Perfect match

How can mentoring enable financial services professionals to advance in their careers?
by Sally Percy


Many of the world’s best-known leaders attribute at least some of their success to their mentors. A good example is Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who benefited from being mentored by Apple founder Steve Jobs. When Jobs died in 2011, Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page: “Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world.”

The value that mentors can bring to people’s careers is highlighted by US research conducted by Olivet Nazarene University in 2019. Its study of over 3,000 people finds that 76% think it is either important or very important to have a mentor, yet only 37% of those who participated in the research had a mentor at the time. The research breaks down the percentage of people who have had mentors by sector, with finance sitting third from the bottom at 45%, and science coming top, with 66% being mentored at some point in their lives.
Sectors with the most mentors


Have had mentor(s)







Marketing, advertising, PR


Non-profit, social services




Professional services




Skilled labour, trades





So, if you’re starting on, or progressing a career in financial services, what do you need to know about mentoring and how can it help you advance?

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a process that involves an experienced professional (the mentor) providing guidance, support and encouragement to another professional (the mentee), with the aim of helping that mentee to achieve their career objectives. While coaching focuses on strengthening an individual’s knowledge or skills in the short term, mentoring is a longer-term process that aims to help the mentee visualise their destination, without mapping out the precise steps needed to get there. In this respect, it is different from sponsorship – where a senior leader plays an active role in helping to develop more junior talent.  

“Coaching is about helping people to challenge their issues, by putting questions to them that they answer themselves,” says Shaun Crawford, chair of insurance software platform Insurwave, who is currently mentoring two female leaders through the 30% Club, which aims to boost global representation of women at board and C-suite level. “Mentoring is about sharing examples of what you’ve done, answering questions, giving advice, and suggesting options that help people to move their careers to the next level.” It’s important, he warns, for mentors to maintain professional boundaries and not allow mentees to share their personal problems.

The CISI mentoring scheme

Mentoring relationships can be both formal and informal. A formal relationship may be brokered by an organisation such as the 30% Club or the CISI, which runs a Financial Planning Mentoring Scheme, introduced in January 2019 to help grow the financial planning profession. Informal mentoring is often a choice between two people to form this kind of relationship with each other and may be more sporadic.

Formal mentoring may have time limits imposed, with compatible individuals being ‘matched’ with one another and meeting for discussions, virtually or in person, on a regular basis. The CISI scheme, for example, pairs mentees with a dedicated CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional for a minimum of 12 months, during which it is recommended they meet at least four times. This partnership can continue for as long as both parties decide.

Michael Fairweather CFP™ Chartered MCSI, founder of Real Life Financial Planning, mentors Steven McBurnie APP Chartered MCSI, paraplanner at AAB Wealth, via the CISI scheme. They have had regular monthly meetings over Zoom since August 2020. Michael took on the role “primarily as an opportunity to help others in the financial planning profession and to introduce them to George Kinder’s approach to life planning”.  

They have both benefited from the relationship, with Steven learning about life planning and Michael gaining an introduction “to the joys of flexible reversionary trusts, tax advantaged research from MICAP and the Sustainable and Responsible Investment Professional Assessment from the CISI”.

Steven is working his way towards obtaining CFP™ certification. To achieve this, eligible candidates must first complete the CISI level 6 Certificate in Advanced Financial Planning exam, followed by a level 7 case study (see for more on this). Michael says they have “enjoyed brainstorming a few real-life client cases of mine together, and we have discussed some financial planning ideas for the case study as well”.

Steven says that being mentored has given him more confidence in his technical abilities as a paraplanner and made him “think about different approaches to help meet client objectives”. He has learnt “how to ask open questions to discover clients’ life objectives and gained a better understanding of cashflow modelling”. He says, “I would encourage everyone to have a mentor for continuing development. For me the opportunity to discuss key topics and issues has been invaluable.”

