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Qualifications and training – upskilling online can help close the advice gap

28 August 2017

The industry needs new advisers and paraplanners to fill the skills gaps in the advisory market. One way to achieve that could be through online training and qualification courses that engage with the way people actually want to learn, says David Tait of Redmill Advance.

Over the past couple of decades, the number of financial advisers in the market has diminished significantly, which, mixed with the fact that the average age of someone holding the FCA’s CF30 designation is around 50, presents a problem to the industry. There is a similar problem in paraplanning. How do we quickly and effectively bring in new blood to the industry and ensure they can acquire the right qualifications to progress their career?

Linked to that, how can people in the industry best attain the qualifications they need to upskill and progress their career path?

During the 1980s and 1990s, 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 course, it’s very different today with Level 4 as a minimum entry barrier to the industry.

The issue facing the industry though is that these very same IFAs who have grown through the industry during the 80’s, ‘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 five 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 1,000 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 adviser into the market we have to, at the very least, educate them in a way they can understand and relate to.

At the same time, there is also a need to bring in new paraplanners. There has to be an easier route, transparent, focussed with a defined end goal, to raise the profile of paraplanning and attract the right people into the profession.

Digital learning

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. Video tuition, gratification from immediate results from 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, it offers the opportunity to upskill administrators to paraplanners and paraplanners to advisers. Likewise, for Diploma qualified advisers, their journey to Chartered and beyond is easily accessible.

Creating a digital learning platform

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 – Redmill Advance – 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 we are keen to ensure our products cover the full suite of regulated learning products across the Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning.

Having said all of that, you don’t have to be a millennial or part of Generation Z to get technology. We recently ran a survey to 10,000 advisory 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.

I am not saying that tech will fully solve the rather large issue we have over a decreasing advisory population or the need for more paraplanners in the market, 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.

Professional Paraplanner has teamed up with Redmill Advance to offer 10 paraplanners the opportunity to win full access to one of the RO or AF courses on offer.

Keep an eye on the website over the next week for more details and how to enter the competition.

Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about the learning platform and try out one of the test modules, visit the Redmill Advance website.


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