It’s been a busy and exam-tastic start to the year so we thought it was about time we updated you on our some of our academic successes, including the progression of some of our grads from last years graduate programme.

* spoiler alert, some of them aren’t ‘grads’ anymore!*

As a business, we encourage everyone to realise their potential and help them strive forward with their careers. Recently, a lot of them have proved their resilience by sitting (and passing!) exams during what is also a very busy time at work. It’s amazing to watch them grow in skills and confidence and exceed their own personal expectations. So, humour us as we spend the next few paragraphs boasting about how awesome we think they are….

We’re only 3 months into 2018 and across the grads, they’ve already passed 5 exams towards their Level 4 Diploma (in Regulated Financial Planning) and them, together with the wider team, have another 9 booked in for the next upcoming months – that’s impressive, even if we do say so ourselves! It is great to see that even when we are at our busiest, they are still booking their exams and using what spare time they do have to revise.

We recently set up a study club on a morning (three times a week), so those who want to can come in early, grab some breakfast and get their head in the revising game before the day starts and in the spirit of ‘knowledge transfer’, the study club is supervised by a senior member of the team so that there’s always someone on hand to answer their queries. Many of them have taken up the opportunity and this in itself makes us smile from ear to ear.

We do have a couple of grads who have already had promotions which leads us nicely onto the next part of this blog…

Lee Hastie and Holly Johnson joined us in 2017 with no background in financial services but a tenacious attitude and a real eagerness to learn. Now half way towards their Diploma and consistently hitting their personal KPI’s, both have been promoted to Junior Paraplanners –  they reall y are superstar paraplanners in the making!

Then there’s those who’ve came out of the other side of The Grad Scheme.  Kate Hall joined us in Summer 2015 and this month completed her Diploma and is now a fully qualified Paraplanner. There’s also Rachael Wilson who joined us in Autumn 2016 and is not far behind Kate – just one last exam to pass before also becoming fully qualified!

And last but by no means least, Grant Callaghan who is our ultimate success story. Grant joined us as our very first intern recruit back in 2013 and since then has continued to come on leaps and bounds. He quickly secured his Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning and swiftly moved onto his Advanced Diploma – which he completed last month. His achievements don’t stop there, because in a few months time he will celebrate 5 years with us and will officially become Chartered. He’s a model Paraplanner and a wonderful mentor to our newest grads and it’s these qualities that secured him his most recent promotion to our Head of Paraplanning.

Seeing all of our grads embracing the world of financial services with such vigour makes us burst with pride every day. They’re hungry to learn and their enthusiasm is infectious, so it’s important that as employers, we continue to invest in them and manage out any challenges we face. It’s how we grow as business but above all else, it’s how we prosper as a profession.

We’ve been a little quiet on the blog front lately (sorry for that!), we’ve had a busy start to the year and you know how it is, weeks pass you by and the next thing you know you’re about to indulge in Easter…

As most of you will know, last year marked a huge turning point for Para-Sols. Our client list tipped over the 110 mark and we doubled the size of team in 12 months, a lot of which can be credited to us relaunching our graduate programme – The Grad Scheme – earlier that year. As with any expansion though, we certainly experienced some teething problems as we introduced new systems and processes, identified gaps in our training and just generally embedded new personalities into an already established culture.

Not ones to rest on our laurels and as great believers of only being ‘as good as your last report’, we focussed all our efforts into building up our learning and development framework for all the team (new and existing) and so that we always have an eye on our quality, introduced a new role which has seen our previous Head of Paraplanning, Jo Campbell, promoted to Director of Quality & Operations.

As well as a structure shuffle, Cathi, together our Director of Culture & Engagement Natalie Bell, also introduced a number of staff initiatives to make sure that the teams professional development didn’t take a back-seat when the day job got crazy busy.

“Encouraging personal growth runs at the core of everything we do. It may sound a bit of cliché, but we believe our role as employers is to encourage people to grow as individuals. Of course, when that happens we grow collectively as a business too” says Natalie Bell

At the end of last year, we put a temporary hold on onboarding new clients and have focussed the last 6 months on talent management alongside giving our existing client base some love and attention.

We’d be here until next week filling you in on all the finite detail of ‘how’, so in brief, here are some of the highlights…

  • designing and rolling-out our new report templates, making them much more user friendly and generally giving them a much fresher and modern look;
  • made the most of the down-time and closed the office for the first week back in January to deliver dedicated technical training across all levels of the business;
  • carried out a recruitment drive to build capacity in our ‘supporting roles’ so that our paraplanning team could maximise their time on the job at hand (more on that in a future blog);
  • launching a breakfast ‘Study Club’ for all staff so they have protected time, at least 3 times a week, dedicated to their studies with food available to fuel their mind and a senior member of the team on hand to answer questions;
    • sat, and passed, a record-breaking number of qualifications across January, February and March (see blog Exam-tastic Progress); and
  • bringing our Health & Wellbeing programme activity (such as step challenges, nutrition talks and setting up a running club) to the forefront to keep the inevitable Winter germs at bay and hold onto our sanity during the chaos.

It’s been an interesting year, and more recently, interesting few months but our leadership team have faced each challenge head-on and are feeling pretty proud of themselves for reaching this point still with a smile on their face and hair on their head (albeit with more grey). And although we’re not naive enough to think we’re walking into the sunset just yet, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting much brighter and as we head into Spring, we are seeing our efforts come to fruition.