Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
Three planning professionals share their insights on how their business approaches mentoring and studying for new and existing planners, particularly in relation to FASEA’s new work and training (professional year) standards.
Q1: Why does your business undertake mentoring/internship programs – either internally within your business or externally with planning students? How actively involved are you within your program?
Jonathan Hoyle (JH): We prefer to hire bright young graduates and career changers, and train them our way. Our ‘pathways2advice’ program is run by Andrew Griffin, one of our newly promoted partners, and someone who has been on the journey from Client Services Executive to adviser to partner himself. All our senior advisers are involved in the program by sharing their experiences, as well as providing client meeting exposure.
Michelle Tate-Lovery (MTL): A sense of giving back and contribution is something I am proud of. In my career, I have had some wonderful mentors. Now, it’s my turn to give back. I have always enthusiastically supported students and planners who have reached out and asked for guidance, support and advocacy in their careers. Life is certainly rich and rewarding when you can help people realise and achieve their full potential.
I see a great deal of alignment between what we do as financial planners with our clients and mentoring planners – helping them get to where they want to be. It’s about empowering the next generation of planners, sharing your knowledge and experience, helping them accelerate their careers and develop faster than they would otherwise.
Whilst I have mentored both men and women, I firmly believe mentoring helps with our gender imbalance, attracting and retaining more women in advice.
I have been involved in three ways with mentoring in our profession. Formally through programs, informally when people seek you out (like coffee chats) and in my own business with my staff, especially with new entrants. I very much enjoy being involved with students at university as well. Separate to financial services, I am also involved in mentoring programs run by charities for our youth, and for migrant and refugee women.
David Andrew (DA): There are two parts to why we undertake mentoring programs. Firstly, attracting, developing and retaining talent is a core element of our strategic plan. We have quite a number of people with 10 and 15 years’ of service, and the benefit we gain culturally from this stability is invaluable. We see that helping people grow professionally and personally is part of the social contract in a workplace, so we have made mentoring part of our cultural fabric.
The second aspect is payback. During my life, I have been blessed to have been touched by people who cared enough about me to invest in me and help me grow. This is a privilege and it needs to be paid back by helping others grow.
In terms of how actively I’m involved with our mentoring program, I’m involved on a daily basis and in many different ways. Whether it is participating in a project meeting or simply helping someone think through an issue, I am always aware of and on the lookout for development opportunities.
Q2:How will your business approach mentoring as part of FASEA’s Professional Year standards?
JH: Our ‘pathways2advice’ program is Stanford Brown’s first step to embracing the FASEA’s new education requirements. The foundations of this program originated from success stories of our employees who have transitioned from other positions within the firm to providing financial advice.
Stanford Brown’s senior advisers share decades of client experience, technical excellence and prowess to do what is right by our clients. Along side our compliance manager, Diana Chan, a training plan is developed for Provisional Financial Advisers, so they are able to holistically see the scope and advice authorities available to them before choosing a specialty, if they desire.
Provisional Financial Advisers will be supervised by their senior adviser mentors on a day-to-day basis to meet the work and training legislative requirements of the professional year, with structured training included in the ‘pathways2advice’ training calendar.
MTL: Whilst there is a minimum of 100 hours in structured training (of 1,600 hours) for graduates entering the financial services workplace, the reality is that it takes years (some would say 10,000 hours of practice), before one masters their role and becomes unconsciously competent.
There is a difference between teaching and mentoring, and there needs to be a balance if you are going to successfully groom your new entrant, have them productive and more importantly, keep them.
There is the theory or knowledge around a subject but then there is how to apply this knowledge in practice. Mentoring can bring perspective to these areas. It is documented that FASEA requires the graduate to develop formal competencies in:
Client care and practice;
Regulatory compliance; and
Consumer protection, professionalism and ethics.
You may be highly technical and compliant but still not be able to effectively relate to people, to establish rapport and trust effortlessly, and be able to lead clients and fundamentally influence their behaviour.
Generally spending time with your graduate going through case studies, doing role play, allowing them to shadow you in client meetings and providing feedback to the graduate, will be helpful to help build their confidence and enhance their development.
DA: From day one, our young professionals are part of a ‘diamond team’, where they work closely with other advisers and associate advisers to meet client needs. Everyone gets to speak with clients from an early stage, so there is ample opportunity to experience different scenarios and be involved with client matters.
The Professional Year won’t require us to implement anything new, because it’s what we have done all along. However, we will formalise a sign-off process, so that candidates can see their progress during the year.
Q3: Please outline what your business’ mentoring program looks like.
JH: The ‘pathways2advice’ program involves a mix of study, shadowing, mentorship, role playing, case studies and workshops. The mentees are invited to join the program. These are individuals who display the character traits of a successful future adviser, coupled with a passion to learn. The mentors are the senior advisers.
The ‘pathways2advice’ program is a three year program, which includes time as an Associate in client services and/or paraplanning. Ongoing professional development includes involvement in relevant internal and external training sessions, and attendance at conferences.
We adopt a ‘Balanced Scorecard’ approach to measuring adviser performance in the program. This starts and ends with delivering heroic customer service, but also includes compliance, self-development, networking and working collegiately.
MTL: To have a formal mentor program (different to what I have) at this stage for graduates in their Professional Year is a bit of a work in progress for me – it’s still early stages and no doubt, there will be more guidance and agreed standards on this.
It will certainly be challenging to be able to offer a placement within our firm whilst we undertake studying ourselves and service our clients. So, resourcing the business and potentially reviewing our business model is underway to build a practice beyond 2024 with highly skilled next generation financial planners.
