Over the last decade, the UK wealth and advice industry has bemoaned about a lack of talent coming through the ranks to take over from the depleting numbers exiting the sector.
At the same time, the industry has also failed to tackle the lack of diversity across the sector – whether that is gender, race or class.
One company looking to fix these issues is First Sentinel Wealth. The company launched in late 2022 – and is looking to make its mark on sector.
The firm has partnered with Bridge of Hope Careers, an inclusive recruitment portal looking to give society’s most marginalised groups access to industries which are deemed to hard to break into.
Toby Band, managing director of First Sentinel Wealth, told International Adviser: “The partnership at the early stages will be a percentage of our earnings or revenue going towards bridge of hope. That will support, at first, a part time role within Bridge of Hope specifically targeting access or introductions for roles in financial services.
“Then, we’re looking to grow as a company and we believe the Bridge of Hope talent pool will help us find impressive individuals with grit and determination.
“We’re not looking to go from zero to 100 employees quickly. But we have absolutely no bias or privilege in who we hire. We want to be a diverse company. We want to have more women working with us and be truly representative of our client base and community. We want to have people from ethnic minorities, people from different backgrounds and neurodiverse.
“James and the Bridge of Hope’s talent pool provides that. We also recognise that our industry doesn’t do that well in representing the general population and want to play our part in helping reduce that gap.
“The average age of an adviser in the UK is 57. There’s a lot of work to be done, and if we can be championing that from the start, it will be a good feeling for us to have done our part.”
Bridge of Hope
The financial services industry as a whole is made up of people from mainly the same backgrounds and privileges.
Bridge of Hope is trying to get people with different experiences and demographics to become household names in sectors where access to jobs is difficult.
The recruitment platform was co-created by James Fellowes, who had his fair share of privilege but also his fair share of difficulties.
Fellowes went to school with two former UK prime ministers, worked for global hospitality companies and lived in the US as a senior corporate executive for a blue chip organisation.
However, his luck took a turn for the worst – he was made redundant four times, swindled twice and also had his business taken away. He ended up not being able to feed his children – and his life unravelled when he was sectioned in a psychiatric ward just outside New York.
He lost his kids, marriage, job, career and money. But his “consolation prize” was a diagnosis of bipolar.
Fellowes said: “Having been white male and exceptionally privileged, and never having experienced any barriers to employment, and suddenly nobody would give me a job. I was literally untouchable.”
The only place he could work was a frozen food factory. But he got a lucky break – went back into the drinks industry. He started climbing again from a much lower base – and was made redundant for a final time. Fellowes had an epiphany and started Bridge of Hope.
He talked to many charities that look at helping people get restarted e.g. veterans with trauma, ex-prisoners and refugees. But they failed to help get them jobs.
“There was just this missing link and a massive gap – hence the bridge of hope to connect the two groups,” he added.
Barriers to diversity in financial services
The barriers that Fellowes faced in his employment search – are also issues that face many people looking to break into the financial services sector.
Many people from all walks of life struggle to get their CV looked at let alone have an interview.
How can financial services and advice firms look to change the status quo?
Fellowes said: “From an employer point of view, a big barrier is hearts of minds, and getting the management team to get their arms around this. We do an awful lot of webinars and keynotes to management teams and recruitment teams. The default is ‘we can’t have an ex-offender around, partly because we don’t want one and the sector we are in’.
“But we’re trying to get their minds a little bit more open to thinking out of the box. This is especially the case with neurodiverse talent pools. Why would you not be proactively going after neurodiverse talent if you are in financial services? Neurodiverse candidates are unbelievably good at the attention to detail and now they can work from home.”
But Fellowes also feels that financial services is seen as a pipe dream for many people because of the perception of the industry.
“Employees don’t care the fact that you have £250bn ($301bn, €280bn) in assets under management or you’re the 14th biggest bank in the world – that is of absolutely zero interest,” said Fellowes. “What they want is to know if you have a programme that’s helped a number of young people come into the business from a challenging background and they have grown through the company.
“I think there’s a big opportunity to rethink that. We’re here to help as well. We want to help and we’ve got partners who can help you on the candidate pathway. We’ve got all sorts of people, if you want to do this, that we can work with.”
The Bridge of Hope’s talent pool of over 50,000 candidates is so vast that it can help the sector fill a range of different roles.
Band said, in the long term, First Sentinel Wealth is looking to fill “varied roles” from the partnership.
He added: “We would love to take on junior advisers, paraplanners and administrators. We can take people through a learning and development course, giving them more responsibility as they move through.
“The management team at First Sentinel Wealth were very fortunate to have a lot of responsibility given to us early. When I finished university, I wasn’t very confident and being given that responsibility was quite life changing for me as a person in the job.
“I know that these people will have very similar feelings. If they are entering the workforce after being out for a while, or gaps in a CV, or first graduate from university, we want to give people that confidence because it’s life changing.
“The past is the past, if you are a nice person, if you enjoy what we do with interesting clients and helping people, then you are the right person for us. People joining wouldn’t be a cog in the wheel. It’s a small organisation. It has a good family feel and we want everyone to feel comfortable in the office, and for them to be able to grow and develop at a pace that suits them.”
Fellowes also discussed how Bridge of Hope has candidates that can help the financial services and advice sector with its tech revolution.
“The biggest opportunity would be diverse tech talent,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what type of financial services organisation, you’re going to need tech support. The less tech-savvy company you are, the more difficult it is to find tech talent.
“We aggregate candidates from a whole host of digital boot camps. So, these are ready made young, diverse tech talents that just need that break. A lot of them find financial services a very scary place, or really inaccessible and wouldn’t dream of thinking about applying for a job at a big bank because that’s what happens to other people.”
Ultimate aim for partnership
Lastly, Band told IA about how the firm wants its partnership with Bridge of Hope to have a long-lasting impact and it has long term goals for the industry let alone the company.
“The thing for us was to help James and see how we could have an impact,” he said. “Also, we want to increase our talent pool. We’ve got plans for the company, and we want to grow to be decent size, so having access to that talent pool would obviously be brilliant for us.
“It’s twofold. We’re going into this, James and I, as very good friends, seeing what we can do together, seeing whether it will bring other companies into it as well.
“We’d absolutely love it if another 10 financial adviser firms partnered with James and Bridge of Hope, and they were accessing the same talent pool we are and helping support the industry as a whole.
“We want to see Bridge of Hope as a game changer for the industry, and to have seriously made an impact on thousands of people’s lives.”