If you are interested in participating in the CISI Financial Planning Mentoring Scheme, please complete the forms below.
Mentee form    Mentor form

Samar Yanni, CISI assistant director, head of membership and professional standards, says that the CISI is now taking its mentoring scheme forward, developing an online platform through which to offer it to the wider CISI community. “It will include online collaboration tools to facilitate the engagement of mentors and mentees and will offer much more guidance and support,” says Samar, who expects the platform to be completed by around mid-2022.

Types of mentoring

Many financial services organisations run their own in-house mentoring programmes – where senior personnel mentor more junior staff members. These can be a means of attracting and retaining staff, as well as bringing talent up through the ranks. An alternative to in-house mentoring is cross-company mentoring – where mentees are matched with mentors from outside their organisation, and possibly their sector. Cross-company mentoring allows mentees to get a perspective from people who have very different challenges and experiences from their own.

Matthew Hurn, CFO for disruptive investments at Abu Dhabi-based sovereign investment fund Mubadala Investment Company, and board member for several investee companies, helps people with their personal competencies and behavioural skills, such as strategic influencing.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has also been emphasising the importance of showing empathy: “If you’re a leader, you need to make sure that you're demonstrating that you're caring, considerate, compassionate, listening to your people and helping them to navigate to the right end goal, but doing so with genuine interest in their wellbeing.”

Another type of mentoring is reverse mentoring, whereby a junior professional will share their knowledge and skills with someone more senior. This helps senior management teams gain insight into the evolving expectations of younger customers and employees.

Mentoring programmes

The 30% Club’s annual nine-month mentoring programme is run by social enterprise Moving Ahead. It partners senior women and individuals from minority groups with executives and board members from other organisations. Among its mentors are FTSE 100 CEOs and chairs.

Mentees on the programme attend regular one-to-one meetings with their mentors, as well as group training sessions on specific skills that are intended to help them progress in their careers. The 30% Club says that over the past nine years, more than 11,000 mentors and mentees, from over 200 organisations across more than 30 sectors and 42 different countries, have participated in the programme.

Liz Dimmock, CEO of Moving Ahead, says that promotion rates demonstrate the positive impact the programme has had on the mentees’ careers. Nearly half (47%) of mentees have been promoted in the three-year period since the 2018 programme began, compared with several control groups. Mentees report that the programme helps them to overcome their own mental barriers to advancement, says Liz, “be it confidence, what they imagined was possible, or how to navigate the world of work to get the progressions they deserve”.

Ann Cairns, global chair of the 30% Club and executive vice chair of Mastercard, says that mentoring can also help to positively influence the culture of organisations through the changed outlook of mentors. “When we did recent analysis of our scheme, over a third of our mentors said they were motivated to create change in their careers or organisations, and up to half saw their organisation differently due to having a mentee,” she says. “Many mentors described changes to their management style, or empathy levels, or a new commitment to removing bias in their organisations due to the programme.”

Not-for-profit membership association Women in Banking & Finance (WiBF) aims to help women in the financial services sector achieve their full potential. Its mentoring programme is key to meeting that objective. The programme was relaunched in November 2020 to accept new mentees on a monthly rather than semi-annual basis. Since the relaunch, according to figures provided to The Review by WIBF, 246 mentoring relationships have been established, with around a fifth of its mentors being male and the rest being female. The formal programme lasts for six months, with mentors and mentees able to continue their relationship on an informal basis after that.


Victoria Pringle, chair of WiBF’s Glasgow branch, heads up the organisation’s mentoring programme. She and a colleague devote a lot of time to matching up mentors and mentees using their LinkedIn profiles. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding enough sufficiently senior people, particularly non-executives, to act as mentors.

Inevitably, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected mentoring. The 30% Club, for example, has moved from live events and face-to-face meetings between mentors and mentees to a fully online approach, investing in technology to provide a good experience. “Mentors and mentees now find it easier to fit mentoring into their busy schedules,” says Liz, “and we have been able to help more mentees across the world, creating global connections that would have been difficult in pre-pandemic times.” 