Mentoring in our business has always revolved around giving the new entrant supervised exposure to the client as soon as possible. It is also important that they understand all the other roles in the business and how they are interconnected and play a part in providing an exceptional client experience. As they journey towards their role as an adviser, their exposure to client services, paraplanning and being a service adviser will be accelerated over the course of a year – whereas currently, this journey is less intense and very much dependent on the individual’s timeframe and capabilities.
Even though, there will be a great deal of formal training in the Professional Year, so it’s not all over after year one. Mentoring can and should continue with the graduate, which builds loyalty. And before too long, the graduate will be able to make a significant contribution back to the business – the payback phase.
Being clear on what your business stands for, your business purpose and values, helps with attracting common alignment between employer and the new entrant when it comes to selecting who you employ.
I am a supporter of psychographic testing. I use this testing as the basis to discuss strengths and development areas with staff, depending on where they wish to take their career. I then use this information as a basis for their career development plan.
I also like testing for aptitude and create ‘what if’ scenarios in the form of case studies to help find the appropriate talent for the business.
Ongoing CPD and KPIs are set (I usually work on six monthly KPIs). By the time we get to the employee review, there should be no surprises, as constant feedback is given at every opportunity.
DA: Mentoring is part of the culture at Capital Partners, and it happens daily. Any new hire at Capital Partners has a mentor and this is someone other than their direct supervisor. The mentor is a ‘go to’ person and helps the new hire to navigate their way through the culture.
At a formal level, each new hire has a one-month, three-month and six-month check-in, to ensure they are making the progress we expect and to ensure they are settling in, enjoying their role and accessing the resources they need.
When an existing team member takes up a new role, say the transition from associate adviser to adviser, we significantly increase the mentoring to ensure training is provided for any skill gaps, particularly in client-facing skills.
Q4: In what ways is your mentoring program improving your business’ own procedures and practises?
JH: Our internal training and mentorship of future adviser talent has led to greater consistency in the way we deliver advice as a group. It has also been positive to have new, fresh eyes on the way we do things, which has resulted in many internal efficiency improvements.
MTL: It does take effort and time invested in the person you are mentoring, however, the rewards are great. Constantly having a dialogue around their career development plan and identifying and providing opportunities for growth, not only makes for an engaged employee but also someone who becomes an asset of the business, by improving business procedures and processes – they just see things differently and through fresh eyes.
DA: Mentoring is a powerful development framework. There’s so much we can’t learn from books and so, fast tracking experience through mentoring and skill development makes so much sense. I liken this to lifting a young professional onto my shoulders, so they can see the world through a more experienced lens. This is the greatest gift we can give our young professionals, and in my experience, they reward the favour through loyalty and a deep commitment to looking after clients.
Q5: How are you managing your own education/study requirements (i.e. FASEA’s Code of Ethics etc)?
JH: Stanford Brown advisers firmly believe in the core values of the Code of Ethics standard, which comprises: trust, competence, honesty, fairness and diligence.
Long before the Professional Standards consultations, Stanford Brown has actively encouraged our advisers to strive for excellence and to seek a professional designation, such as the CFP® designation.
All Stanford Brown advisers have been assessed to determine if there are any further studies required for the individual to comply with the AQF qualifications to meet professional standards.
We have partnered with a recognised professional training provider that has mapped out individual plans to not only meet the minimum further studies (the bridging courses), but also to extend the bridging courses into a recognised degree qualification.
MTL: I love the saying: ‘I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.’
I will be looking to commence my study later on in the year, when I’ve had time to review the courses available. I am tending to my business to ensure the appropriate foundations are set to accommodate for this re-ignition period.
Like many, I didn’t initially feel I needed to go back to school. I have done my study and have practised for years, so – what the heck!
I just had to talk to myself and change my mindset. By doing so, the whole ‘going back to school’ concept became a tad lighter. I am actually looking forward to re-entering formal learning and just getting the study done.
Understandably, there is a huge challenge with running a business and mentoring the team, along with industry commitments, and being hands on with clients. But before you know it, it will be post 2024 and financial planning will have revolutionised for the better. I want to stick around for that because there are so many people to help, and who want and need quality financial advice.
We have commenced regular meetings with staff to prepare together for the exam and the material that will be tested.
DA: We are really well placed for the education standards, and personally, I will only need to do the exam and the ethics unit.
Education has always been a big deal for us and every team member has the opportunity to take up company funded study. Thankfully, our team has done this well in advance of the deadline. For the few who need bridging courses, we will provide whatever support is necessary.
Q6: In what other ways can the planning profession help aspiring planners better cope with the demands of the profession and ultimately succeed within the profession?
JH: Aspiring advisers should be patient and take their time to gain as much exposure to client meetings and scenarios alongside experienced advisers. Active shadowing/mentorship allows aspiring advisers to have greater transparency along their journey to further understand the daily demands of the advice profession.
Technical competency should be an existing solid foundation for new advisers, however, the ability to effectively communicate and build relationships with clients (existing and new) is a critical skill that can only be developed through exposure and experience.
MTL: For aspiring planners, remember ‘the world is your oyster’. What an amazing opportunity lies before you. You’ve squared away the study, now engage with a mentor who can coach you to a greater awareness of your full potential.
I believe in the value of financial advice – it is positively life changing. When you have purpose and passion, you will find a way to get through the challenges to have a sustainable and extraordinarily rewarding career.
DA: The key to answering this question lies in our understanding of the word ‘profession’. In years gone by, professionals took many years to master their trade and they were rewarded by becoming a Master of their guild.
As financial planners, we are in a fledgling profession, and it is our commitment to professional and ethical standards that will ultimately have us succeed. This means that the ‘elders’ of financial planning need to make a long-term commitment to our younger professionals to train, develop and guide them, so they have a pathway to becoming a master in the profession of financial planning.