Graduate recruitment route pays off for Equilibrium
Creating a defined graduate recruitment programme and exhibiting at a local University Careers Fair is paying dividends for Equilibrium LLP
A major problem that many financial planning firms face is recruiting the right people for the right jobs. With demand for roles often outstripping supply, especially for the role of paraplanner, getting good quality people into vacant positions can be a challenge.
Equilibrium, a financial planning firm based just outside of Manchester, has found that despite offering flexible working and an employment package that, among other incentives, offers basic 33 days paid holiday and support with gaining qualifications, traditional routes to finding the right people hadn’t been working.
“The quality of our service proposition is paramount to what we do as a business so we are very focused on getting the right people into the right roles in order to be able to deliver that,” says Rob Ellis, senior client manager, Implementation for the firm. “We are growing as a company – the target over the next 12 months, for example, is to take on another four paraplanners or client managers as we call them. We have used a number of recruitment agencies and it’s fair to say that getting the right people has been a challenge.” The firm therefore decided to try other avenues, Ellis adds.
Having taken on graduates in the past, as well as interns and placements from local universities, it made sense to take that a further step and to formalise a graduate recruitment plan, Ellis says. This is to not only help alleviate the firm’s current resource issues but to help build for the future. “Our aim is to get the right calibre of individuals with the right attitude, mindset and skill base into the business.”
Attracting graduate interest: Careers Fair
However, getting graduates interested in financial planning was the first hurdle. Although the firm had posted on universities’ websites and noticeboards, it had not tried face-to-face recruitment techniques. This led to the firm’s decision to take a stand at the local university careers fair.
Despite exhibiting alongside large, high profile companies and organisations such as MI5, EE and Deloitte, the results were beyond the firm’s expectations, says Ellis.
“We had five people on our stand when the fair opened at 10.30am and we thought that might be too many, but as soon as the doors opened we were rushed off our feet for probably the next four hours. We had over 200 people come to visit us on the stand and talk to us about what we do and the roles available and by the time we got back to the office that day we had received five emails with CVs attached. It was way beyond what we expected,” Ellis says.
Knowledge of financial services among the people at the fair varied from those with an economics or business, accountancy and finance degrees who were more aware of the industry, to those who hadn’t heard of financial planning at all, he says.
“Most of the people we spoke to at the fair didn’t have a set career planned out ahead of them and so were interested in what we did and the prospects within the company. When I’d explained what Equilibrium did, most were interested in the paraplanner or client manager roles, rather than becoming financial planners,” Ellis says.
“We had structured the day with flyers to hands out, access to the Equilibrium website, details about the roles we have on offer and how people could apply. Also, we ran a simple competition – guess the number of M&Ms in a jar – from which we got people’s email addresses.
“The next day we emailed everyone who had expressed an interest with an information pack and more details about the role and the application process, which in the first instance is a CV and covering letter.”
Alongside exhibiting at the careers fair event, the firm runs a staff referral scheme and it also held an assessment day for graduates who had sent their CVs into the company on spec. “This was an interview day, with tests involved and this also proved successful. “It looks likely we will take two people on from the day,” Ellis says.
“I’d say that graduate recruitment is going to be a key part of our recruitment process going forward.”
Equilibrium graduate training programme
Equilibrium’s graduate scheme has been devised as a two-year programme that immerses the recruit in the business, Ellis explains.
Stage 1: Approximately six months. “This is spent getting to know the business, sitting first with the reception staff to see how we deal with clients who come into the office, then with marketing to see how we attract our clients and with our in-house discretionary fund management team, as well as in other areas, to get a good grounding on what we do and how we work,” Ellis says.
Stage 2: Approximately 18 months. “This is spent within the paraplanning department, which consists of three distinct paraplanning teams.
Six months will be spent with the Implementation team. “This is the team I manage, which deals with new business, from the first enquiry up until the point where the client’s portfolio is structured and established as we want it.”
After the first six months working with Ellis and his team, the graduate will spend two further six-month periods with the other paraplanning teams, one that works with clients with over £2m liquid assets and the other deals with people with assets below that value.
It is on the job training, with the ideal scenario being that within the first two years the individual will complete their Diploma in Financial Planning from the CII. The company sponsors them to take the qualification and offers paid time off for study. Ellis adds: “Alongside the formal qualifications and training, we encourage people to use the resources that are available, including attending seminars, talking to people within the company, sitting in on client meetings, and as much as possible embracing the company’s purpose and culture and drawing on everything that’s available.
“Equilibrium is very focused on professional development and getting people to where we want them to be, so we are very open to them attending courses.”
Visit Equilibrium LLP website