After two years working in the motor claims department at Commercial Union and a brief spell selling...
After two years working in the motor claims department at Commercial Union and a brief spell selling student insurance at Endsleigh, it appeared that at the tender age of 22, my career was going nowhere fast.
I decided I needed a degree under my belt so went for one in Financial Services. My BA (Hons) Financial Services at the University of the West of England commenced in 1990. In the initial two years, it shared many of its core subjects with a traditional business studies degree ' law, economics, quants, strategic analysis, marketing ' but always with a financial services slant.
By year three, we were into subjects such as personal financial planning and investment analysis, which meant getting to grips with a variety of topics such as gilt yields, P/E ratios, efficient markets hypothesis and random walks.
Starting work as an IFA and having to apply some of this theory was all a bit of a shock to the system. It was all theory and no practice. As with just about any walk of life, exams and qualifications are only one part of the picture. Without experience, empathy, imagination and determination you will not get the full value from them.
So was my financial services degree worthwhile? Without a doubt, yes. It taught me a lot about the industry in which I had chosen to work.
Whether deliberate or not, it also introduced some ideals about how the job should be done and the quality of advice to which we should aspire. And it said to employers and clients alike that I was serious about what I was doing and had taken the time to learn the tools of my trade.
So for me it was a success. But taking a wider view, I suspect the original architects of the course may be disappointed with the results.
It came in the aftermath of the 1986 Financial Services Act and a real belief that there would be a dramatic shift away from the old-fashioned insurance salesman to a new breed of professional advisers.
And that has not happened. Yes, there is a hardcore tier of first-class advisers, but they are a minority when compared with the swathes of product sellers masquerading as independent advisers.
So what is the solution? The Sandler Report rightly identifies a general weakness in investment and asset allocation skills, so increased training and qualifications have to be at the heart of any changes.
And the natural next step for advisers who can clearly demonstrate that their increased knowledge and skills represent good value for clients is to differentiate themselves by adopting a clear and transparent charging structure.
The independent advisers who will flourish going forward are unlikely to be financial services graduates. I am not even sure the course I did still exists. But they will be graduate calibre, which means well-qualified and professional in their approach. All this suggests the next 10 years may be even more interesting than the last.
Ian Millward is currently involved in setting up a new national IFA firm
An ambitious objective
'Something completely new'
'Illusion of control'
Reasons to be cheerful
Total investment reaches £9m