While new degrees are steering university students towards financial advice, most of them still don’t know about the industry’s existence according to Alisdair Barr.

“Today I’m in front of 400 business degree students at Western Sydney University and there might be 20 that actually know financial planning is a career,” Barr says.

Financial planning courses are out there, but the industry just doesn’t have the immediate recognition that something like accounting or law does. HSC students applying for university courses aren’t aware of it, and it rarely comes up on the register of teachers or parents.

“A lot of people in the financial industry think young people don’t want to be in this industry because of its bad reputation,” he says. “But I interviewed 22 of them last week, and they didn’t even know there was a career path there.”

This is a problem, Barr reckons, for an industry faced with losing a quarter of its workforce due to a perfect storm of regulatory imposition, institutional retreat and declining practice values. There needs to be a pipeline of graduates coming through so that when the industry rights itself the next generation can be a part of it.

“I think the demand should be about 500 or 600 new graduates each year,” Barr estimates.

Most would know Barr as the founder of Grad Mentor, the placement program that uses seven-minute speed networking events to match university graduates with financial planning and accounting practice owners. Grad Mentor placed 70 candidates in financial services on the East Coast in the last financial year.

Now, to cope with the anticipated need for more talent, Barr has built on Grad Mentor to deliver a more scaleable, community-minded program bringing university alumni direct to advice practices.

Called Striver, the new program takes the concept online, so while business owners can still access the speed-networking events Grad Mentor has become famous for, being part of the Striver community means they get a constant stream of handpicked graduates without having to attend those events.

“People love the events, and we’ll still do all the mentoring that we do with the students in the coaching process,” he says. “We’re keeping all the hi-touch events, we’re just making it more scaleable.”