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Home-grown talent

The success story behind Buckles’ graduate recruitment scheme

There is no doubt that IFA sector is in a state of flux. We have seen enormous changes over the last few years.
As a result of the many crises that have rocked our industry, there is considerable drive to improve professionalism within the industry.

As businessmen, one area we can control ourselves is recruitment. It is up to us to mould the future of the IFA world. We can do this by the type of person we bring in to our companies as advisers. In my experience, it is the one area that has really transformed the way we do business. Cracking the recruitment strategy is one of the major keys to growing your business.

At Buckles, the issues we face when looking to grow our business are fairly typical. We have made a number of acquisitions over the last few years, buying businesses from people who have grown tired of it all. We have acquired sizeable books of business and then looked for ways of developing them. We are committed to maintaining a professional advisory team. As with many other companies, we were initially tempting advisers from other companies – advisers who were wishing to become independent rather than tied. But it just did not work. Staff turnover remained high and quality was an issue.

So we decided to produce our own talent. We set up a graduate recruitment scheme in 2001, which each year admits a dozen graduates from regional universities. We were keen to encourage the graduates to stay and work in our part of North Wales rather than see them drift away to London. After 12 months of training, our graduates have emerged fully qualified and ready to go on the road. A third of our RIs have come from the graduate scheme.

It is also worth noting that our graduates are among the best-performing of all our advisers and staff turnover has dropped considerably.

The other clear benefit of recruiting graduates is that they just want to make it. They are all very ambitious and competitive. Also, they are not put off by the spectre of regulation – the opposite is true.

Our youthful colleagues see FSA authorisation as a badge of competence that dispels fears they might be a rogue trader.I am pleased that the industry has come such a long way that it can attract the cream from the graduate pool of talent.

Our graduates are no longer stigmatised as being insurance salesmen. Their parents are delighted that they have become financial advisers, with professional qualifications, earning very good salaries from the income that is generated by the fees they charge.

Who would have thought that the IFA sector is capable of luring a first-class honours graduate away from a career in accountancy? But it is true.

Forget about recruiting a middle-aged pot-bellied man who has “form” as a salesman with an old-fashioned life office, who has bought a load of old baggage with him and a reluctance to learn anything new.

Clients want sophisticated advice on inheritance tax planning and investment and they want it from enthusiastic and clever professionals who are bang up to date with all the pertinent facts and figures.

The Buckles scheme has had three waves of graduate trainees in the past three years. Their salaries are upgraded as they pass their qualifications.

We have recently bought in an external development consultant working with the graduates and existing advisers to develop soft skills. The average graduate qualifies in ten months. This is due to us switching to IFS as the examination board. The break even is achieved in about 18 months. Now three years in, we have pretty well made the scheme self-sufficient.

The graduates show no fear. They do not shy away from giving advice on every aspect of financial advice. For us, we are looking entirely to our own means to recruit a new advisory force.

Hitherto, we have managed the training programme internally, having found that the product providers do little or nothing to help train new entrants to the industry.

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