Michelle Cull (left) and Csilla Skultety

Contrary to the prevailing media and public perception, research from Western Sydney University has found advisers’ primary motivation for joining is to help people.

Over half (53.57 per cent) of respondents cited helping others as the motivation to become a financial adviser, the only option that had at least half of respondents point to it as a reason.

“That trumped everything in the interviews and surveys,” WSU accounting and financial planning associate dean Michelle Cull tells Professional Planner.

“A lot of that was led through life experience, whereas a lot of other career choice is not necessarily life experiences – there’s a lot of pressure from teachers or parents.”

The research, titled ‘Factors influencing the motivation to pursue a career in financial planning’, operated under the initial assumption that financial advice was a “things-orientated career”.

Under career choice theory, what is considered a “things career” are ones that fulfill personal career goals as opposed to communal career goals. The reverse applies to “people careers”.

Cull says there’s never been a career that’s discussed as a combination of both – which makes financial planning unique.

“A lot of people we spoke to that we received information for the survey from said they were interested in numbers but they’re really wanting to help people,” Cull says.

“Whereas a lot of other numbers-orientated careers – like engineering – that’s something that is seen more objective and not people related.”

Origin stories

According to the research, social learning theory suggests that individuals learn through the observation of others in social contexts.

Cull notes an example of this was people going with their parents to see a financial planner or hearing their parents talk about the benefits of seeing an adviser.

However, personal financial hardship was often the bigger catalyst.

“Particularly for women, what I recall from interviews with women who were financial planners and successful ones at that, was a lot of them had been through difficult financial situations themselves,” Cull says.