Buckles currently employs 42 graduates, which is 43 per cent of our total workforce.
In terms of our graduate training programme, the programme takes graduates and trains them to become fully competent, qualified IFAs. Thirty-two of our 45 IFAs have been through our graduate training programme and are now fully qualified and advising clients.
Intakes over the years have varied. The programme was introduced in 2001 with only one graduate recruited to pilot the scheme. Realising the success of this initiative, Buckles increased this number over the years and in 2008 we recruited 28 graduates.
Between 1999 and 2003, the number of qualified advisers employed at Buckles ran at an average of about 30. However, this disguised a major problem. During that period, a significant number of advisers left Buckles, resulting in an annual turnover of advisers of 50 per cent. Poor recruiting, a poor working environment, a lack of team spirit and generally poor-quality advisers were the main causes.
Traditionally, advisers were recruited from existing, often competing businesses. They held the qualifications to start trading immediately.
After much consideration, the board of Buckles decided to review the way it recruited advisers and voted to implement a graduate training and development programme. The first graduate was sourced from a recruitment agency.
During the first year in training, he was mentored by one of our more senior advisers. We got a lot of feed-back from him, which enabled us to create a graduate training folder.
The graduate folder evolved over the coming years through consistent feedback from the graduates. This feedback was actioned and the programme developed.
As the number of graduates increased, the resource required to train them became a challenge. Therefore in 2006, a skills trainer was employed.
To further assist in the training, the firm now also has a HR department, has recently appointed a training officer and a dedicated sales manager for the graduates, who is the first of many. The training officer and the sales manager are both products of the graduate programme.
The development of the graduate programme transformed the adviser force at Buckles over the past five years, which has in turn transformed the business.
Nigel Speirs is chief executive of Buckles Investment Services