, economics and investing for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Bloomberg News, The Australian Financial Review and Financial Times Business Media.
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