Can a degree transform the financial planning sector?

By | March 20, 2014

Jelena Savonina Jelena Savonina was one of the first in the country to sign up for the new four-year BSc Financial Planning degree created by Bradford University School of Management. Here she considers the impact of the degree on the industry.The Retail Distribution Review changed the landscape for the financial planning sector overnight. The business leaders I’ve spoken to in this sector described it as a “major revolution” as it meant that financial advisors in the future would need degree level qualifications.

Any move like this has to be welcomed as it only adds more professionalism to the financial planning industry and will help to make businesses more efficient and effective for their clients. However, it also brought significant challenges.

Responding to that challenge, Bradford University School of Management worked with a number of local businesses to create a new degree for the industry. The result was the new BSc in Financial Planning which would cover financial advising, wealth management, asset management, banking and insurance.

It was a pioneering move and it didn’t go unnoticed. The degree was launched in 2010 and eight students signed up. I think perhaps the most surprising element for those involved in the creation of the degree was my desire to take part – despite being from Latvia.

I recognised this as a unique opportunity to get a complete overview of the finance sector and get a broad set of skills for the industry. The prospect of getting a placement with a leading financial firm during the degree was also a real draw. So, I left my home country and moved to Bradford to become one of the first to take the degree.

This degree has truly international appeal as it not only offers a unique set of skills but demonstrates real collaboration with businesses – meaning it is delivering exactly what these businesses need. British degrees also carry a lot of weight around the world, as Michael Wall explains in his blog.

Ebor Asset ManagementMore importantly, however, is the potential this qualification has for transforming the financial planning sector. As part of my degree I secured a place with Ebor Asset Management and have since managed to stay on part time.

The placement, and the support of owner David Dixon, has been invaluable as it has given me real insight into the sector, the challenges it faces and also where the opportunities lie – both for me and for the sector as a whole.

The industry has been through a very challenging time as it adapts to the new regulations and the new economy. Technology is also driving rapid change through the creation of new platforms and businesses are having to work very hard to keep up.

Degrees like this that provide the academic skills and the real world experiences will prove to be invaluable. By gaining an in-depth knowledge of the industry and the next generation of systems, the student can bring new ideas and insights to the employers that can help to drive efficiency and business growth.

incidence-228823_150By adopting this new thinking in educating recruits to the sector, and investing in training, businesses benefit from a workforce that are open to new ideas and aren’t constrained by old thinking. It means businesses can become more flexible to the changes that lie ahead and, ultimately, be more successful.

Thanks to the support of Ebor Asset Management and Bradford University School of Management I’m now on course to secure a First in May and I’ve also been able to work alongside the degree to become chartered when I qualify.

For me, this means my prospects will be far stronger and I’ll quickly be able to apply my unique knowledge and then build up a client bank that is safe in the knowledge I’m both qualified and experienced.

Soon everyone in this industry will need a certain level of qualification, but those who take part in education programmes like this – both businesses and students – will have an edge over their rivals.

It’s a prime example of how businesses and universities working together can have a significant impact on improving business standards and, most importantly, revenues. I believe the changes to the financial planning sector have been painful and challenging but, ultimately, everyone will benefit in the end. I’d welcome your thoughts.