Seeking to change the future of the financial services

Alexandra Penson Ian Bentley Shannon Knight FP Wealth Management
Alexandra Penson Ian Bentley Shannon Knight FP Wealth Management

A project called the ‘Future of Advice’, involving Bournemouth University (BU), The Personal Finance Society (PFS), Simplify Consulting and FP Wealth Management (FPWM), is seeking to change the future of the financial services industry. The collaboration of organisations was created with the clear aim of attracting young talent in to the industry. It aims to build a sustainable, repeatable and scalable framework for an Undergraduate Financial Services Student Placement Scheme.  

Executive Dean of The Business School, Professor Stephen Tee said, "Bournemouth University is ranked as one of the top five British universities for the number of undergraduate students undertaking a work placement, making it a great place to launch the ‘Future of Advice’ initiative."

Kevin Forbes, Chairman of Hampshire and Dorset PFS asked Simplify Consulting to lead on the project “Bringing Simplify on board meant that we could use their expertise to provide the group with the essential structure, processes and organisation to give the project the momentum and impetus that it needed and encourage and welcome other companies to take part.”

Kate Monseratte and Carl Woodward, Directors at Simplify Consulting said, “We have used our expertise to create the placement framework, including sample contracts and training plans.  We’ve also brought in service providers to allow consistent background training for the undergraduates and we’ve simplified the administration. It’s fantastic to see that the collaboration between us all is gaining great traction as awareness grows locally.  As a team we are committed to this project and keen to expand its reach outside the Hampshire and Dorset area over time”.  

Wimborne based FP Wealth Management welcomed their first undergraduate placement back in 2014 and were keen to contribute their knowledge, experience and success with placement students, along with their strong links with BU.  FPWM Director and BU Financial Services graduate Ian Bentley advised, “When we welcomed our first undergraduate placement we had been looking to grow our business and access the pool of young talent that is on our doorstep at Bournemouth University and actively engage with these students. The average age of an independent financial advisor (IFA) is currently 54 which means that in the next 10 years or so there will be a mass exodus of retiring advisors. This creates a huge opportunity for new entrants into our industry.”

Creating an industry pathway
Continuing Ian said, “We recognised that there is no defined entry pathway to become an IFA, unlike the well-trodden graduate pathways to become solicitors or accountants.  We found that graduates didn’t view financial services as a viable career path that gave them career training and proper career progression.  We wanted to change this.”

“We welcomed our first undergraduate back in 2014 and have welcomed a student every year since.  Our placement scheme was set up with the aim of giving the students an idea of what the industry is about. We wanted to give them a very positive working experience. We didn’t see them as cheap labour and wanted to invest in them, spend time with them, build up a great relationship, not just with the students but also with the university in order that they understood the pathway that we were creating. We trusted in their ability and gave them space to experience the breadth and variety of challenges our industry provides.  

Our business growth rate has doubled since 2014  
“The whole experience has been extremely beneficial to us as a business as we were able to see someone else doing what we do and gain greater insight in to how we run our business.  We were able to ‘look in’ on our business and think about, analyse and evaluate what we were doing and why. It’s no coincidence that since 2014 FP Wealth Management has gone from strength to strength.  The experience has transformed our business and our growth rate has doubled.”

FPWM Director Alistair Ellen added, “We certainly didn’t expect our first 2 placements to become permanent members of staff but this is what has happened. 24 year old Alexandra Penson and 23 year old Shannon Knight are now fully employed by the firm. It’s only a shame that our business does not have the capacity to have employed all of our placement students.”  

Alexandra, who re-joined the business in 2016 after achieving a 1st class honours degree in Accounting and Tax, is now studying to become a Chartered Financial Planner. She enthused, “My experience has massively exceeded my expectations in terms of what a graduate job would involve. The placement certainly enhanced my journey.  The willingness to train, teach and guide me has been brilliant.  I’m not sure that I would have joined the industry at this early stage if I had not had this experience and opportunity.”  Shannon also graduated with a 1st class honours degree in 2017 and is following the same path as Alexandra, being on track to achieve Diploma status before the end of 2018.

Simplifying the process to allow other companies to be involved
Alistair commented, “All the placement students have been hugely talented, motivated and switched on.  Having them on our placement scheme was like a 1- year job interview.  It’s this success that led us to collaborate with Simplify Consulting and PFS and look at extending the undergraduate placement scheme concept with the creation of the ‘Future of Advice’.  As a group we wanted to make sure that we make it as easy as possible for other firms to get involved. Simplify Consulting has done an excellent job in creating the structures and processes which makes it tenable for a business to be involved and start taking on placements.  They’ve made it easier for Financial Advisors, particularly smaller companies, to make that decision and actually commit to it.”   

Jackie Darke, BU Placement Coordinator said, “We have worked successfully with FP Wealth Management over the last few years and therefore had no hesitation in engaging with the ‘Future of Advice’ initiative.  We are pleased that our students will have more chances to experience the opportunities available in the financial services industry during their placement year.”

PFS Chairman Kevin Forbes concluded, “The role of the PFS is to encourage the highest professional and ethical standards in insurance and financial services worldwide. We are delighted to be involved with this placement scheme and working with the team. It can surely only result in raised standards within our industry and attract more talent and lower the average age of our independent financial advisors.  Keith Richards, CEO of the PFS has shown great interest in this project and is right behind us. We hope that it will grow and become a national initiative.” He added, “We intend to get involved first hand in my own business, Strategic Solutions, by taking on a student as part of the ‘Future of Advice’ programme.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about ‘The Future of Advice’ and becoming involved in the Undergraduate Placement Schemes is urged to contact  Aneta Murdza   aneta.murdza@simplifyconsulting.co.uk   Tel : 07718444885 www.simplifyconsulting.co.uk

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