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Exchange Street - In The News

In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her diamond jubilee, London will host the Olympics and the FSA will apply the principles set out in the retail distribution review. The overriding industry feeling is that improving the quality of advice will develop consistency in standards and ultimately engender a customer perception of professionalism.

The RDR addresses three key areas to achieve this:

- Improve the clarity for consumers of the characteristics of different service types and the distinctions between them.

- Reduce the conflicts of interest inherent in remuneration practices and improve transparency of the cost of all advisory services.

- Raise professional standards.

Like many businesses, financial services companies are dependent on suppliers to maintain a quality product. In order to provide a “service par excellence”, it stands to reason that the firm’s employees/service providers must be, well, excellent. Yet at a time where professional standards are regularly high on the agenda, many organisations seem willing to accept a below par recruitment service where neither professionalism nor standards are up to scratch.

Traditionally, financial planning providers and recruitment solutions providers have had many similarities. Quality of advice could vary wildly from company to company, as could the consultant’s experience and technical expertise. As a result, the FSA recognised that financial planning customers were disillusioned and demanded better. Through RDR, the FSA has committed to ensuring that these demands will be met.

When looking at the best way to use a recruitment service, advisers should consider clarity of service, how they will pay for that service, the professionalism of the recruitment partner and how to ensure they receive the best advice. This month we consider clarity of service and implementation.

Clarity of services

If you were to ask most employers what they were looking for from a recruitment consultancy, the primary desire would be to secure a time-efficient service that would add value to the internal process. Rather than acting as a CV sending service, the recruitment firm should pre-screen applications in relation to the role and develop ‘buy in’ to the employer with a view to presenting a shortlist of the most suitable candidates and identifying reasons as to why these individuals make the grade. This provisional selection process should ensure that the recruiting organisation will spend a minimum of time on the project, speaking to only the best candidates available.

Unfortunately, providing a value-added service such as this can often prove frustrating for the professional recruiter as many employers use numerous agencies with no service level agreement. By accepting batches of CVs where applicants have been neither pre-screened nor briefed on the role, while working on the basis that first introduction counts, employers are effectively rewarding recruiters who send every vaguely suitable candidate through immediately.

In many cases, a professional and focused recruiter can perform a high quality search and selection service on behalf of their client, only to find that their first choice candidate has already landed in the employer’s inbox among a batch of largely irrelevant CVs through the ‘first introduction’ policy of the client, leaving them with no chance of financial recompense.

Therein lies a commercial decision. Does the recruiter continue to offer a truly value adding service or simply send as many CVs as quickly as possible in the hope that one will prove useful?

Those who wish to employ the service of a recruitment consultancy must therefore decide prior to instructing potential providers as to whether they would like a “comprehensive and fair analysis” of relevant applicants or a non-advice-based CV distribution service.

Implementation

As with the RDR, the customer, or in this case the employer, is central to our pursuit of improvement. This could be an improvement in the service recruiters provide to organisations and giving a genuinely value-added outsourced solution, an improvement in the charging structure, which means applying the most suitable structure to the assignment or improvements to the standards that recruiters apply in meeting client requirements. How to bring about this change? As customers, you must demand it.

If you don’t want to receive the same CV from five different companies, demand that your providers speak to candidates about the role and receive consent to send their details. Demand that candidates are pre-screened in accordance with the job specification. Demand that the information provided is accurate and qualified. Demand that candidates are fully briefed and prepared for interview.

And if your demands are not met? Demand a different supplier.

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I am pleased to say that our experience of working with them has been first class. It is great to work with an agency that fully understands our business and the types of people we are looking to recruit.

Director, Cullen Financial Planning