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Recruiting from other sectors to solve the advice talent crisis

Can ex-football players tackle demanding wealth clients or former soldiers plan financial strategies?


The advice sector is made up of people from all walks of life.

Experience is vital to be able to understand the needs and worries of wealth clients.

This is something that could hinder younger financial advisers, which was an argument in International Adviser’s recent article on recruitment into the industry.

But relying on a pool of youthful talent to solve the recruitment crisis is short sighted, as there are plenty of second careerists who would be perfect as an IFA.

It is fairly common for advice firms to take on former sportspeople or military personnel – but the question is what do they bring to the table?

Benefits of the experienced

“We see people coming from a diverse set of backgrounds – 50% of new arrivals to our academy now come from a non-financial services background, including those who have come from sports, the military, teaching, medicine and retail,” Shaun Godfrey, head of academy marketing and engagement at St. James’s Place Academy, told IA.

“We don’t require any particular experience, but the core disciplines that we look for, and those that usually excel, are often strong communicators, able to bring an entrepreneurial, commercial mindset to their day-day work and a determination to reach personal work goals.

“This could be someone who was a top athlete and is used to the rigours and disciplines of training, or equally a midwife with an attitude and aptitude to pass their lengthy training programme.”

Tali Shlomo, people and engagement director at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), also said to IA that those formerly in the armed forces have transferable skills in their time of service which would help them excel in the financial services sector.

These include “risk assessment, communication skills, planning, problem solving and teamwork”.

Roles available

People from sporting or military backgrounds can be very valuable to the industry.

But they cannot just walk into a job without qualifications, so what roles could they take on before they get qualified?

“Insurance and financial planning are broad professions comprising everything from small businesses to international corporations, within which a diverse range of professional roles and disciplines already exist,” Shlomo added.

“There are a number of financial services roles both at entry level (eg client services), middle management (eg mortgage advisers), and executive management (eg financial planners), many of which may not be generally well known.”

Lee Georgs, chief operating officer of pension consultancy firm Redington, also said to IA: “There are many roles in the investment industry that do not necessarily require previous industry experience, from admin roles, to facilities/operations, to human resources, marketing and project management.”

What second careerists should do

For someone looking to change careers, it can be a scary time and people may not have the knowledge or expertise how to become part of a sector like financial services.

So, who can people turn to if they are thinking of changing career to join the wealth space?

James Connor, chief executive of UK-based Connor Broadley Wealth Management, told IA: “They can try the conventional route of contacting the Personal Finance Society (PFS) or Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (CFA Institute) or they can try the unconventional route of identifying companies they might like to work for and identifying who best to make contact with and how, or better still, a combination of the two.”

Connor was just 23 when he retired from football due to injury and after several years in advertising, he found himself interested in the world of financial services.

He added: “Having bought my first house at 18, and subsequently developed a genuine interest in financial planning during my professional football playing days, I identified that a career in financial planning would enable me to combine my passion for personal finance with my passion for people and trusted relationships.

“People do not necessarily need any financial services experience, but they must have a genuine interest in their new chosen discipline and a stronger desire to learn than their new contemporaries.

“Drawing experiences from a different walk of life can provide the ingredients for a very successful career in financial services.”

Approaching second careerists

The ways of attracting people to work in the advice industry have changed dramatically.

Different firms take various approaches including using social media.

Paul Evans, director at financial planning firm United Advisers Group, told IA: “LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool for those thinking about joining the wealth space.

“Not only can you engage with wealth professionals to get a true idea of what the different roles entail, you can quickly learn about the key trends and challenges through groups and debates.”

Redington’s Georgs also said that the firm considers candidates from “non-traditional backgrounds via regularly posting our roles on social media or participating in diversity recruitment fairs”.

But some firms are keen to stick to the traditional ways of recruiting.

Louise Blair, head of human resources at IFA firm Foster Denovo, told IA: “We absolutely believe in firms approaching specialised organisations who recruit into wealth management and consider applicants who are working towards gaining the appropriate qualifications, demonstrating their interest and commitment.

“There are also several specialist recruitment agencies who only work with ex-military and sportspeople who are well connected in financial services, usually on preferred suppliers list where firms are looking to recruit from these backgrounds.”


If firms start to take on more second careerists, this may allow them to become more specialised with their clientele.

They may be able to segment their clients from various backgrounds like UK-based financial planning firm Sedulo, which opened up a sports arm in 2018.

“We would train them to focus on a specialism within the industry supporting our belief that being an expert adds more credibility to introducers and more value to the clients,” Ian Hunter, sales director at wealth manager London & Capital, told IA.

SJP’s Godfrey added: “It can be a natural fit for SJP partners to advise clients who have a similar background, and indeed some of our partners make the most of this.

“For example, we’ve seen a successful initiative from Ewan Dowes (ex-professional rugby league player) who now runs financial masterclass seminars for existing rugby league players utilising his professional sportsman’s network.”


But not everyone think second careerists should be used only for specialism.

CII’s Shlomo said: “As for specialising in clients from similar backgrounds, this doesn’t need to be the case although natural empathy towards those who have served tends to result in an affinity with this client segment.”

Former footballer Connor added that while segmentation is possible as they will “naturally connect with people from similar backgrounds”, the industry should “never underestimate the power of applying previous experiences to help those from completely different backgrounds, who will not necessarily be familiar with, yet admire, the different attributes that you can bring to enhance their world”.

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