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Would you benefit from hiring a trainee?

Three advisers reveal their recipes for success when taking on a trainee

Young people are the lifeblood of a firm, but what should you consider when hiring a trainee? Three advisers who have gone down different routes share their experiences.

Eldrid: ‘Graduates more mouldable’

Not a ‘mini-me’
Bringing in a graduate as a trainee administrator/paraplanner was part of a broader growth strategy for Sheraton Financial Planning managing director Jason Eldrid. 

“I’m a small, one-man band and I couldn’t do any more on my own,” he says. “I hadn’t employed anybody before, so I spoke to some recruitment people, but when you get into what they want to charge, it’s ridiculous.”

Eldrid had recently changed Sheraton’s back-office provider and needed someone who could work through spreadsheets and help him get the processes up and running. 

“The problem was, a lot of people I saw were already administrators in large firms that had it all set up. A lot of administrators would say it’s not in their job description,” he says.

Luckily, Eldrid met Frankie Davis, a graduate from Portsmouth University. “I thought he would be more mouldable as he had just passed his business degree. He’s taken to the role well. He has passed a couple of exams already and is helping me with all parts of the business, except giving advice, obviously,” says Eldrid.

Given Davis is only 21 and a few years away from moving into fully qualified paraplanner territory, it is too early to say if he will eventually move into advice. “He sits in planning meetings with me and annual reviews,” says Eldrid. “He knows exactly what I’m going to say, but I don’t want him to be a mini-me.”

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Watson: ‘Focus on succession’

Young, dynamic board
When Watson French developed its graduate training scheme in 2012, the aim was not entirely to bring on new advisers; it was more about future-proofing its board of directors.

“Our graduate training scheme was the result of various discussions at board level, in which we’d talked about the growth and development for the company – our 10-year plan,” says managing director Stephen Watson. “It is designed to achieve a young, driven, dynamic board for the company by 2022.”

Watson French graduates focus on technical development and working across the business in administration for the first 18 months. They are expected to reach diploma status in 18 months and chartered status in 48 months. When selecting the first graduate, Watson French worked with a local organisation called Unlocking Cornish Potential. 

“Its remit was to retain graduates in the county and fit them into Cornish businesses. We didn’t qualify for funding from it, but we did qualify for its support in terms of recruitment,” says Watson.

Sadly, Unlocking Cornish Potential no longer exists, but Watson French has continued to use the same process. The first graduate to go through that process has been a director of the company for the past two years and is about to take his final exam, having already attained chartered status and fellowship of the Personal Finance Society.

So what tips does Watson have for other advisers thinking of establishing a graduate scheme?

“If you are coming at it in terms of succession planning and bringing younger people into the business, I wouldn’t hesitate,” he says. “But it’s a long-term commitment.”

Profile: Uni links bring stream of trainees to FP Wealth Management

Hatley: ‘Time can be a challenge’

Investing time
Christopher Little & Co managing director Tom Hatley took on his first apprentice, trainee paraplanner Ryan Spence, four years ago and is now preparing to take on another apprentice in the summer.

“When growing a business as I was, you have got a tight budget so you can’t necessarily afford a paraplanner or administrator. Bringing someone in on an apprentice wage is not as much as someone who is fully qualified,” he says.

“Also, it adds a fresh approach to the business, and you are training that person for the work you want them to do.”

Hatley found it difficult to source a local apprenticeship provider but was referred to one called VQ Solutions.

He says: “VQ Solutions asked about the role I wanted to fill and the type of person I was looking for. It also considers the work environment, your interests and personality, then matches you to the right apprentice.”

Paraplanning apprenticeship gets green light despite funding concerns

Hatley mentions some less obvious benefits to hiring an apprentice, such as boosting your firm’s profile among their family and friends, as well as adding another dynamic to the social environment within the office.

“The biggest challenge is the amount of time you need to invest in an apprentice,” says Hatley.

“You may not pay the highest wage, but you have to sit with them and show them what to do. If you don’t invest time, you are not going to get the results.”

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