Nigel Speirs, the managing director of Quilter Private Client Advisers, who pioneered a graduate trainee scheme that revolutionised the financial planning industry, has regrets about not launching the scheme much earlier.
The former chief executive of Buckles, a Welsh financial practice he founded in 1987, says: “I certainly would have switched to graduates a lot earlier in life because that has proven to be a great way of growing a business. Having launched my financial services business in 1987, it was not until 2002 that we introduced our own graduate scheme.”
The scheme began with recruiting two young male advisers and training them for 12 months. One sadly died in an accident, but another graduate thrived, which convinced the firm to pursue the programme and recruit 12 graduates in total.
Since then Mr Speirs has moved more into the corporate world. In 2008, he sold his Buckles business to the South African financial services firm, Sanlam (the graduate scheme was some years later abolished). He is now at QPCA, the business set up by Quilter Plc, which was formerly called Old Mutual Wealth.
“At Sanlam and Quilter we built the graduate scheme even further. Of the 64 advisers we currently have at Quilter Private Client Advisers, 18 have come from the graduate scheme in three years.
“That injection of new [graduate] blood is something I am extremely proud of,” he says.
When he set up the graduate scheme at Buckles, “people kept moving from company to company and they would often leave their problems behind,” he explains. But employing graduates mitigates this problem as you create a more “loyal” team.
Mr Speirs’ most recent role is managing director for QPCA, but he is now stepping down. He will still act as vice-chairman of the QPCA board, starting from January 1 2019. He will be succeeded in the interim by Darren Sharkey, who has been appointed interim managing director.
Mr Spiers’ daughter, Sarah Waring, who entered the financial advice industry in 2005 upon graduating with a maths degree in the same year, will now become a client proposition director at QPCA, having been at the firm since 2017.
QPCA is part of the wider Intrinsic Network, which has a total of 3,000 advisers, including those external to Quilter.
Mr Speirs says the difference between QPCA and Intrinsic is that QPCA advises clients directly, while Intrinsic does not provide any direct advice. It provides the regulatory framework to ensure advisers are meeting their compliance obligations.
“I love building the business, but am not the best at corporate governance and answering to the very many corporate people that I have to. I think I am a little bit of a maverick. Probably all the reporting that I have to do is what I hate the most about my job,” says Mr Speirs.