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‘It is important that we attract a younger client’

Sean Irwin joined Plymouth-based DFP Wealth Management at the end of 2015, having previously worked as an investment strategist in London. Irwin talks to Adviser Business Review about the importance of targeting younger clients and the difficulties he encountered in becoming a financial adviser

Adviser Business Review: Who is your typical client? 

Sean Irwin: Our main focus as a firm is upon wealth management clients and my client base tends to be between the ages of 35-55.

Our aim is to provide a bespoke service to both private clients and businesses across a broad range of spectrums.

The introduction of auto-enrolment has certainly boosted the number of business clients we work with, but we view it as a platform to forge a relationship with the business owner and potentially bring them on as private client.

ABR: You offer a mortgage service, does that help attract a younger client? 

SI: It is important that we as a firm attract a younger audience, as today’s young have had to be more entrepreneurial than ever before, mostly due to fewer traditional path opportunities compared to previous generations.

The way I see it, those younger mortgage clients are tomorrow’s wealth management clients and being able to show them that we can cater for all their needs on their financial life cycle will help them come back to us time and time again.

There is also growing demand for mortgage advice from people in their late 20s and early 30s, looking to buy their first home. The whole mortgage market has become a lot more interesting of late, with the introduction of the first time buyer ISA and the announcement of the new Lifetime ISA.

ABR: As a young adviser, do you attract a different type of client?

SI: I’m 32, and yes being younger does help attract a different demographic. I often get approached by friends asking for advice on matters like mortgages and ISAs, and they like the fact I understand the concerns and goals of our generation.

There is still a real process of education needed among the younger generations as many don’t understand how an ISA or annuity works. Our firm is made up of advisers of different ages and I believe it’s good to get different outlooks and ideas under one roof.

ABR: Do you feel more should be done to attract younger advisers to the industry?

SI: Absolutely, the sooner the better. I found it incredibly difficult to get into the industry, much harder than I had anticipated. I always knew I wanted to be an IFA but I wanted to go to business school before fully committing to my career. So many IFAs tell me they fell into the industry and I always find it amusing hearing of their jobs before taking this path.

However, despite being passionate about pursuing a career in this field and getting an MBA, I did find that many firms were reluctant to recruit trainees if they didn’t already have experience of working in an IFA environment. I started the CII Diploma and eventually managed to find a firm looking for a trainee paraplanner, so decided to take that route. I figured it was good to build up both my technical and practical skills, but making the transition from paraplanner to adviser can also be very tricky. I found that many firms simply don’t want to invest the time needed to train someone and answer their questions.

The effect of RDR has meant many advisers have left the industry, a void which is partly being filled by younger advisers, but much more needs to be done.

The reluctance of older, experienced advisers to pass on their knowledge will eventually lead to a big problem when RDR 2.0 happens. This is why I really like working at DFP Wealth management, as the directors are always available to have their brains picked. I think firms need to look to the future and ask themselves what they will do when it comes to retiring. Clients aren’t fickle and don’t want to be passed from pillar to post – they want that relationship and continuity.

ABR: Do you see robo-advice posing a threat to the next wave of advisers?

SI: No I don’t. Generally speaking, people are not confident when it comes to finances, also I think the majority of people don’t want to be processed as another number. Robo-advice is exactly what it says on the tin, automated, factual and not considering of soft facts or the person. If you’re very financially savvy, then doing things yourself might be an option but I think for the majority of people paying an adviser and having that security and guarantee that you’re not going to really mess up is the better and more comforting option.

ABR: What opportunities and challenges do you see in the advice market?

SI: The industry is always changing but what I think will be interesting is the second-hand annuities market opening up next year. I’m very interested to see whether clients will get good value for money and how the chips fall.

I think the biggest opportunity for us as a business is growth and our focus is upon building our existing clients and nurturing those relationships.

On a personal level, I would like to become chartered as soon as possible so I can continue to build on my knowledge base. I have set myself a goal of passing at least two industry exams a year for the next 10 years.

The challenge I often hear people mention is too much compliance and red tape. Having started post RDR, however, I don’t mind the level of compliance as I believe it filters out the poor advisers and makes the financial advice market a better place to be.

Visit the DFP Wealth Management website


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