How can you recruit in the most cost-effective manner for both the short and long-term, asks Richard Adams, managing director of Stonebridge Group
Advisory practices always face something of a dilemma when it comes to recruitment – should they opt for those who already have the necessary qualifications and experience in the belief that they can advise clients in a much quicker timeframe? Or should they opt for those who perhaps do not have either the necessary qualifications or experience, yet appear to have all the right qualities to become very good advisers?
As is often the case a decision based on both types of recruitment policy is likely to bring with it greater rewards. Yes, every practice needs its experienced advisers who can come into the business at the drop of the hat, settle within that company culture, learn the ropes quickly and be placed in front of clients within a very short space of time. But there is also much to be said for operating alongside this a recruitment policy which, as stated above, involves looking for individuals who may come with no financial services experience at all, however with the right training and qualification programme could develop quickly and will also have no bad habits that other, perhaps more experienced, advisers might bring with them.
It is certainly a tricky line to walk for any practice and clearly one has to weigh up whether the business needs someone advising and recommending yesterday, or if time can be spent developing individuals. Of course, even the most experienced of advisers will need a ‘settling in’ period, however this is bound to be much shorter than the prolonged training and supervision needed for a fully fledged new recruit.
In today’s economic environment and jobs landscape there are also other options for advisory practices to consider, not least the fact that the credit crunch and recession resulted in significant numbers of individuals losing their positions. Many staff that operated in back-office operations at lenders, for instance, were made redundant when those organisations were forced to shut up shop. Many of these people were fully-CeMAP qualified, for good reason, however would never have provided mortgage advice to a customer. We have also seen significant numbers of qualified advisers leaving corporate institutions where they were operating as tied, direct sales staff – Barclays perhaps being the prime example of this. Here we have individuals who do have the face-to-face advice experience that you would want to see however have only been pushing one provider/institution’s products during their career.
The question is how can these disparate groups of qualified and non-qualified individuals be brought into a practice and a balance be achieved. By this I mean that, if your practice is lucky enough to be experiencing increased demand for your services and advice, how can you recruit in the most cost-effective manner in order to satisfy short-term demand but also get the most out of your recruits into the long-term?
There are many dilemmas to consider with all recruit groupings, for example, it is likely that experienced recruits will do a strong job initially but will they move on quickly? New, raw individuals will take considerable time and effort to get them up to speed to be able to deliver advice however once this is achieved they may perform better than experienced staff and the likelihood is they will want to stay at the firm longer. Similarly, former back-office staff are technically qualified but may not perform well with clients and may need significant time spent on supervision and assessment, while former corporate advisers may have the people skills necessary and the qualifications, however might be limited in viewpoint and scope in order to be able to deliver a truly independent and whole of market advice service.
Without doubt the importance of the firm’s training and induction process in all this cannot be under-estimated? Firms have to get the balance right between being a system which has to introduce the entire world of financial services to a new recruit with one which is able to simply and effectively get across all the specific company-wide processes to those who will come with previous experience of the sector. This is no easy feat however it certainly makes sense to make use of current advisers who will not only be well-versed in how things operate but will also be able to help new people get to grips with the company culture.
In all this, firms should not try to reinvent the wheel with their recruitment and training structures. As a network we are always conscious that, for some firms, recruitment does not take place very often and it is always worthwhile (even if it is just as a regulatory responsibility) to help firm update their systems in this area, particularly focusing on training/ongoing qualification/continued professional development, etc.
In making these recruitment decisions it is important for firms to work out beforehand what they want to achieve – are they happy for short-term targets to be the focus or do they want to pull in a mixture of both experience and rookies in order to cover off all bases? Do they have the set-up to be able to do this? If not, then can they use outside support from, for example, their network in order to ease the path particularly for brand new recruits?
It is also important to recognise the depth and breadth of talent that may well be available – by conservative estimates there has been at least a 10,000 fall in mortgage adviser numbers in the space of the last four to five years. Many of these will have found other areas to concentrate on however some, potentially those back-office and former corporate staff we discussed earlier, could be looking for moves into the independent sector.
Firms need a structure and process in order to help bridge the gap for those moving from outside the company in to it it is important to get this right and we are certainly there to provide support to any AR firm looking to expand and recruit in the current marketplace.
Recruitment is a positive to be embraced and we are there to make sure everyone gets the most out of this ‘win win’ situation.