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Nurturing & retaining talent in your firm

17th Apr 2023
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Skills shortages are a serious concern for all businesses currently. Many businesses are competing with one another for the finest talent out there and other businesses find themselves losing staff as they look for different opportunities. The accountancy profession is no different, and firms must think creatively about how to establish and maintain an environment that attracts and retains exceptional colleagues. Nurturing junior talent and creating a dynamic work environment is a clear way to mitigate these challenges. 

Nurturing & retaining talent in your firm | Futrli by Sage | Image of Tom Jamison and a quote from article
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Futrli by Sage content writer, Daniel Heathcote, has caught up with Tom Jamison, Managing Director of Abbeygate Accountancy, to discuss some of the ways advisory-focused firms can make their practice an exciting and dynamic environment to ensure colleague retention. 

 

Tom’s background 

Tom is not an accountant by trade. His early career began in commercial relationship banking. During this time, he honed his skills in building client relationships. Following a career break in 2018, he acquired a third of an accountancy practice, Abbeygate Accountancy. He decided to use the skills he had learned in commercial banking in the world of advisory to create a truly client-focused firm. 

 

The Abbeygate Approach 

Abbeygate’s approach is centred on building strong relationships with clients through frequent and personalised conversations. They prioritise a service-driven approach with regular engagement. However, finding the right talent to balance compliance with client relationship management has been a challenge for the firm. They aim to hire individuals who can excel in both areas. 

One way that they get around this challenge is by cultivating their own staff to be both excellent data-driven accountants and relationship-focused advisors. They focus on early career colleagues. Tom’s youngest apprentice is just 17 years old. By concentrating on early career colleagues, Tom has been able to nurture and develop his colleagues’ skills over several years. 

At Abbeygate, they encourage exemplary working habits and develop individuals to have both the technical acumen to succeed in advisory and the personal skills for great relationship accountancy. 

 

How does Abbeygate keep colleagues engaged? 

I get them to pick up the phone. It’s as simple as that. When I speak to and engage with other people in our industry, sometimes they say, ‘when I was a trainee, I wasn't allowed to touch the phone.’ I had no client contact for the first two years. 

Getting colleagues in front of clients and performing basic project-based tasks is not only a challenge (who likes answering the phone, right?) but gets junior colleagues building client relationships. 

This doesn’t mean that they are going to have all the answers to queries, but they build confidence and learn about their clients’ issues. They find out what’s going well, and what isn’t. They don’t need to have an accounting-led compliance conversation but are building those little-and-often touchpoints with clients. 

Of course, from there you also need to develop compliance knowledge too. But for Tom and the Abbeygate team the early stage is all about communication. Communication first, compliance second. That might sound upside down, but Tom suggests that there can be challenges the other way around. If people get straight into the trenches of compliance, get two years down the line, it then becomes difficult to try and introduce communication and to learn how to deal with people is a much bigger shift. 

 

How does this affect your firm? 

 Firms that operate with traditional hierarchal structures can suffer from bottlenecks. All the communication is feeding from the top people because others haven’t been taught to communicate with clients.

Instead, Tom delegates to his junior colleagues. For example, he will hand over a set of accounts to a new colleague, ask them to review it and communicate their findings back to the client. Of course, he’ll review to check everything is in order, but new colleagues are trusted to make those important communication connections. By empowering colleagues you create an environment that is exciting and dynamic… ambitious colleagues will want to stay because of all of the fascinating opportunities you keep throwing their way! 

Empowering junior colleagues to work in these client-facing roles ensures that work isn’t just tied up with a few senior members of the team. Technology can help facilitate opening this work to other members of the team.  

Friend of Futrli, and Director of Accounts and Legal, Stuart Hurst, has found ways of using technology to break those bottlenecks: 

When I speak to other firms, there is sometimes a bottleneck as you've got one person that is the advisor. This slows things down. Futrli has enabled us to have 30 of our 50 staff who can deliver some form of advice. It’s really important to ensure that this work isn’t just stuck with us but opened to the team.

Stuart Hurst, Director, Accounts and Legal

 

At Futrli, we are proud to be breaking down those barriers to effective advisory and helping empower early career colleagues. We offer the ultimate advisory platform, perfect for green advisors and seasoned veterans. Using thousands of algorithms that process clients’ financials we have democratised advisory. 

See for yourself and have a free 14 day trial on us.