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Taking on trainees visibly boosted this firm’s turnover

Ray Adams, founder of Niche IFA, is calling on trade bodies, universities and adviser firms to do more promote financial planning as a career. The benefits of taking on trainees, he says, he can quite visibly track in the turnover of his business

Ray Adams, the founder of Niche IFA, is on a mission to encourage universities, industry bodies and IFA firms to work together to make financial planning an attractive and viable career for school leavers and graduates.

He says: “The shortage of advisers in this country is a very real issue, and with the average age of an adviser at 50 or more, we must question what the future of financial advice looks like. If we are passionate about financial planning, we should be doing more to encourage young people to join the industry.”

Adams is calling on universities to include financial planning on their list of courses, and says trade bodies have a duty to start a discussion with universities to promote the industry.

“We talk of financial planning as a profession, but we’re not there yet,” explains Adams. “It’s not that it isn’t a ‘sexy’ career path, it’s simply that most students don’t know the job exists or what it entails so we need to work much harder at putting ourselves out there.”

He adds: “There is nothing greater than knowing you have helped someone to achieve their dreams, be it their first home, an education for their children or a wonderful retirement. If I had to start my career all over again, I would certainly choose to become a financial planner.”

Sponsoring students

The Newport-based firm has a graduate trainee programme in place, with the aim of taking on two graduates a year, in addition to summer internships for students from the university of South Wales. Adams is in talks with the university, which five of his staff attended, to sponsor students through a vocational degree, whereby they would work for Niche part time.

Since starting the firm alone in 2005, Adams has grown his staff numbers to 18, with the average age of his employees under 30 – a fact he says is crucial for the longevity of the business. According to Adams, firms who fail to offer training schemes are missing a trick and will harm the growth of their business and the wider industry.

He would like to see advisers each take on one apprentice, which would result in adviser numbers doubling; a move he argues would safeguard the future of financial advice.

Clear benefits of trainees shown in turnover

Adams’ own commitment to employing trainees was, he says, inspired by the success of his first two employees

He explains: “After setting up alone, I quickly realised I needed help so brought on my son’s friend who had dropped out of university and was unsure of the path he wanted to take. I paid him a starting salary of £12,000 and a year later my turnover increased by £57,000. The following year I employed a graduate and my turnover increased by £71,000.

“It’s no coincidence that if I track my turnover, the trigger points coincide with bringing on new trainee staff,” he adds.

He dismisses the argument that training junior staff is an expense many firms do not wish to take on, stating that the benefits and additional revenue to the business far outweigh the costs.

“You pay a junior member of the team a starting salary in the late teens, early twenties. A junior adviser does not cost anywhere near what an older, experienced adviser does both for the firm and for the clients they service, but their input is invaluable.

“If there was a willingness to take on and train young staff, we would have a much greater chance of engaging with younger clients which is crucial if the industry is to grow,” he explains.

Adams, who says approximately 10-15% of his client base are younger clients, believes there is not enough focus on providing financial planning to those in their 20s and 30s, in spite of their growing needs.

“Of course younger clients have different needs to those nearing or in retirement,” he says, “but it’s about understanding and engaging with those needs, be it a deposit for a house, starting a family and requiring protection or saving for school fees. My staff are able to relate to that peer group and can refer their friends and network group to the business.”

Niche will provide services on a transactional basis, on the understanding that not every client feels suited to long-term planning. However, Adams believes having that contact is important as it is likely to lead to those people returning in the future as their needs and circumstances change.

He says that the work most often requested by younger clients is “the ideal training ground” for junior advisers and the lower fees they are able to charge are more appealing to that segment of the market.

However, Adams does recognise that as his advisers grow older so they may reach a point in their careers where they wish to accumulate greater wealth and set up their own business. It’s an eventuality he has planned for.

“Of course, there needs to be a next stage, and that is likely to be a management buy out or shared ownership,” he says. “ I believe within the next five years there will be a change in the management structure whereby my loyal, senior advisers become part of the business. It’s an exit strategy for me, and ensures the survival of my business by people who understand and care about it, which is fantastic news for Niche and our clients.”

Visit the Niche IFA website

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