‘From Sales Job to Profession’ – Chartered Financial Planners on a Mission to Up the Industry’s Game

Edinburgh-based Chartered Financial Planners Balmoral Asset Management are on a mission to recruit young blood into the industry, having recently recruited a record intake of graduate trainees.

New intake alongside Stuart MacDonald of Balmoral Asset Management and Debra Tracy of Direct Partners

New intake alongside Stuart MacDonald of Balmoral Asset Management and Debra Tracy of Direct Partners

The company, which was established in 1999, offers a Wealth Management service, helping clients manage their investments and plan their financial affairs for the long-term.

The majority of their clients, almost 300 families with over £400M of personal savings, are in Edinburgh, London and Fife, with increasing numbers coming from Aberdeen, Dundee and Angus.

Founded by Stuart MacDonald, Balmoral Asset Management employs a team of 27 staff and has recently recruited four university graduates as a statement of the business’ intent to invest in its own future.

Balmoral Asset Management also recruit young people directly from school to work in a support role, with three apprentices having joined at the end of October. The apprentices have recently completed a five-week ‘pre-employment’ programme with Edinburgh-based training academy, Direct Partners. The four university graduates joined the firm in August, assisted by Balmoral Asset Management’s close links with all three of Edinburgh’s universities, University of Edinburgh, Napier and Heriot-Watt.

Despite preconceptions that their graduates would have studied economics or business management, the latest intake graduated in journalism, engineering and maths, with Balmoral looking at ‘the person and not just their degree’.
Stuart MacDonald, Managing Director, Balmoral Asset Management said, “A lot has changed since I founded the company in 1999. Back then, the industry was not particularly attractive to graduates and, indeed, financial planning was largely viewed as a sales job. Now, because of improved standards and increased regulation, the industry has been forced to up its game, something I welcome and consider to be long overdue. We are probably now about 80% of the way to becoming a true profession like a lawyer, doctor or chartered accountant, underpinned by professionalism and strong ethics.

“We are absolutely committed to attracting the brightest and the best into our firm, to ensure that our clients continue to be served by the cream of the crop. When it comes to the graduate themselves, it’s as much about the person as their degree. We provide them with a four year, structured programme, but you cannot work with someone who does not have drive, flair and the ability to think critically. However, we also recognise that university is not for everyone and sometimes it’s about identifying bright, young people who show great promise and who also have the potential and the desire to be shaped.”

Mr MacDonald also believes that clients should approach financial advisers with a “healthy degree of skepticism” – “Their first action should be to ask if they are chartered which less than 20% of advisers are. The retail distribution review (RDR), which happened at the end of 2012, was helpful in clearing away the very worst at the bottom end of the market, but it was pretty unambitious in its scope. The current minimum standard is the equivalent of doing one year at university, but I do not believe that is adequate when you’re looking after someone’s life savings. Ultimately you want to get to a situation where all advisers have at least a level six qualification, equivalent to an honours degree.”

The firm has built strong links with Edinburgh’s universities, and is looking to renew a ten-year commitment made in 2009 to provide financial support for the brightest students.

Professor Simon Clark, head of the School of Economics at the University of Edinburgh said, “The partnership allows the best-performing students to be rewarded for their academic achievements and also provides them with a useful insight into the type of industry they may wish to work in once they have completed their studies.”

Meanwhile, Shona Barrie, recruitment and admissions manager at Heriot-Watt University, added, “We are proud to have a long-established working relationship with Balmoral Asset Management. Currently, Balmoral proactively drive and support our best-performing third and fourth-year students with significant financial prizes.“

For more information, visit www.balmoralasset.com, email admin@balmoralasset.com or telephone (0131) 221 6950.


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