Overhead view of young business men shaking hands

For industry firms looking to hire support staff ready to hit the ground running, the new year brings good news: in January, a certificate program in operations and client management begins at George Brown College in Toronto.

The four-course online program, sponsored by Cumberland Private Wealth Management Inc., will prepare candidates for roles such as as operations administrator, portfolio administrator, client relations specialist, sales support and compliance support.

Such roles probably make up the majority of jobs in the industry, said Gerald Connor, chairman of Cumberland, during an online press conference; yet, no formal training programs were previously available. The new program is “an opportunity to expand that base of talent,” he said.

Connor said he expects three types of candidates to apply for the program: those already in the industry who want to enhance their skill set, workers looking to change careers, and students previously unaware of wealth management.

With the program, Cumberland “latched on to something here [in Canada] that is unique” as well as beneficial to the industry, said Paul Gambell, executive vice-president of business strategy with Infinite Investment Systems Ltd., in an interview.

Infinite, a portfolio-management services firm that counts Cumberland among its clients, collaborated on the program, and Gambell developed the curriculum for the program’s operations course, which he’ll also teach.

During the press conference, Ali Zahedi, CEO of Infinite, said the firm would sponsor at least 20 students, plus work with George Brown on job placement.

The program could result in less churn among advisory support staff, Gambell suggested, which can occur when university grads take on industry support roles as first jobs before pursuing investment positions.

As part of the college stream, the program opens wealth management to “a whole new demographic,” including those with little industry exposure previously, said Mike Zegers, vice-president of strategy and business development with Infinite, in an interview.

The program requires no wealth management experience. That requirement was initially considered, said Ricardo Yu, program manager with George Brown College, in an email. But “due to applicant interest and after further discussion, we are removing this requirement, though it will be considered an asset for applicants,” he wrote.

Zegers said Infinite’s scholarships would be open to eligible candidates regardless of whether they’re currently in the industry or not.

He also noted that, amid tech acceleration, support staff roles will continue to be critical, because staff are required to oversee firms’ processes. “The regulators are going to keep people in those chairs,” he said. Further, support roles help free investment professionals to focus on clients, he said.

Laura Paglia, president and CEO of the Investment Industry Association of Canada, said in an email that admin and operational roles “play an essential part in the efficient delivery of financial services” and require “niche knowledge on multiple fronts.”

“As demands for wealth management services continue to increase, [so] does the need for, and shortage of, talented, well-trained individuals to fill these vital roles,” Paglia wrote. “This is a necessary, timely and helpful program that addresses training for both individuals currently in the industry and new entrants.”