Being a young financial adviser is different. You may not notice it at first, but the signs are there. It might be a slight look of surprise on the face of a client at your first meeting. It could be a reference to a TV program or a past event quickly followed up with a “But you wouldn’t remember that…”. Sometimes a client might even come straight out and ask it: “how old are you?”
The answer to that question in my case is 21. When the average age for an adviser is somewhere in the mid-50s (and rising), it’s hardly surprising that someone of my relatively young years should stand out. One of my all-time favorite financial adviser quips is if someone comments that you’re very young to be in the role, the joke response is: “I can introduce you to an incompetent older adviser if that would make you feel better?” I don’t mind the reaction to my age, it’s perfectly natural, but it does provide some unique challenges that the, shall we say, more senior advisers don’t have to deal with.
The crux of it is that some clients might be reluctant to accept advice and guidance from someone relatively new to the profession or with half the life experience that they might have themselves. These are valid concerns. Anyone in financial advice will agree that credibility is vital to building up a trusting relationship with the client. But there are ways for young advisers to address this.
Preparation, Confidence, and Authenticity
For me, preparation is everything. I make sure I plan thoroughly before meeting every client. I look at their circumstances, study their situation, and think through as many possible outcomes as I can. I try and make sure I have an answer to any question they could ask me, whether that’s about their finances or my own experience in the role. (Although I am now learning that sometimes I can get asked questions so leftfield that no amount of preparation could have readied me for them. I’m told by my colleagues that this is quite the norm, and so it’s always wise to expect the unexpected!) Being as prepared as I can give me confidence. Clients can tell when an adviser isn’t sure of him or herself, and this can in turn make them uncomfortable. Showing you’re on top of everything and ready to deal with whatever they throw at you, however unexpected, helps to put both parties at ease.
There’s also the unmistakable feeling as a young adviser that your actions are being scrutinized more closely. You sometimes get the impression that if you make a mistake you could be judged more harshly than your senior colleagues, or that an error will confirm the suspicions of anyone anxious about using a young adviser. I actually think that this can be a good thing, and something that young advisers can learn to thrive on.
It keeps us on our toes. We might have to work harder to prove ourselves, be more meticulous in our approach, and hold ourselves to consistently high standards, but this can only be good for our own knowledge of the role, with obvious benefits for the clients who we take pride in looking after.
I learnt early on in my still-young career as a financial adviser that the most important thing of all is to be authentic. To be who you are, and to not try to be someone you’re not, however old you are. As an adviser, this means meeting a client, being yourself and doing the very best job you can do. It’s a quality that we can all respect at any stage of life.
From A-Levels to IFA Level
Unlike a lot of people, my route to becoming an adviser didn’t involve higher education. I did get a place at university, but in my heart, I didn’t really want to go. After leaving school I wanted to get moving in a career, make progress in my chosen profession, and start earning a salary. (And if I’m honest, at the time I also didn’t want to leave home!) I had started working for a firm of financial advisers after my A levels, so I deferred my university place for a year to see if I liked it. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the role. So I didn’t look back. I took my exams and pressed on with becoming an IFA.
After a couple of years in the profession, I got the opportunity to join a financial adviser team. As a young adviser, you can also sometimes come across some age-related snobbery from within the profession, but not here. It’s a young, vibrant, forward-looking firm. My colleague Dave wrote an article last year about how his financial adviser team are actively nurturing the next generation of advisers and this is absolutely true. In an ageing profession, we need to start taking action to make sure there’s a healthy pipeline of new advisers coming through.
Employing advisers who are younger than the average is a natural part of this, and my financial advisor Leeds company make sure they are given all the support and mentoring they need from well-experienced team members who work closely with them on an ongoing basis. This commitment makes good sense for clients too. The young entrepreneurs of today are the HNWs of tomorrow, and they want to be surrounded by people who get them, their values and what they’re trying to do as they make the journey through their lives and careers. Young advisers are perfectly positioned to do this.