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Advisory industry faces skills shortage

Financial planning firms looking to expand their operations are having trouble finding suitable staff. Ann Cunninghame finds out why.

Sunday, August 29th 1999, 12:00AM

by Philip Macalister

Heightened demand within the financial services industry and a lack of new blood are two factors putting the squeeze on qualified staff. Meanwhile, people struggling to recruit say that another problem is CFPs and other experienced staff tend not to shift, thanks to well established client bases and often an equity interest in the business.

Ian Webster, general manager for Dunhill Management Services NZ, has been recruiting for 11 years and working in financial services for two decades. He's never seen a period of such dramatic change as the last 18 months and says it's still continuing.

"It's highly competitive out there; for example ASB with Sovereign, Reeves Moses and others expanding their operations. Some of the major financial advisory firms such as Spicers are changing their structure dramatically and the days of high upfront fees and trails are gone."

He says that finding people with the necessary skills is "just so difficult. We're very short".

"There's a much greater need for people who have broader skills than just sales and marketing. They need a genuine ability to build long-term, successful, professional relationships with clients, not just to sell a product."

He's trying to recruit financial advisers for clients right now, a couple of them based in New Zealand and a couple overseas. While direct financial planning experience isn't even essential (although obviously it's a distinct advantage) the right person is still hard to come by.

"The majority of clients we have are looking for people with a professional background, and I use that in the broadest sense of the word," Webster says. "One of my clients wants to employ someone who has been a senior manager or general manager in a business but is now seeking a change."

"Of the advisers I've placed over the last ten years who've gone on to be very successful, one was very senior in marketing, a couple had accounting backgrounds and a few came from banks."

Glenys Wilson, manager of Tower Financial Advisory Services' financial planning bureau is also trying to recruit new staff - "and getting a terrible response!" An inaugural member of the IAFP and in the industry herself for 15 years, Wilson says there's currently a real shortage of new blood while those with experience are unlikely to move.

"Most people are now in their 40s and 50s - there aren't the young people coming in. I think the industry is still tainted with sleazy life insurance salesmen and there's so much inconsistency, so many operators you wouldn't send your grandmother to."

"Meanwhile, most of the successful financial planners in this industry have some kind of financial ownership in their business, so why would they give that up? They're not going to answer an ad to work for Tower."

Wilson needs already qualified people to write plans for Tower advisers. The current team of seven people in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are mostly CFPs.

"It's a catch 22...we're not interested in taking on a new graduate, whereas I think the banks are able to take on people and train them."

While the money was always one of the drawcards, it can be tough to get started.

"I think the pay's only good for those with established client bases," Wilson says.

"There is money to be made...if you're prepared to hang in there."

How much depends on who you talk to. Salaried positions have been quoted anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 plus performance bonus (packages tend to be cashed up now rather than including cars and other frills). Late last year, one of the banks was reputed to offer a $70,000 base salary plus car plus bonus of $40,000 plus in a bid to attract staff.

Go somewhere where you're commission only, and it ranges from zero up to the six figures one firm says most of its advisers collect. One franchisee expected to clear just $30,000 in the first year - all going well - but did get marketing and other support.

If you fancy your chances with Money Managers, for example, they say the 33 current area business owners earn "between $70,000 and $300,000 annually depending on effort". To run a Money Managers franchise or joint venture may not need financial planning qualifications to start with: what you will need is $80,000 to $100,000 on hand.

Marketing Director Alasdair Scott says that's not only to buy the franchise but to get you through the initial period: "you're on your own from Day One."

Money Managers wants to open offices in Pukekohe, Papakura and Manukau to fill the gaps in its network. "It's very difficult," he says, "because there's a high correlation between offices and firms looking to employ new advisers and the state of the economy and what interest rates are doing."

"It was the same thing in '93 when we took on advisers quite dramatically: there's a higher level of enquiry when interest rates are low.

" We get people from the banking industry, insurance, accounting backgrounds as well as some from general business. Because our client base is 55 plus, you can't be too young.

"I guess we tend to appeal to the older adviser as well, 45 and over."

Money Managers staff go through an IPAC training course and Scott says that, like Spicers, they don't insist that people belong to the FPIA and work towards CFP qualifications. However, he still maintains their criteria are "quite high".

"They have to be the right individual, but it's also about their personal circumstances, as they have to be able to support themselves during that set-up phase of about 12 months."

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