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Why adviser training must leverage technology

Using online training to engage with the new breed of adviser and upskill their staff – and do so under their own brand ‘academy’ – adviser firms can help people learn in the way that best suits them, says David Tait of Redmill Advance

It’s no secret to anyone working in regulated financial advice that the number of financial advisers is decreasing rapidly. We have seen adviser numbers tumble from tens of thousands in the 1980’s and 1990’s to somewhere in the region of 20,000 today.

In addition, the average age of someone holding FCA’s CF30 designation is apparently 50. The actual figure is debatable, I’m sure, but having spent the last 20 years around people in these roles, the vast majority have more grey hairs than me so it is safe to assume that the role is performed on the whole by people of a more mature age.

During the ‘80s and ‘90s, if you were at a crossroads in your career, had some life experience and could talk the hind leg off a donkey, then you could become a financial adviser. This approach, taken by advisory firms and providers alike, has without doubt produced some excellent IFAs many of whom have built successful practices of their own. Of course, it’s very different today with Level 4 as a minimum entry barrier to the industry.

The issue facing the industry is that these very same IFAs who have grown through the industry during the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s have already, or are about to retire. Post RDR, many commentators have spoken and written about the ‘advice gap’ which is partially attributable to IFAs focussing on HNW clients as well as the collapse of Bancassurance and direct sales teams.

The ‘advice gap’ could in theory become even wider should the industry fail to bring in a new breed of adviser over the next 5 years or so to offset the loss of IFAs that are due to retire over the next 5 to 10 years.

So, how is the industry tackling this issue?

Quite frankly, it’s not. A number of companies have taken matters into their own hands such as St James’ Place for example who offer an ‘Academy’ which is specifically aimed at career changers and graduates. The vast majority of companies however, small, medium and large don’t offer any solution to educate or upskill and very few have tackled the issue with ‘Generation Z’ in mind. Many existing learning solutions around upskilling regulatory knowledge include reading chapter and verse, through hundreds of pages of a paperback, or sitting in an office enjoying ‘death by PowerPoint’ on the subject matter by a grey-bearded expert.

New ways of learning

Let me firstly define ‘Generation Z’, or the ’millennials’ as they are often referred to I  will use my 17-year-old daughter as a great example of this. She communicates in messages of 140 characters or less, has over 1000 Facebook friends and spends most of her time pouting for snapchat conversations. She is skilled at Tweeting, Facetiming, Facebooking, and Snapchatting simultaneously and at breakneck speed.

Generation Z are tech savvy, and when it comes to financial services we need to adapt our largely mundane learning and upskilling solutions to suit this new generation. If we stand any chance of bringing a new breed of advisers into the market we have to, at the very least, educate them in a way they can understand and relate to.

Digital learning helps in many ways to address this problem. Cloud-based technology that adapts to all learning styles and that Generation Z truly understands. Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from any device.

They want video tuition, gratification from immediate results via online tests with instantaneous feedback, bite-sized chunks of learning that can be easily assimilated and neat applications such as instant messaging to instructors, and in-platform peer-to-peer email systems.

If the learning is delivered though a user interface that works on any device – including smartphones – then we are half way to engaging this new generation of learners.

For employers, the ability to take this technology and white label it to their own brand offers an instant, technically brilliant and content rich solution that integrates with their own L&D departments. If this then becomes available to all in their business they can look to upskill administrators to paraplanners and paraplanners to advisers. For advisers, their journey to Chartered and beyond is easily accessible.

Building a solution

Having personally operated in the regulated space now for almost 20 years, I have witnessed the ‘advice gap’ unfold first hand and recognise that much of the learning resource currently available just wasn’t aligned to Generation Z, something I was personally keen to address.

Hence, we have spent the last years refining our own proposition in this regard, investing heavily in technology that delivers professional development and learning solutions into something that looks and feels ultra-modern.

Our technology is heavily supported by multiple developers to ensure it remains that way. One thing I have personally learned over the years is that technology doesn’t stand still for a second and any learning solution needs to be agile enough to move as fast as the tech that powers it.

Our learning platform encompasses a number of professional development and learning resources across a wide variety of areas and the suite of regulated learning products across the Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning.

Of course, you don’t have to be a millennial or part of Generation Z to get technology. We recently ran a survey to 10,000 advisery connections asking them a series of questions around their preferred learning methods. Respondent feedback was clear, in that 71% felt they would benefit from structured online learning, and 88% stated they prefer to head online for their CPD. We listened to this feedback and designed our online learning in a structured manner and ensured all learning was independently CPD accredited. Each of our ‘R0’ programmes, for example, gets you 30 hours of structured CPD.

My personal positon on all of this is that utilising technology in relation to financial services learning not only bridges a gap with Generation Z, but also offers a solution that many in the market are currently seeking.

For employers, this type of delivery helps embed your existing employees and equally, gives you a nice USP for attracting new talent into your business, as to all intents and purposes you have your very own learning Academy.

Getting back to the point of this article though, I believe tech engages our millennials or Generation Z, they understand it and turn to it for most things in life.

I am not saying that tech will fully solve the rather large issue we have over a decreasing advisory population but I am saying that using technology to deliver regulatory learning and upskilling solutions will engage generation Z better than a 600-page book ever could.

As such, maybe it’s a step towards fixing the problem.

Visit the Redmill Advance website

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