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St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy Part 2: What is the recruitment process like?

Welcome to part two of our interview with Craig Townsend, Partnership Recruitment Manager for the SJP Financial Adviser Academy. 

Alex, BTS: In part 1, we explored the type of candidates Recruitment Manager Craig looks for. In part 2, we shed some light on the process of joining the Academy. 

As a reminder for those who haven’t read part one, Craig, can you tell us a little more about yourself and your role before we kick off with diving into all things to do with recruitment?

St. James's Place Financial Adviser Academy Part 2 What is the recruitment process like?

Craig Townsend: Absolutely—I’m a career changer myself! My background isn’t in finance; about 15 years ago, I was a professional Rugby coach, and the area I enjoyed the most was helping people and mentoring others to develop them.

I moved to St. James’s Place in 2022, and my role is to support people who want to change careers and become financial advisers. I love understanding the motivations behind career change and helping them realise their potential through that process. 

Alex, BTS: We’ve covered the type of people the SJP Academy looks for, but I’m keen for our BTS Careers Zone members to know more about the application process.

We know that applicants are expected to pass R01 and R05 before joining. Do these exams need to be passed before making an application? 

Craig Townsend: No, you don’t have to pass them before getting selected, although ideally, they’d have passed at least R01 before. This takes the pressure off the individual to pass two exams after being selected, before joining the Academy.

It is possible to go through the selection process and then R01 and R05, but you do need to have passed them before you start term one on the Academy. Your Partnership Recruitment Manager will be able to explain more about this process.  

Alex, BTS: BTS often work with Academy applicants to help them achieve R01 and R05 before commencing term 1. The great thing about the CII exams is you can study them in your own time, and at your own pace. If anyone is interested in finding out what the R01 and R05 syllabus entails before committing to the process, you can get free samples of the BTS Study Guides here. 

Back to the SJP Academy selection process… 

If a candidate joins in term one with R01 and R05 exams passed, they will focus on gaining the additional exams to get them Level 4 qualified (R02, R02, R04 & R06). But you can also join the Academy when you’re already qualified. 

Craig Townsend: That’s right. We welcome individuals who have qualified independently to the SJP Academy. These people may have achieved their qualifications through previous employment or chosen to study with the support of an esteemed training provider such as yourselves at BTS.  

It’s important to remember that although the Academy trains individuals via the CII, we encourage applicants who have achieved their diplomas through alternative routes, such as the CISI or LIBF. Those already qualified to give financial advice join us at Term 2, meaning they could advise clients in as little as three months! You can find out more here.

Alex, BTS: Let’s return to the recruitment process. The initial enquiry sounds like an informal process. Is that fair to say?

Craig Townsend: Absolutely. In the first meeting we want to understand why the individual wants to apply, about their background, and it’s an opportunity for them to ask questions as well. It’s as much about the individual learning about SJP as it is about us learning about them.  

We will discuss the different options for joining the Academy. For example, some people may be looking to start their own business with us, whereas others might be better placed in one of our 2,500+ Partner Practices on either an employed or self-employed basis.  

Afterwards, they should take the time to establish if the Academy is right for them and digest the information, whether on their own or with their family and loved ones. Making a career change is a big decision, so we encourage people to involve those closest to them.   

We want to learn about your drivers, motivations, and transferable skills. Throughout the process, individuals can expect to engage with a partnership recruitment manager (like me) and one of our partnership selection managers, who ensure that only the best candidates successfully join our Academy.

Together, we support and guide applicants through each stage of the process. We appreciate that becoming a financial adviser isn’t for everyone, so our process is designed to help both parties make an informed decision. 

Individuals can expect to go through four stages of our application process, and we may have multiple discussions with the applicant depending on their individual needs:

1) Initial meeting 

2) Development Plan review 

3) Business Launch Plan review 

4) Final Assess and Meeting  

You can find more information on our website here or by contacting us.  

We do our due diligence to ensure it’s the right move for you. If it is, you’ll go into our selection process, and one of our selection managers will be involved, too.  

Alex, BTS: How long would you say the process takes?

Craig Townsend: This really depends on the individual. Once an individual has gone through the above steps, some may be ready to start within 6 weeks, others may have commitments that they need to align before they can join, so they may look for a start date 6 – 12 months ahead. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and we’re flexible to accommodate that.

Alex, BTS: The process might look different for each applicant. If you’ve done your research and you’re ready to sit the exams, your life is currently aligning nicely, and you could be through the process quite quickly. If you’re at the stage where you’re still exploring whether this is an option for you, then it’s still worth making that initial contact. 

Craig Townsend: I agree. I prefer it if an individual approaches us for an initial conversation and gets the information they need, then return to us when they are ready to progress. 

Alex, BTS: To finish off, Craig, could you share your top tips for a successful application?

Craig Townsend: I want to see an application that shows us who you are! Remember:

  • It’s not just an application that you could send to loads of different jobs. It’s a career, and I want to see you in the application with clear examples of where you can make a difference and how you’ve made a difference in the past. For example, If you’ve worked in a client-facing role I want to know about your interpersonal skills, your relationship building skills. 
  • I want to know more about you, where you want to go, and what you do outside of your work environment. 
  • Lastly, I want to see that you’re ready to work hard because changing your career is a challenge, and I need to know that you’ve put in the work to know that it’s the right move for you.  

Alex, BTS: If anybody has any questions about applying for the St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy, check out the links below to find out more information, including some day-in-the-life stories from advisors who’ve been through the process.

If you’re still unsure whether it’s the right option for you, get in touch with us here at BTS. We’re happy to discuss your ideas before you make your initial approach.


To find out more about the opportunities with St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy, check out their Featured Company Profile page. 

You can also connect with SJP by editing your profile and updating your connect with featured companies preferences to start a conversation.

Read Part 1: Who do we look for? Below.

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