With a population smaller than London, Scottish advice firms are using outsourcing to deal with the problem of limited local talent
Scotland is renowned for its rugged countryside, towering mountains and tranquil lochs. Despite being part of the UK, it has retained its own national identity and legal system, and has had its own parliament since 1999.
Being in a partnership with a degree of independence (a word that has become even more politically charged in Scotland since the European Union referendum) also seems to sum up the country’s advice firms, as those finding it hard to recruit suitable support staff are increasingly seeking outsourcing partners around the UK.
Affluent Financial Planning in the Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, is 30 miles west of Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city. Managing director Carl Melvin has found it difficult to recruit support staff because people do not tend to commute more than an hour to work. “People are not going to want to travel to the opposite end of the city. We need to find people who live no more than 45 minutes to an hour from us but, as we’re in a village, we have a limited talent pool,” he says.
Melvin is keen to avoid hiring those who live more than an hour away because they are likely to leave as soon as they can get a job closer to home.
“The dynamics are different in London, where house prices are high, so people have a longer commute from outside,” he adds.
After failing to find an administrator locally, Melvin turned to outsourcing and that is now working well.
“Our admin client relationship manager is in Gloucester, our paraplanners are in Oxford and Edinburgh, and financial reconciler is in Aberdeenshire,” he notes.
In Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Granite Financial Planning managing director Paul Gibson is also considering outsourcing to beat the recruitment challenge. Around 80 per cent of Gibson’s work is retirement-related.
He says: “Aberdeen is perceived as an affluent part of Scotland because of its oil and gas industries, where people have generally been paid above-average earnings. Clients who have worked for different oil and gas companies have accumulated different pensions. We pull that all together, often showing them they could retire now if they wanted to.”
Granite is enjoying the positive impact the new Aberdeen bypass is having on business. Gibson says: “It had been talked about throughout my lifetime and now it has finally happened, it makes moving around the city easier.”
In Dundee, Thorntons Investments chief executive Stephen Webster has seen how the city council’s 40-year vision is improving the area. “Dundee has historically been a little bit down at heel,” he says. “But the opening of the V&A – Scotland’s first design museum – last September has brought a lot of interest to the city and now, when you go to local business events, you can sense it’s on the up.”
In Galashiels, the biggest town in the Borders, Lowland Financial Services managing director Graeme Mitchell has found that locals who want to build a career in financial services tend to move away from the area, then return when they have a family, as he did himself. Clients tend to be local or have a connection with the area.
Mitchell says: “The majority of our clients tend to be closer to retirement. There is not a huge amount of young people in the Borders, as there are no major employers. If you want to make something of yourself, you leave the area, but as life changes, you tend to come back. It’s a safe place to bring up children and it has great schools.”
Mitchell says the Borders can be a “funny place”, where people do not reveal everything about themselves straight away.
He adds: “People keep their cards close to their chest. Being slightly more ‘city’ – slightly more ‘hard-nosed’ – doesn’t go down well here.”