The St. James’s Place (SJP) Academy is marking its ten year anniversary this week, celebrating a decade of training and support provided for those working and building a business in the financial advice industry, while helping to plug the advice gap.
After launching as an Academy in 2012 after a pilot period with a more ad hoc intake, more than 1,000 budding advisers have been welcomed through its doors, with 844 still part of the SJP network today. While some have gone on to work within an existing practice, the Academy has also led to the creation of 658 new SJP adviser businesses across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Those qualifying through the SJP Academy have come from all walks of life, with many seeking a second career, either coming from a financial services background or from a quite different discipline, while others join following higher education.
The Academy has welcomed 66 ex-professional sports players and 29 with a military background. The average age of those graduating from the Academy over the ten-year period is 34, which compares favourably with the industry average age of 57 for advisers and helps give SJP an average age of 47 for its own advisers.
Around 26 per cent of joiners in the last decade have been women, higher than the industry average of 17 per cent*, demonstrating SJP’s continued efforts to attract more women into the industry. Of the current trainees, 30 per cent are women, with ambitions to open up the Academy to an even higher percentage in the coming years.
The Academy trains high calibre candidates in delivering financial advice, providing support for future Partners of St. James’s Place to start and build their own high quality wealth management Practice. At the end of the programme, graduates can enjoy the autonomy of running their own business under the umbrella of St. James’s Place or choose to work within existing Partner Practices.
Andy Payne, Head of Academy, St. James’s Place, comments: “The SJP Academy was established at a time when there were a number of concerns developing across the advice industry. The industry was shrinking, in part due to regulatory pressures, whilst the advice gap was continuing to grow at pace, and the average age of advisers was increasing.
“The creation of the Academy was a response to this environment and provided the means to bring in new skilled advisers from a variety of backgrounds, able to support clients’ increasingly complex financial planning requirements. Today, the Academy’s presence in the industry is needed more than ever and SJP remains immensely proud of its continuing impact and success.”
In 2021, the Academy announced a new, more flexible structure to better support its drive towards training growing numbers of candidates each year, filling the advice gap with qualified and supported advisers. It moved to a “location-less” way of working to reduce the barriers of having to travel to particular sites and better support the complexities of candidates’ individual situations.
The Academy also refreshed its approach for the future of training, which includes Netflix-style ‘box sets’ of anytime training material, as well as the use of industry-leading immersive technology, including Virtual Reality headsets to allow trainees to role-play client meetings, practising elements such as fact-finding and rapport building with a greater degree of realism.
Andy Payne continues: “As we look ahead, I believe one of the most vital aspects of our new-look Academy is that it becomes an Academy for All, and we really want to ‘go broad’ with what the Academy offers. What I mean by that is that very different potential SJP advisers and paraplanners will find a home here, regardless of circumstance, whether that be gender, sexuality, personal identity, disability, or social or ethnic background.
“Adaptability and flexibility have always run through our DNA. However, I believe that our new ‘location-less’ Academy, enabling our recruits to shape their own style of learning, will result in a much more accessible and inclusive environment for all, and, ultimately, will lead to better outcomes for SJP’s clients.”