Financial planning and wealth management company Towry Law needed to diversify its recruitment. The financial services company had a traditional attitude towards recruitment and one that tended to draw talent from within the organisation. It was also disproportionately male. Towry Law wanted to tap into new talent from outside and bring in people from other professional backgrounds with significant finance, legal or sales experience. In particular, it wanted to target mothers wishing to return to work.
In April 2007, Towry Law established 'Return to Work', a 22-week training programme. Alex Rickard, director of HR, says the company looked for generic personal characteristics and intellectual skills rather than specific knowledge. "We wanted bright, professional, energetic, committed people who we could retrain. What the candidates bring is life and professional experience," she explains.
To broaden the recruitment base, the firm stressed the availability of flexible working hours. "This is a very antiquated profession as far as flexibility is concerned," Rickard admits. "But independent financial advisers run their own diaries and manage their own time, using the office support as back-up, so it's a job that lends itself well to flexible working."
The company teamed up with Women Like Us, an agency that brings women back into the workplace, to present internal workshops, and that prompted applications.
The training is intensive and involves three days a week in the office, as well as studying at home. Participants are also put into teams where, after being registered with the Financial Services Authority, they begin learning the processes of client work as a wealth adviser, with a senior client partner as a mentor.
The participants are trained to the Chartered Insurance Institute's Chartered Financial Planner qualification and have examinations every few weeks. "We expect everyone in the company to progress further," says Rickard. "But this is the first rung before they can practise as a financial adviser."
According to Rickard, all four recruits from phase one of the programme passed their exams, and more than 100 people expressed an interest in applying for phase two, which began in May. "We are still at the early stages," she says. "But it's opened our eyes. The programme is highly valued and is building up momentum all the time. Soon, all recruitment will probably happen just by word of mouth."
THE HR VIEW - Alex Rickard, director of HR, Towry Law.
"The idea was to bring fresh talent into what is an old profession," says Rickard. "Independent financial advisers are typically poorly qualified and recruited from within the industry. We needed to look outside and bring in other professionals and retrain them." The company definitely wanted to attract more women, she adds, and being able to offer flexible working hours was crucial. "Women tend to have different skills to men and build relationships in a different way," says Rickard. "Our business is all about building relationships. We are trying to establish a teamwork ethic rather than just having individuals who protect their own client base. Women are under-represented in the professions and yet we have a large number of female clients." She feels the company can now offer clients more choice. "The scheme represents a significant investment by the company, which will not see a return on its investment for a while," she adds. "But there is a huge amount of positive feeling towards the programme."
THE EMPLOYEE'S VIEW - Fiona Oliver is a Return to Work participant.
Oliver's degree is in Japanese and her background is in media and corporate sales. She had taken two years out to have children. "I wanted to do something that used my client-facing skills and was intellectually stimulating," she explains. "I started in May and I am midway through my exams. Overall, the challenge has been at about the right level. It is achievable, although if you have come from a completely different environment, it is tough." The induction was excellent, she says.
The fact that the MD and two board members came to offer their support was, she feels, indicative of the company's recognition of the programme's value. "The best thing though has been the camaraderie between the participants," Oliver adds. "Coming from a corporate environment, I was used to a competitive world, but there is a real sense of team spirit. I would say to anyone thinking of applying: find out if this is compatible with your skills, but don't be intimidated by a lack of financial service experience."