Eleanor Williams, partnerships director of Albemarle Street Partners, speaks with financial adviser Cathy Nolan as part of the ‘Coalition of the Independent’ research.
At just 24 years old Cathy Nolan of Burton & Fisher Financial Services is already making her mark on the advice world and she is encouraging firms to do more to attract young people into advice to fill the ‘generation gap’.
After spending 18 months becoming Diploma qualified, Lancaster-based Nolan wasted no time in choosing a specialism, passing her CF8 long-term care exams. While she plans a break from exams to plan her wedding, she is envisaging reaching Chartered status in the next five years and believes by that time ‘everyone will be Chartered’.
This ambitious plan is typical of Nolan, who despite her young age has been meticulous about her career. Deciding against university, she went from sixth form to a job in the commercial arm at Natwest but after a while decided she didn’t want to be a ‘small cog in a big machine’ and by word of mouth heard that Burton & Fisher was hiring. An acquaintance put her name forward and she was duly hired as a paraplanner.
This isn’t a role that Nolan was aware even existed due to the lack of careers advice around financial planning.
‘At school careers days, financial advice was just not spoken about,’ she said. ‘Financial services is all banking and accountancy, financial advice didn’t ever get a mention…There’s not a lot out there in terms of advocating for advice roles.’
Having made it into financial planning, Nolan decided she wanted to progress from paraplanner to adviser. After starting her Diploma exams independently, she joined the SimplyBiz New Model Business Academy that takes would-be advisers from apprentices to fully qualified, in order to meet other young advisers climbing up the qualifications ranks.
While Nolan praised the SimplyBiz academy, she said the real learning has been done on the job.
‘Working as a paraplanner has given me an understanding of how advice works,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t be able to do the advice role with [that experience]. I have more technical knowledge because I used to write the reports…and my work as a relationship manager means I know the clients.’
She added: ‘You cannot learn how to do a client meeting from a book.’
With her aptitude and hard work, Nolan was promoted to adviser at Burton & Fisher despite the firm not hiring for the role.
‘When they first took me in, they needed someone to train as a paraplanner and did not want an adviser, but as I progressed and I was doing well, they wanted me to go further,’ said Nolan.
‘It’s great for me but it’s also good for the firm too.’
Nolan is confident that younger advisers can bring as much to firms as someone with more experience, but there needs to be a drive to encourage younger people into advice.
‘There is a real generation gap,’ she said. ‘There are a lot of older advisers, mostly men, and they are coming to retirement and firms now need new blood, and they need to make more of it because it’s an attractive industry.’
While Nolan said it was ‘hard work’ juggling full-time employment and exams, she would encourage other younger people to join the profession. She believes it would be beneficial to firms, and encourage a new wave of advisers, if businesses offered traineeships so individuals studying their exams can also benefit from on-the-job training. This would be particularly beneficial for young people who do not want to go to university.
‘When young people are in school, particularly in sixth form, they go to careers day and all that’s on offer are people gearing you up for university courses or talking about jobs you have to go to university for,’ said Nolan.
‘I wanted to start earning. In the advice profession, you have career progression, and you have the chance to earn good money if you commit yourself.’
She said the industry should be targeting careers days at schools and colleges to highlight the profession as an option.
‘Lots of firms need to recruit but we need to make it an appealing career, with traineeships and progression. There are lots of avenues in financial advice, you may want to be a paraplanner instead of in advice,’ she said.
‘There are lots of successful people in this industry, but it has missed a generation.’