Adults' fear of numbers turns young people off finance careers

A lack of understanding of financial services among parents and teachers, shaped by poor numeracy skills, is turning young people off a career in the sector, a CISI survey has concluded.

Just 9% of young people would consider working in the financial services industry, according to the survey carried out by YouGov to gauge views about the profession.

Asked their opinions on what they would associate with a typical day in financial services, 53% of young people thought it would be 'boring', while 50% felt it would be 'full of numbers'. Only 24% of young people surveyed felt they had any understanding of jobs in the financial services. Tellingly, the poll highlighted a marked lack of awareness of the sector among parents and teachers as well as young people.

Among parents, only 23% said their comprehension of the sector was 'strong' or fair'. More than 60% of teachers said they had little or no understanding of the profession. Only 44% of secondary school teachers surveyed said they discuss financial services with pupils as a career option.

In response to the survey, CISI Chief Executive Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI, said: "Poor numeracy skills on the part of both adults and young people in the UK are creating a vicious circle and an inherent fear of numbers. This, in turn, seems to be contributing to a low level prejudice against financial services as a career among young people's key influencers, teachers and parents."

Comparing the UK's low levels of numeracy with China, he pointed to a 2012 OECD PISA survey of 15-16 year olds. It showed that Shanghai had the highest scores in maths, equivalent to nearly three years of schooling above the OECD average. The UK was in 26th place among 64 countries.

He added: “The 2012 Pro Bono Economics Report on National Numeracy for the National Audit Office also indicates that poor numeracy costs the UK economy £20.2bn a year.

“Lack of understanding of financial services as a sector is one of the main points which has come through in this survey and we are very keen to continue working with teachers to help them overcome these obstacles. Our GCSE equivalent, Introduction to Financial Services, and our A-level equivalent qualification, the Diploma in Finance, Risk and Investment, are now both on the national UK performance tables.

"With UK financial services contributing £65bn to tax revenues in 2012/2013, the largest contribution of any sector, the importance of the industry cannot be underestimated. Similarly, with some of the highest UK graduate salaries being available in the investment banking sector, we should not undersell to our young people the fact that financial services offers excellent opportunities for a good, exciting and rewarding career.”
The CISI/YouGov survey was carried out among 827 teachers, 1,142 parents with children under 18 and 508 young people aged eight to 15.

Key findingsWhile less than one in ten of young people said they would be interested in working in financial services, the highest proportion (34%) expressed an interest in working in technology (for example IT). This finding was viewed as interesting by the CISI as IT is a backbone of modern day financial services, with a wide range of related jobs in the financial sector.

Only 19% of young people surveyed thought a typical working day in financial services would involve lots of talking, yet financial services, and wealth management in particular, is very much a 'people' and client focused business.

When parents were asked what they thought helps a young person most when trying to get a job in financial services, 49% of parents felt professional qualifications are a key factor, followed by good contacts (38%) and work experience (37%).

Some 78% of parents tended to agree that working in financial services offers the potential to earn a lot of money. It was rated a 'stressful” profession to work in by 62%, with 44% of the belief that working in financial services was 'not socially responsible'.

Published: 13 May 2014
  • Analysis
  • The Review
  • Financial Planning
  • Wealth Management
  • Young People
  • YouGov
  • Teachers
  • survey
  • Parents
  • Finance
  • Banking

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