Attivo Group launches the UK’s first Financial Planning Apprenticeship

Attivo Group’s independent and chartered financial planning firm has embarked on a major training initiative in a bid to meet the increasing consumer demand for financial advice and establish the future of financial planning.

Attivo Financial Planning has partnered with the University of Gloucestershire to deliver the first Financial Adviser Apprenticeship which will be funded by the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy – a tax on employers which can be used to finance work-based training programmes.

This collaboration is the first between a university and a financial planning firm to develop the next generation of Financial Planners by enabling ambitious individuals to obtain a professional qualification whilst starting their career in financial services.  

Leading the way

Stephen Harper, Chief Executive of Attivo Group, explained that the apprenticeship will provide structured learning for all employees who play a role in the client experience to ensure that Attivo Financial Planning remains at the forefront of financial planning.

He said: “We are continuously developing the knowledge, skills and qualifications of all our people through the Attivo Group Academy so that we can provide the most technically competent, independent, financial planning advice to our clients.

“We believe that all Financial Planners and Paraplanners should be qualified to Fellow and Chartered status. Growing our own Financial Planners by giving our employees the opportunity to gain their diploma whilst getting on-the-job experience and earning a salary is the first step.”

Staying on course

The apprenticeship will follow the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education Level 4 apprenticeship standard in financial planning which is embedded with the CII’s Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. This covers the financial services regulatory framework, financial products and financial planning tools such as cash flow modelling, understanding clients’ needs and objectives, and assessing clients’ attitudes to risk and capacity for loss.

Over a period of 18 months, aspiring apprentices will undertake six CII exams to achieve the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning as part of the apprenticeship programme at the University of Gloucestershire.

Apprentice Charley Kay said: “It is exciting to know that my career in financial services is headed in the right direction and I am looking forward to developing my knowledge through the apprenticeship.”

Apprentices will attend lectures at the University of Gloucestershire one day a week to develop the capabilities that are crucial to becoming a Financial Planner including preparing financial reports, client fact-finding, financial reviews, and preparing suitability letters.

Jocelyn Fleming, Academic Subject Lead at the University of Gloucestershire, commented: “The School of Business and Technology is delighted to be working in partnership with an ambitious company like Attivo Group who are focussing on the development of their people to create a current and relevant workforce for the future.”

Apprentice Fraser McCaslin remarked: “I am delighted to have been offered this opportunity as the apprenticeship is the first of its kind in financial services, and having structured study days at the university will help with maintain a good work/study balance.”

The true cost of training

The Financial Planning Apprenticeship will launch not a moment too soon. The Heath Report 3 published in January 2019 examined the sustainability of the sector, confirming that we can expect to lose 7,000 of the industry’s 33,000 advisers through planned retirement in the next five years. It also found that almost 45% of advisers are over age 56, only 25% are under 45, and barely 6% are under 35.

The same report identified that the number of consumers able to access professional advice dropped from 16m in 2009 to 5.2m in 2018. So there is a need to replace the advisers who will shortly retire, and to recruit and train enough advisers to meet the increasing demand for financial advice.

Mr Harper explained: “To date, the industry has suffered a lack of investment in recruitment and training and consequently the sector is not only looking at a retiring workforce but one which is unable to meet consumer demand. There is no youth in financial planning, which is something we aim to change through this training initiative.

 “Bound by a code of ethics and accountable to strict professional standards, our industry is one of the most highly regulated in the world, but financial planning is yet to be recognised as a profession. As a chartered financial planning company, our mission is to help change the standing of financial planning, which, with a specialised body of knowledge and the rigorous education, training, and experience necessary to become a Financial Planner, should be achievable in the future.”

Author of the Heath Report 3 and Director General of adviser trade body Libertatem, Garry Heath commented: “Attivo Group should be applauded for taking the initiative and creating a new route into professional financial advice. The profession faces a large number of retirements in the next decade, so it is particularly encouraging to see a firm with the foresight to plan for the future.”  

Rising to the challenge

The Heath Report 3 estimated that the cost of training a Financial Planner is around £30,000 over 18-30 months but when funded through the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, apprenticeships are a cost-effective way for a business to upskill its workforce.

Since April 2017, firms with a salary bill over £3 million have paid 0.5% of it into the scheme. These funds can be reclaimed within two years to train apprentices of any age or experience (as long as they are employed by the industry), after which time they will be ceded to the Treasury. 

Mr Harper concluded: “The apprenticeship will also go some way in addressing the gender disparity in the financial services industry, which to date has been male-dominated. As a company, we are committed to providing equal opportunities for men and women and to achieving diversity amongst our workforce. The first 12 candidates will enrol in April and represent a 50/50 gender split.

“This training initiative will tackle head on the challenges facing the industry and make it possible to expand the level of advice available to consumers. It is exactly what financial services needs right now and we are excited to offer this training and support to our staff.”


Part of Attivo Group, Attivo Financial Planning was founded by Stephen Harper in 1998. With over 100 employees, and offices in Cheltenham, London and Cardiff, Attivo Financial Planning specialises in advice on investments, retirement, tax and estate planning for private clients, and financial planning for businesses.


Heath, G. (2019) ‘The Heath Report 3: A report on the current availability and future of professional impartial advice in the UK’.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. (2019) ‘Financial Adviser’. Available at: [Accessed 14 March 2019].

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