The number of job vacancies in the three months to August passed one million, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the first time it has ever passed this level, with vacancies jumping by more than a third on the previous quarter.
It has led some recruitment firms to describe the current jobs market as the busiest they have ever seen.
And while a host of brokers told Mortgage Solutions last week that the National Insurance rise may make them a little more cautious about expanding their teams, in many cases ambitious growth plans among advisers remain.
Getting our hands dirty
Rhys Pickford, managing director of Peak Mortgages and Protection, argued that recruitment has got harder over the past year. He noted that a year ago, filling spots was more straightforward as there were many disgruntled advisers who were being put on furlough or were unclear of the support they would receive during the pandemic from their employers, and so were only too keen to move to a new business.
However, the rosy health of the housing market since then has actually made recruitment harder, according to Pickford.
“Now everyone is so busy, if they leave they would be stepping away from a pipeline of business. And even if you get them to say yes, the corporates are then chucking money at them to stay. We have had new people join in the last few months, and their old employers were fighting tooth and nail to keep them. We had to get our hands dirty, network on LinkedIn, things like that. There are good candidates out there but you have to fight for them,” he added.
Sami Bickford, managing director of The Equity Release Lady, said that her firm had spoken with around 15 advisers of late in order to fill its advice roles, and noted there were a lot of people employed within financial services who were keen to transition into becoming self-employed advisers.
She added: “Also with lots of high street bank branches closing down, or making redundancies, there are large numbers of excellent advisers currently exploring their options for their future.”
Andy Wilson, founder of Andy Wilson Financial Services, said that his firm is taking on a new self-employed adviser shortly, and suggested that this employment structure was better from a liability and payment point of view, alongside reducing the level of business administration involved.
He added: “This is an adviser I have known for many years, who I trust to deliver an ethical and professional service to our clients in the same way that we already do. This recruitment method – sourcing experienced advisers who have previously come through a lengthy period working for a bank or building society – reflects my own history, and so far it has worked well.”
Wilson emphasised that it was crucial to find advisers with a wide range of experiences, who understood how clients are likely feel going through an application, adding: “I would not look favourably on any applicant who has moved around the industry frequently, always chasing the greener grass in a new firm. They offer no long-term benefit to the business and are often in it for the wrong reasons.”
Do you know how to build a client bank?
Sarah Parkin, director at Holly Beck Finance, explained that all of the advisers at her firm work on a self-employed basis, and said they had been attracted by the administrative support on offer as well as the commissions, meaning they could get on with writing business without having to deal with the post-sale processing.
“All have worked on a self-employed basis before and understand the work needed to build a successful client bank. Those advisers who are used to the corporate world of being drip fed leads don’t tend to knock on our door, and we don’t knock on theirs. We tend to recruit through our network, rather than consultancy firms or advertisements,” she added.
I want support
Pickford pointed to estate agents as providing a “fertile ground” for quality candidates, noting that many advisers who work for agencies find themselves “fed up of being part of the estate agency machine”.
He continued: “Lots of brokers want to leave that environment ‒ they can’t be bothered with dealing with the drama, and the added scrutiny that comes from an agency. These agencies often have a good academy set up for advisers, but once they are up and running they are left to it and there’s no support network. We can offer them something different, and make them feel a little more at home.”
The importance of offering support was echoed by Parkin, who said that the changing criteria and additional underwriting that has become commonplace since the pandemic had placed a bigger administrative burden on advisers. As a result, they are keen to find roles where they will be supported post-sale to get the mortgage completed and paid.
Parkin added: “We’ve had an exceptionally busy year, so we are looking at recruiting further within our administrative team, but we’ll see how the year plays out and make some decisions early next year. We have got an inbox of CVs, again, many of whom are recommended from existing staff, so we’ll hopefully be able to find the right candidate once again from our network and colleagues.”
The need to understand recruits
Wilson noted that his network, Tenet, offers a recruitment service where it will handle much of the process for its appointed representative members, though he has no plans to ever use it.
“I prefer to know and have personal contact with the people I recruit, and would regard the process via the network as akin to a recruitment agency but without the cost,” he added. “If I was building a team of 10-20 advisers then support on recruitment would be vital and I guess the network offer would then come into its own. There will be very few good quality advisers all looking to find new employment at the same time in my area. However, I have no ambition to grow in this way.”
Bringing in fresh blood
Bickford noted that her firm had also had a lot of applicants get in touch who were looking to retrain within the industry.
“This is something we can offer support and guidance with, however perhaps the market could so something to help and encourage new advisers with their start up self-employed business,” she continued.
Pickford agreed that it was important for the mortgage advice industry to continue to attract fresh blood.
He said: “We can’t just nick staff from the big corporates ‒ we have to develop our own talent as well. Ask people who work in a bank branch what job they want, and they will all say mortgage adviser, but the banks aren’t offering them that chance. Coming to someone like us gives them that route ‒ we probably get a message every couple of weeks from someone who might be an admin somewhere asking about whether there are any trainee programmes. People are desperate to get into this industry.”