First published by Financial Reporter
It’s fair to say that the market is buoyant and I suspect many broker firms are peddling hard to ensure they satisfy the level of demand for advice they are seeing and turn that demand into completions and income.
At such busy times, it obviously makes sense to review the level of resources you have within the firm – from our own perspective, we’ve seen a growing number of Stonebridge AR members contemplating what the best method is to meet the demand. That may seem as simple as recruiting more advisers or it may be organisational and administrative changes that free up the existing advisers’ time and deliver increased productivity.
Now, both options seem easy routes to follow, but (as we all know) these are highly unusual times and, you would not be human if you were not considering what the future might bring, and whether the decisions you make right now – particularly if increasing your cost base – may turn out to be the wrong ones if we experience a dip in business volumes next year.
For what it’s worth, my view has been consistent throughout this period – the anticipation is that up until the end of this year, and into Q1 2021, business is likely to remain strong. The cessation of the stamp duty holiday period – on the 31st March 2021 – looks like something of a line in the sand, however it’s of course possible that the Government will extend that scheme to soften the impact of the otherwise inevitable cliff-edge.
Looking at 2021 as a whole, the view we have been hearing from many lenders is that they anticipate the year looking much like 2019 in terms of activity and volume. If that does pan out as anticipated, then I think many in the industry will be happy with that outcome.
While there might be some short-term anxiety about investing in your infrastructure and increasing staffing levels now, taking a more medium- to long-term view makes the case for greater levels of recruitment more compelling. Certainly, I’ve yet to meet an broker firm owner who is not looking to up their advisers’ client numbers and annual income.
That being the case, organic growth in advisory firms is a significant and growing trend from a Stonebridge perspective. During September our overall adviser numbers increased by 24 – 13 of those were advisers joining existing member firms, and our Onboarding Team is spending more time working with firms in order to help them bring on board new recruits – most of whom leave other brokers and networks to join us with substantial experience.
For many, recruiting advisers – particularly at the moment – may be a case of easier said than done. Our Head of Recruitment, Hayley Stansfield, has outlined how competitive a market it is for both firms and candidates alike. She says: “Firms mainly fall into two categories, those needing to recruit to satisfy consumer demand and firms with a desire to grow organically. Understanding the short-, medium- and long-term strategies are key to supporting a firm’s expansion plans. During uncertain times, working with a network agile enough to adapt processes quickly is invaluable. Having the capability to redeploy resources to streamline the ‘onboarding’ process is fundamental to securing a good candidate.”
This is an interesting point and perhaps gives an insight into why firms look to their network principal to help with their recruitment – supporting them in terms of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of why they need to recruit, what they are looking for, what the job description should look like, the methods to advertise the role(s), interview support, contracts, remuneration models and so on, but also their need in terms of what happens when they have made the appointment to aid retention.
In these times, as Hayley mentions, speed is often of the essence and firms want their advisers’ induction and training courses at the ready, they want their new adviser comfortable within the role, knowing their responsibilities and the way the company works as quickly as possible, and essentially, they want that adviser working with clients as soon as possible.
Again, even without the current situation, this can be tricky, but like the other leading networks we’ve developed a system – via our platform, Revolution – which gives them clarity and allows the adviser concerned to hit the ground running. Of course, with greater levels of remote working, we’ve had to incorporate additional layers of support in terms of interactions through video conferencing, and the like, but we’ve proven it can be done. Which is perhaps why our firms are increasingly looking to us to work with them through their recruitment needs to achieve successful and sustainable outcomes.
Overall, it’s clearly a positive that many more firms want to grow and add advisers to their business. It proves the market is in good shape. However, it’s completely natural to carefully consider the potential pitfalls too – this is where having a quality network to ‘fall back on’ and to provide views, guidance and support, can make all the difference. If you’ve got access to that, then use it.
Rob Clifford, Chief Executive of Stonebridge