Wealth firms need to do much more to drive passion for investment management among students at school level to ensure potential future stars will continue to be drawn to the profession.
That is the view put forward by the majority of up and coming wealth managers featured in this year’s Wealth Manager Top 30 under 30, who, when asked how to encourage young people into the business, emphasised the need for broader education about investments at a younger age, both for the next generation’s personal benefit and as a potential career path.
‘Go in to schools and universities to demonstrate the varied skillset required,’ said Rathbones senior research analyst Emma Saunders (pictured below), adding that views of the industry being boring or boorish need to be tackled. ‘It’s not being stuck behind a desk plugging numbers, nor is it the Wolf of Wall Street.’
William Dickson, chief investment officer at P1 Investment Management, shared this view. He said wealth managers should be speaking to students ‘while they are in sixth form and at university’ as the job is less well known than other financial services roles, such as those in accountancy and investment banking.
Finance more generally is not taught enough at school, in the opinion of Psigma Investment Management investment manager Mike Myers. He suggests campaigning to make sure students learn a finance-related subject, with ‘knowledge about mortgages, budgeting and investments’ taught to all pupils.
For Brewin Dolphin’s Anna McCready, the key will be ‘working with schools and universities to promote investment management as a career path’ and showing that ‘more than ever before, success in this industry is based on talent and hard work’.
A lack of ‘relatable and dynamic’ role models for young people is a concern for LGT Vestra trainee wealth manager Lydia Brook, who said that firms should be showcasing charismatic industry rising stars to sixth formers and university students’ if they want to shake the image of ‘a slightly dusty old industry’.
The call for greater representation of women and ethnic minorities in wealth management was echoed by many of this year’s young guns, who argued that the perception of the profession as the domain of middle-aged white men is restricting its available talent pool.
Smith & Williamson associate director Jenny Qianqi Quan (pictured below) said: ‘The industry is getting more diverse, but we all need to do more to show young people that’.
She added that work needs to be done to make it clear that there are ‘opportunities for people from all backgrounds’, with ideas such as ‘you need to be an economics major’ to find a job needing to be dispelled.
‘From the outside looking in, it can appear that it is a very private club,’ was the view of James Cook, client team senior associate at Stonehage Fleming. Instead, the business should be ‘open to everyone’ and ‘the more we can encourage diversity the more people will become interested’.
Netwealth Investments portfolio manager Simon McConnell added: ‘In my experience, the gender imbalance, particularly in investment roles, is still striking. We must continue to strive to address this as a priority, not least because evidence shows more diverse teams, management structures and leadership models are commercially effective.’
‘The industry’s mission should be to improve diversity so that we attract the best talent,’ summed up Rathbones equity analyst Camilla Ayling. ‘Everyone, regardless of their profile or background, should feel like they would belong.’
The need to make changes to workplace culture more generally, in order to appeal to those who have grown up in a world with different expectations, was another suggestion put forward by several of the Top 30, who had a wide variety of ideas on this theme.
‘I think for many young professionals, work culture is more important than earnings potential,’ said McConnell. ‘Data shows that many business grads are heading towards careers in tech, rather than finance, despite lower initial salaries, which I think is due to a myriad of reasons.’
To rectify this, he recommends giving young people access to opportunities for learning and development, as well as making roles flexible and ensuring a ‘good work-life balance’.
Julius Baer discretionary portfolio manager Jessica Young emphasised the need to showcase the ‘creativity and dynamism’ within investment management in order to compete with other industries. She said it should emphasise that ‘it is not all about process, numbers, and long hours at a desk’.
‘For applicants who face a plethora of sub-sectors within financial services, the industry can seem very complex and impenetrable,’ she said. ‘If we can increase role transparency and better communicate the industry mechanics, we can appeal to a wider breadth of applicants.’
Making an effort to show how investment can have a positive social impact could help attract people coming of age in an era where the idea that work is only about earning a living seems outmoded. With this in mind, Heartwood Investment Management’s Matt Toms recommended promoting ‘the connection between investment management and broader society’ and the environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach to investing.
For Tilney senior associate Jaiveer Dassan, part of the answer might come from targeting a younger client demographic. He said the industry could use ‘more focus on next generation clientele who may prefer being serviced by younger advisers’.
On a lighter note, Sandaire portfolio manager Adam Barber suggested, tongue-in-cheek: ‘Put a few bean bags in the offices of the incumbent firms!’
What actions are firms taking?
When it comes to what wealth firms are doing right now to find and cultivate young talent, work experience, recruiting school leavers, handing new employees responsibility while providing mentoring, and using specific processes to make the application process fairer for women and minorities were all put forward.
Luke Evans (pictured below), branch principal at Raymond James’ Mayfair office, noted that he has had ‘three or four people in for work experience’ which has ‘really helped them understand what their interest is and how that might be applied in their own careers’.
Psigma’s Myers said his firm ‘has held workshops for school children and companies, as well as an internship, which I co-run, which helps young people get a better understanding of investment management’.
Brooks Macdonald duo, Sam Durnell and Andrew Prosser, feature in this year’s Top 30 under 30. The group’s director of human resources Tom Emery told Wealth Manager that the company goes out of its way to target young people who decide not to pursue university degrees.
Last year started offering successful applicants an initial 12-month contract ‘during which time they are provided training to learn a role in their chosen business area, with the aim of finding a permanent role at the end of the initial contract, should they wish to’.
To help ensure it hires from a wide talent pool, Brooks encourages third-party recruitment firms to provide diverse candidate shortlists, while its hiring managers use diverse interview panels.
It has also started making use of role-based assessments ‘as we believe this will provide the hiring manager with a more rounded view of a candidate’s ability to perform in the role they are applying for’.
The company also offers flexible working arrangements and enhanced maternity, paternity and shared parental leave pay.
Noland Carter (pictured above), head and chief investment officer at Heartwood – which also has two investment managers represented among the Top 30 – said that one way the business looks to appeal to aspiring wealth managers is by giving them the opportunity to participate in ‘every stage of our investment process’ and by providing an immediate ‘hands on’ role within a supportive environment.
He added: ‘We take a “blind” approach to CV reviewing in order to combat any bias and boost diversity, and aim to achieve gender-balanced shortlists for all roles. Diversity and inclusion is very important to our existing employees and we believe that one way to measure our inclusion efforts is through our high employee retention.’