There are many and varied paths to becoming a financial adviser.
Some people come to the industry fresh from an undergraduate degree, others from the finance sector, while others take the bold step of a mid-life career change.
A snapshot of those attending AMP’s Adviser Academy shows fewer than half have an accounting or financial services background. Many come from fields such as education, sales and customer service, and engineering. We’ve even had a handful of professional athletes.
The advice industry should welcome and encourage this diversity if we want financial advice to be in touch with a broad cross-section of Australians. The ability to relate to a client’s experience is sometimes an underappreciated skill. Whether you are a mining engineer who is making a career change following the boom or a university graduate who has always wanted to be an adviser, you bring a unique perspective; for example, one theory about why professional athletes might be well suited to careers in advice is that they are goals-oriented, take well to coaching and have a mindset that embraces continual personal improvement.
Each individual comes to a financial advice career with their own particular education and professional development needs. Some will need to start with the fundamentals, having had little or no finance experience. Others might be able to move straight into an adviser, or advice support, role and get the on-the-job experience they need with the help of a mentor.
Aspiring advisers join at different life stages, which affects the way they experience the training AMP Adviser Academy offers. The number of candidates the academy takes who are 46 or older is similar to the number of candidates it takes under 26. These two age groups differ in how much learning and financial support they need.
A variety of roles
Along with this increasing workforce diversity, the education system for advisers will evolve because there is a widening variety of roles emerging as the industry becomes more professional and more responsive to changing customer needs.
The government’s incoming minimum education standards have created a demand for flexible degree-level qualifications that can allow current advisers to upskill and gain the credentials necessary to continue practising. The new rules require a professional training year for new advisers, during which they work under the supervision of an experienced adviser. This will increase the demand for mentors and coaches.
New advisers also need to hone their client skills before becoming fully fledged practitioners, which is why we are exploring opportunities for them to gain experience by offering general or scoped advice in our phone-based advice team.
There are many other important and fulfilling roles in the advice chain as well, such as paraplanning and providing phone-based or scoped advice. Adding to this list, AMP has created the new role of ‘goals coach’ as part of the development of its tech-enabled Goals 360 platform. Goals coaches are the first point of contact for new advice customers. While they need a certain level of technical knowledge and training, they never prepare or present a Statement of Advice. They are valued for their interpersonal skills, since their role is helping customers understand and prioritise their financial and personal goals before they meet an adviser.
There are also numerous back-office roles available to candidates who decide not to pursue a financial advice career but who may be interested in complementary positions such as compliance, marketing, research or strategy.
The ultimate objective of any educator in this area must be to improve the quality of advice. Whatever any would-be adviser’s background or level of experience, all must be measured by the same yardstick. No one should be giving financial advice who is not committed to serving the best interests of their clients while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and governance.
It’s a great career, and we’re proud to be one of its leading proponents.
Rod Edge is head of education and capability development at AMP.