Perspectives from mentees

Mentoring can be beneficial to financial services professionals as they embark on, and progress in, their careers. When Letitia Lam joined the graduate programme of Barclays in Scotland in 2014, she sought a senior female leader as a mentor. Her mentor helped to ensure that Letitia – who holds the CISI level 3 Investment Operations Certificate – was able to gain experience from across the different parts of the bank.

“She would open the door to people who could help me understand the business better,” says Letitia. “And if something came up, or I had questions, I could just go to our meeting and she’d help me in whatever way she could.”

During her five-year stint at Barclays, Letitia ended up having several mentors – both male and female. She was also regional Scotland lead for the bank’s ‘Emerge’ reverse mentoring programme.

As reverse mentor, Letitia found herself advising her mentee on how she could get the best out of her team and nurture their creativity. “She would use me as a sounding board,” she recalls. “Sometimes, by asking a question, she might realise that there was no reason why something needed to be done a particular way – it’s just that was the way things had always been done. Having an alternative viewpoint can prompt new ideas and different thinking.”

Today Letitia is a freelance marketing communications consultant, but she is still mentored by other members of the Scottish business community. She believes that mentoring, as a concept, is growing in popularity in Scotland, saying, “People are open to mentoring as a way of sharing knowledge, but also supporting each other.”

The mentoring process can help to sharpen soft skills Tsitsi Mutiti, Chartered FCSI, investment manager with Charles Stanley and joint vice chair of The Review Editorial Panel, has benefited from both internal and external mentoring during her career. She has participated in the mentoring programmes organised by the 30% Club and WiBF. She has also requested mentoring from her employer to enhance some specific skillsets. Tsitsi says that the process helped her “sharpen some of the soft skills required” in her role – skills that are not covered in any of the exams she has taken. “Having the opportunity to learn from someone at a higher level in the organisation helped to build my confidence when interacting with senior leaders both internally and externally,” says Tsitsi.

Tsitsi believes there are merits to both cross-company and in-house mentoring. “With cross-company mentoring, you have a larger choice of potential mentors, including people who have never worked in the same sector as you, so they tend not to have the biases we pick up when we work in a sector for a long time,” she says. “But when you’re mentored by someone in the same sector, that individual is able to understand what you do a bit quicker and they tend to be able to introduce you to people who could potentially support you on your career path.”

Mentoring does not necessarily help mentees to overcome barriers relating to gender and race, says Tsitsi. Yet she thinks that mentees can be encouraged and inspired by their mentors’ stories, saying, “You think that if they can navigate this sector, with the background they’ve come from, then maybe you can, too.”

Tsitsi’s advice for other financial services professionals who are considering mentoring is to be open-minded and willing to communicate with different people. If participating in a formal, cross-company programme, she also recommends connecting with other mentees “because there’s a lot you can learn from each other’s experiences”.

Two-way relationship

Matthew says that having a mentor is critical for financial services professionals who are at the early stages of their careers. A major reason for this is the guidance that mentors can provide around career planning. “Understanding the career journeys that certain people have taken is a really valuable way to determine whether you're on the right journey yourself,” he explains.

Meanwhile, mentors themselves can get a lot out of the mentoring process, by gaining new perspectives on market developments and feeling like they are making a positive difference to people’s lives. “It’s personally rewarding,” says Shaun. “If you’re making someone happy and successful, you feel a sense of pride about that.”

The final word on the value of mentoring goes to Victoria of WiBF, who says: “From all the interactions I’ve had with people in the financial services sector, there’s not a single person who doesn’t agree that mentoring is hugely beneficial to someone’s career.”

Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email
Published: 07 Jan 2022
  • Wealth Management
  • Compliance
  • Operations
  • International regulation
  • Risk
  • Corporate finance
  • Bonds
  • Fintech
  • Financial Planning
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Soft Skills
  • Women in Banking and Finance
  • WIBF
  • Moving Ahead
  • mentoring
  • mentee
  • career development
  • 30% Club

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