Talent Contest. How to attract and retain the best candidates in today's competitive recruitment market

Financial Advisory

21 April 2022

BrandEmploymentExperienceFinancial AdvisoryHybrid WorkingLegal adviceMeeting of MindsOnboardingRecruitmentWinning Advisers

Expert: Helena Territt, coach, speaker, leadership development. Moderator: Sam Shaw, independent consultant, Sam Shaw Media


  1. Finding the right people from too small a talent pool is a challenge
  2. Successful recruitment is more difficult for small firms – outsourcing this function is worth considering
  3. Onboarding and staff development also present challenges – exacerbated by Covid
  4. Some situations can be awkward ‘minefields’ without appropriate HR skills, legal knowledge
  5. Attitude and work ethic are more important than relevant experience, make better use of social media, local networks and relevant advertising 


Finding the right people

The issues apply both to advisers and support staff and with such a high number of jobs per applicant, finding ways to stand out and improve their employer value proposition, re difficult for advisers. Important to recognise the importance of USPs and differentiators that may not just be money-focused.

Brand values, culture, all the softer, non-financial reasons may be as – if not more – important at recruiting new staff.

Wellbeing transcends just working from home. Be aware of different motivators for different people. Eg Pay is a less important factor than you might imagine in employee recruitment and retention - click here

Consider flexible hours, hybrid working, investment in learning and development as ‘employee value proposition’ differentiators. The demographic who have small children are likely to value flexible hours more than a large bonus. An older demographic may value pension contribution more than hybrid working. Know your talent pool. Be aware of the 2010 Equality Act.

There needs to be a clearer sense of weighing up the cost of recruitment (seen as a short-term pain) vs the risk of not doing it properly (addressing the longer-term gain).

Risk is that if you don’t invest the time in them initially and bring the rest of the team on the journey to see the benefits, they will become demotivated and leave for a larger, better resourced firm. Look at your people as investments – you’re managing an asset rather than just spending a cost. 

Outsourcing recruitment

Not much respect for recruitment agencies, though it was noted that when you do find a good one, they can be worth their weight in gold.

Recruitment agencies don’t listen, unprofessional and put anyone forward for roles they may not be suitable for. Where they are successful, they will wait a year or two and return to the candidate and pull them out to place with another firm, so churn is a big issue. then the advisers just move from one firm to the other – no new talent coming into the sector

As the firm principal is often the business owner, “rainmaker” and if they have to also tackle HR, it’s just another job they may not have the time, or be skilled to do. Typically, principals are poor delegators, but collaboration will help alleviate similar problems more cost-effectively.

Should the business owner be the one interviewing when they will never be there to deal with them? Better meeting other key people in the business to help the filtration process.

Considering outsourcing the recruitment function in the same way you might compliance. Help with interview processes etc, which at the moment seem to be based on a blend of gut feeling and hoping for the best. 

Onboarding challenges

Onboarding is a neglected area as often the source of frustration as leads to new starters feeling disengaged and not valued, which may see them leaving for another firm.

Importance of having a development plan for the new joiner – whether new starter, apprentice or grads – seems to apply to anyone without directly relevant experience).

Some firms take the approach of ‘just find the right person and work out what they’ll do afterwards.’  Firms need a combination of skills and ambition levels.

Knowing how to do this remotely is an entirely different area in which advisers lack confidence. 

HR skills, legal knowledge

It isn’t just about bringing people in; performance management is also difficult in small firms. Advisers just don’t know the right ways to manage someone out effectively, aren’t clear on the appropriate steps. Underperformance is often ignored with other people picking up the slack, this decreases engagement from your better performers and increases flight risk.

It was raised that if advisers don’t have/allocate sufficient time to training & development, when their staff aren’t performing, they might question ‘Did I really set them the right parameters or objectives?’ or ‘Have I actually conveyed that properly?

Performance management objectives can be business or behavioural – work on those together, write them down and then both sides will have a shared, clear expectation. Remember to check back consistently and offer a support plan If expectations are not being met. If expectations are still not being met after a stated time and you take action to terminate employment it should not be a surprise to the employee. It is wise to have a proper performance management policy in place before you need it and to take legal advice

Failing to manage performance can also have a broader ‘bad apple’ effect - if you don’t deal with one then it sets a precedent that others may follow. Problem gets bigger and harder to solve.

Many advisers fail to read their contracts and don’t realise they have non-compete restrictions in place, so aren’t even employable.

Strategically running a business is very different skillset to giving financial advice. Strong firms are often those who bring in someone – perhaps outside the industry – to run the business, nothing to do with giving advice.  In the very least, consider appointing a sounding board, mentor or NED to keep things under control and offer a fresh perspective.

 Attitude and work ethic

Apprentice schemes mean you can spot potential and high calibre people earlier on but the onus is not entirely on you to support their development (splitting the load).

One the one hand it allows the firm to grow and mould their own talent, if they have the time and resources to manage that. But it can also be an element of “pot luck” with grads and apprenticeships. Need to be absolutely clear that the expectations on both sides are clear, aligned and measurable to avoid time being wasted on both sides.

Use social media to appeal to younger people.

One the one hand it allows the firm to grow and mould their own talent, if they have the time and resources to manage that. But it can also be an element of “pot luck” with grads and apprenticeships. Need to be absolutely clear that the expectations on both sides are clear, aligned and measurable to avoid time being wasted on both sides.

Advice firms could benefit from looking outside the industry to bring in fresh talent that might have excellent transferable skills that reflect the way the profession is moving.

E.g. the Hospitality sector is a good untapped source of talent as their mindset is about satisfying customer requirements. 'Might be better trying to convert someone who is a concierge at a 5* hotel than someone who works at a life company'.

 Key takeaways:

  • Identify your particular strengths, USPs, culture & values (eg local league tables, employer rankings): why should someone come and work for you? Are you living your values in the way you behave and treat employees, or are they just written on the wall?
  • Join forces with other firms in your region to split the cost of technical training, or onboarding/ development programmes. Find a third-party sponsor or facilitator to bring it together.
  • Work with an HR consultancy who understands your business, on a regular or ad hoc basis, to develop good employment policies, support your recruitment, reward strategy, engagement, performance management etc. Invest in the right support for your biggest asset.