Firing line  

SJP Academy boss: We are using virtual reality to train future advisers

“The fact that we can deliver [the academy] through 22 locations rather than four, and also for people joining as advisers in particular – they can do this in our partner practices, sitting alongside the partners themselves, [which] means that we’ve suddenly got access to hundreds of offices,” says Payne.

“And it makes it so much easier for our new entrants... to access and also just tap into some of the expertise that sits around the company.”

Without the physical cap on recruitment numbers, the capacity to put people through the academy has now doubled to 400.

But Payne adds: “What we don’t want to do is have unwieldy cohorts where we can’t have that social interaction and cohesion. Our intakes are limited at the moment to around 20 per intake, so we’ve got capacity for around 400.

“That capacity will increase as we develop. We’ll flex the academy and the number of people that pass through the academy based on corporate need, but we’re not limiting ourselves to any specific targets.”

The Solihull academy, which Payne ran and “built from scratch” as its former head of business, brought around 40 second careerists a year as new partners into the fold. A former jockey, taxi driver and a former marine who had been equerry to a senior member of the Royal Family, were among Payne’s last intake as head of business.

What unifies them, however, are five attributes that the academy seeks in its selection process.

“A degree of resilience, and drive, is really important,” says Payne. “Personal impact you would expect, because we’re a relationship, face-to-face business. Empathy is a key component of what we look for – so the ability to empathise. And underpinning all of that is personal integrity.”

While enrolling in an adviser academy creates a deliberate career path into financial services, Payne describes his own route into the sector as something that happened “quite by chance”.

“I joined what was Midland Bank, now HSBC, as a management trainee. My rough plan at the time was a conventional route through banking.

“Just quite by chance I had an opportunity to spend a bit of time as an adviser, and thought that would be a great way of honing a new set of skills. That was about 27 years ago.

“And I’m still here now – just fell in love firstly with giving advice, and being part of that dynamic, and then running sales and development teams after that. It was a complete fluke but a happy one.”