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Match point

It takes time and effort to recruit the right staff but you reap the rewards.

Transparency, openness, honesty and an ethical approach are the best guidelines to a successful recruitment policy. It is hard to attract the right people and there is no magic formula. There are many right people in wrong jobs and vice versa. What is important is to have realistic expectations on both sides. CVs that exaggerate do not serve the candidate well in the long run. Similarly, staff feel let down by firms if what was promised at the interview does not materialise.

The issue is not so much whether there is a shortage of quality staff but one of finding the right match. Qualifications are important but they are not the whole story. Equally important is an adviser who is able to understand their clients and has interpersonal skills. Client satisfaction questionnaires rarely mention technical skills but do mention how they were treated. These interpersonal client skills do not only affect external clients, they also apply to internal clients. An adviser who is sweet as pie to clients but an absolute ogre to colleagues is a menace.

What is vital and difficult to define is the shared vision and ethos of the adviser with the firm involved. If you do not share the same values, you are unlikely to be a good match.

Part of the problem is that the IFA world is very diverse. This diversity is a strength but it does mean that recruiting the right staff has its own particular stresses.

At Baigrie Davies, we set high standards and seek mature people with experience. With the diversity of skills that staff bring, firms can learn from experienced people and improve best practice. However, if backgrounds are so different and so ingrained in a person, although they may in other ways be an ideal recruit, they would not be a good match for the firm in question.

We all know of the difficulties of recruiting new people into the industry. Few firms have the resources to do this from scratch and if they do, there is a danger that when staff are trained they move on.

Our firm owns a subsidiary, LifeSearch, who are market leaders in advised protection. We are training a select number of advisers at LifeSearch to be fully fledged advisers. It is a huge learning curve for both parties.

Retention of staff is also an issue. It is all very well to recruit people but it takes time to turn an adviser into profit and the most valuable staff are those that have been retained over the years and brought in good profit on a regular basis for both themselves and the firm.

Retention and development of staff go hand in hand. Employees want an employer who invests in and cares about them. This can be demonstrated in many ways and often it is the soft skills that are important. Again, considering staff as internal clients hits many of the right notes.

Keeping a common vision with staff and reiterating this is vital. We had a great compliment paid to us by a recruitment consultant as she sat in reception watching the comings and goings. She said that she could tell that all in the firm shared a common vision. So if the culture is right, it is in the air.

Even if the firm’s vision is communicated well, it cannot be stated often enough. A company needs to demonstrate leadership and people need to know where they fit in. Firms should review their staff and listen to them. It seems an obvious point but often staff do not feel properly listened to and often they are not.

Maintaining a strong management team is key to a firm. If the management team as the top team do not share a common vision, then there is no hope for the rest of the firm. Of course, there will be disagreements at the top level but a shared vision will see people through even the trickiest of rapids.

Undoubtedly, a firm’s biggest asset is the right staff. It takes time both to recruit and develop staff. It is worth the investment because you have a happier team.

Amanda Davidson is a director of Baigrie Davies.

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