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A career in financial services?

Martin Lamb

Joseph Lamb

When I was at school I remember not having a clue as to what I would want to do for a career. The biggest problem facing youngsters is that they actually don’t yet know about the multitude of career choices, they may only have a vague idea of some very broad job descriptions or career paths with little knowledge of any detail regarding what they might actually do day to day in any specific job.

‘Financial Services’ is a very broad term. In it’s broadest sense it is the largest industry in the UK, but the industry is made up of hundreds of different fields, many of which work in combination with others. Obviously The City provides a great opportunity for many living in the South East, and it offers a plethora of career choices. The London Insurance market is the largest in the world as Lloyds of London has increased in stature and capacity, it has attracted international broking firms on a massive scale, as well as attracting Insurance companies outside of Lloyds to base themselves in the City to be close to the brokers and skilled employee base. The banking industry is massive, London again being one of the most important centres globally. Bank businesses are very complex and traditional banking activities only form a part of bank roles nowadays. Most Banks still have significant Investment arms that may provide wholesale institutional wealth management , managing the banks own investment portfolio and individual wealth management. The wealth management industry is centred around the City due to its proximity to the Stock Exchange. Whilst the actual physical market may have moved on to an electronic base, many stockbroking and investment management firms were , and continue to be based very close to it.

One area that I believe provides a great opportunity for future employment is retail financial services and financial advice. Naturally it is close to my heart, but the industry faces a huge challenge in the future as the number of advisers has dwindled, to the extent that there are now less than 25000 individuals in the UK authorised to give investment advice. Clearly with a population of c 70m, a nation with the fifth largest economy in the world and high levels of personal wealth, this is a barely adequate number. The financial advice industry grew rapidly in the 1970s and 1980’s and was poorly regulated. It earned a poor reputation and employed many ‘advisers’ who had no formal training or qualifications. In 1988 the industry became regulated, and through time the scale and complexity of regulation has forced up standards and costs, to such an extent that many smaller retail businesses struggled to grow and even the large sales driven Life Assurance businesses couldn’t maintain their scale at the quality standards quite rightly expected by the regulator. Financial advice has very rarely been on any ones chosen career path, The Law, Accountancy, Insurance and Banking have traditionally been considered ahead of it, but times have changed dramatically. Well qualified professional advisers can now earn very good livings, and with such a low number still advising the industry is finally waking up to proper training and development. Degrees in Financial Services/Planning are now available at selected universities and large Life Assurance and Investment providers are now creating proper graduate programmes and ‘Adviser Schools’. To give financial advice in the UK you must hold a minimum Level 4 qualification in a syllabus approved by the FCA and provided by several industry bodies, and be able to meet a Statement Of Professional Standing, whereby you can show that you are undertaking sufficient on the job training and continued Professional development, that your ‘licence’ can be maintained on an annual basis.

The UK has an incredibly competitive and sophisticated Financial Services market. I believe it is a now a world leader. We have a complex tax and legal system that interacts in a very detailed way with financial planning and investments. You will build up a good knowledge of legal and taxation matters, the job of an adviser is not focussed purely on the industry’s core products and services. This overlap makes it very stimulating, and those that can successfully manage all these aspects, and be able to communicate and have empathy with clients, will set themselves up for very rewarding careers. Simply because of the low numbers of advisers competition for jobs is limited and virtually every advice provider is looking for good quality advisers.

As well as the adviser route there are equally rewarding careers in providing technical and administrative support, and indeed these jobs can prove to be a good starting point for an advisory career. So if you are unsure of your career path, and are looking for a challenging but rewarding opportunity why not at least consider it. I’d be happy to talk to anybody about their options or possible paths. If you’d like any more information or have any family members that might be interested in a career path they might not have previously considered, feel free to drop me a line at the email below.