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Financial Advice Market Overview

We look back on what has been the busiest Q3 that Paul Harper Search has experienced in its 22 years of existence. In what is typically a quieter period due to it being the “holiday period” we have been inundated with enquires across both recruitment and M&A within the advice arena.

Why? As you probably could have guessed, the pandemic has played key part to play.

From March 2021, almost all companies that operated within financial advice had a period of hiatus where they stopped hiring. The smaller companies actually let a few people off, whilst the larger companies took a little bit longer to do that. When we came back and restrictions were eased, we found that the general consensus amongst most hiring managers was that they had lost quite a lot of time and in some cases companies had to borrow to ensure they could continue ticking along.

Small to medium companies started hiring back in January and it really picked up in April 2021; by June / July it was even busier.

The reason that the small-medium companies have reacted much quicker is because they are more adaptable and nimbler in the face of change. That is not to suggest that it was easy for them to navigate the difficulties of the pandemic, but they often did not need to enforce official recruitment freezes and therefore could begin planning to recruit again as soon as they felt ready to do so. The larger companies, of which some have only just begun to recruit again in Q3, naturally follow a much more rigorous and slower process before formally lifting a recruitment freeze meaning that they have taken longer to begin recruiting again – although the vast majority are doing so and playing a catch up.

The pandemic has also led to a digital shift in how advice is administered, which is proving to allow a more cost-effective alternative to full financial planning and open the sector for a broader range of clients. Whilst it was not necessarily a direct response to the pandemic, Vanguard launched its tech-led, low-fee financial advice service earlier in the year, and we have seen several national and regional players follow suit. These roles offer an opportunity and solution to those less experienced financial planning professionals that are looking to take a step up into financial planning, but the downfall is that they are not usually the end-game for advisers that want to continue developing and progressing within the profession. All in all, this is an important step in making financial advice available to all and arguably a more effective solution to robo-advice.

It wouldn’t be a quarterly update without touching on mergers and acquisitions and the private equity (PE) deals swooping through advice. PE firms injected millions into the UK financial advice sector in recent months as solid fundamentals and the opportunity for consolidation attract growth-focused buyers in particular. It seems many of the acquirers in this area are looking to follow a “buy-and-build strategy”. As a result, we are seeing a lot more vacancies for Financial Planners with acquisitive firms that are seeking a successor for a retiring IFA who’s client bank they have purchased. We are also seeing more senior opportunities within consolidators as they look to build an infrastructure in a bid to become a leading financial planning business.


By Tim Terrell

Senior Search Consultant