It is a well-documented issue that it is hard to attract and retain quality advisers. Despite huge efforts and some decent inroads made by the professional bodies to encourage young people into the profession, we are still a long way from having as many new advisers as we would like.
This means we often end up relying on those already in the sector. All too often, these people can come with higher expectations than their technical skills and client facing abilities actually warrant. The sheer amount of time sifting through CVs, assessing capabilities, interviewing and appointing, often at a huge cost in recruitment fees, has led us to quietly seek introductions and approaches from outside our immediate profession.
Even as recently as this year when we went back to the profession and appointed someone, they ended up leaving and we lost out on a considerable amount of time spent integrating them into the business and training them, not to mention the recruitment cost. We really should know better by now.
Looking outside the bubble
We have found that by far the most effective way for us as a small firm to attract quality advisers is to find our own that wish to join the sector but do not come from a financial planning background.
Our most successful recruits have come from outside the profession. While it takes a huge amount of time and training, we feel we can better contribute to their training and development, their technical abilities and their soft skills. There's no industry baggage, no one saying: "We used to do it differently at my last firm."
We believe to nurture raw talent all the way up to an individual becoming a fully-fledged adviser is an incredibly rewarding process for both sides.
We started by reviewing our process. We had to ensure we were clear about the type of person we wanted and how long we were able to take to give the maximum amount of technical training, exam support and skills training, while still operating efficiently with clients and within the financial constraints of a small firm.
Building a recruitment policy
Here is what we did and how we did it in case it is of any value to you in your own businesses. A recruitment checklist if you will.
Write or define a recruitment policy. Work out what and who is required, what recruitment meetings and candidate interviews consist of to ensure best fit. Offer time with other staff members before final assessment and, if successful, facilitate a buddy system to allow new joiners to fully understand the company, its people, procedures and software systems.
Ensure there is a detailed discussion with candidates at recruitment stage outlining the sheer amount of hard work it will take over many months to get to the point where they can see clients unaccompanied. This includes soft skills, technical skills training and, of course, taking and passing the appropriate exams to get to qualified status. It is important candidates know what they will be signing up for and that they are given a realistic understanding of the likely pressures in terms of time and intellect they are likely to face.
Review salary and benefits in line with a similar peer group to ensure what is on offer is competitive but that there is also room for progression. In a small firm with a relatively flat structure that is even more important, as candidates need to know they can progress once they are qualified and are doing well within the firm. This could be financially, by benefits improvements or via promotion depending on the situation.
We then review salary and benefits annually against the peer group to ensure it remains competitive. There are no guarantees here but this should help in retaining staff.
Allow staff to get involved in company meetings and participate in assessing and setting company strategy. This helps with ownership of objectives and builds pride in their achievement. It's our belief talented employees want to join dynamic, exciting, forward-thinking employers. We have worked hard to produce a new joiner’s pack which outlines the company, our ethos, our achievements and everything we stand for.
We get new employees, once ready, to meet our wider client and professional connections network. There is a real emphasis at Investment Quorum on our external message and the way we work with allied private client businesses such as accountants and lawyers. A lot of our skills training is based around networking successfully and taking the time to instil in our team how to do this well.
We work hard on joint meetings in the early days to ensure new joiners, even once fully qualified, are supported and mentored to reach a standard of which both they and we can be proud.
Recruit, then retain
We have worked out an examination timetable and the levels of financial support and study leave we were comfortable with as a small firm. As things stand, we pay for all exam study material, exam entry and offer generous study leave. We will also pay for specialist training for some of the exams which take a higher degree of technical ability and commitment. We work extremely hard on having a culture of curiosity and learning within the firm.
We are also generous with leave. We attempt to at least match what is on offer from our peer group but also give wider compassionate leave than might ordinarily be available, such as duvet days. We always shut between Christmas and New Year without deducting it from the annual leave entitlement.
We also try to be generous with time off requests, whether that's school sports days, charity events, doctors and dentists appointments or anything else. Happy, healthy staff are much more likely to remain committed and loyal if they are being treated well and allowed to be flexible with their working week.
We try to have fun. From social events and charity days to company parties and dinners, we try to get the team together to celebrate our successes and commiserate our misses. In the spirit of 'all work and no play...', we try very hard to find time to be together outside the office and we are always looking for new venues or activities to try together. We have found the little niggles that can sometimes appear between advisers and their supporting staff are less likely to become real issues if we can all have a laugh together outside the office.
Finally and rather obviously, there is nothing in this article that is particularly out of the ordinary or will definitely mean staff will stay. But it is a run-down of what is working well for us.
I wish you well with your own recruitment and retention programme.