The Importance of Apprentices in the Finance Industry

By Ben Rowland, Co-Founder, Arch Apprentices

Fintech has been particularly hit by the digital skills gap. The fast-paced and quickly evolving nature of the industry means that within just a few years, new specialisms have grown, but without the right people to work those specialist roles. Growing Fintech business, Liberis, are all too familiar with the struggle to recruit. They provide loans for SMEs and ‘high-risk’ companies, which are then paid back through card terminals, enabling them to pay back while they earn. Despite their product being unique, the market is flooded by alternative lenders and high-quality products.

Ben Rowland
Ben Rowland

In order to remain industry leading, they realised that they needed to invest in digital skills. They chose to do this through apprenticeships as they believed it was the best way to build the workforce that was going to future-proof them against their competitors.

Fintech and apprenticeships

The rest of the finance industry hasn’t necessarily followed suit. Primarily the big banks have been spear-heading apprenticeships whilst other financial services are yet to adopt apprentices within their recruitment strategy. Joanne Tripp, Head of HR at Liberis believes that this is due to Fintech’s constantly changing outlook, with line managers believing that they don’t have enough time to train an apprentice. However, she said that “as someone with 20 years’ experience in HR, that’s simply not true”. While it requires some investment as a manager, it pays off once you’ve developed an individual that has been moulded to meet the needs within your team and is an ambassador for your company.

Businesses can often get wrapped up in the idea that they should only hire apprentices who can do industry-specific roles, rather than looking in other departments, like HR or IT. Liberis bucked that trend, deciding to take on apprentices within their IT and marketing departments as that’s where they found they needed to invest in skills. Joanne believes that apprenticeships are a great way to source this raw talent, particularly talent with native digital skills, which are essential to closing the emerging skills gap.

How should Fintech businesses begin their apprenticeship journey?

Joanne’s top tip for bringing in an apprentice is to make sure that you set up an internal apprenticeship scheme that helps welcome people into the business. It’s important to consider that, especially with young people, they may not have any experience of the working world. They may need help with tasks that you take for granted like diary management, timekeeping or how to communicate professionally. By ensuring there’s a structure in place for them, it brings out the best in the individual and allows them to flourish in an environment they’re comfortable in.

Joanne believes that while apprenticeships haven’t had the opportunity to change the landscape of finance yet, the Apprenticeship Levy will be the catalyst to shift how the industry views apprenticeships and talent acquisition.

What’s the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Apprenticeship Levy is a scheme implemented in April 2017 by the Government to encourage businesses to invest more in developing the skills needed for the future of the UK economy. Companies with a payroll of over £3 million pay 0.5% of their annual payroll, which is then returned as electronic vouchers that they can only spend on apprenticeship training with an approved training provider. Due to apprentices now being funded by levy-paying employers rather than the Government, the strict funding rules implemented by Government have been disbanded, opening up apprenticeships to anyone of any age as long as they don’t hold a higher qualification in the same industry as the apprenticeship they want to study.

Joanne thinks that the levy has the potential to make a big impact on the finance industry, but it won’t be given the chance until businesses get to grips with it. A challenge that she’s found with the levy is the lack of advice and education around it, meaning that Joanne, and others like her, didn’t initially know she could put existing staff on programmes.

Apprenticeships offer a solution

By hiring apprentices, an organisation can combat the growing skills gap facing their industry. It is particularly important for the finance industry to combat their digital skills shortage as the function becomes ever more digitally focused.

As new technology is introduced and ways of working change, apprenticeships offer a flexible and agile solution. Not confined by out-dated curriculum, Standards are made by employers for employers through trailblazer groups. This means that all programme content is relevant and up-to-date. Employers are not restricted to hiring 16-19-year-old and can train their staff in new and developing skills to stay ahead of the curve.

The apprenticeship levy has awoken many employers to the possibilities that apprenticeships hold but, as Joanne said, it will simply take time.Companies are being more strategic in their hiring of apprentices and are beginning to include it in their wider recruitment approach. While Fintech still has a long way to go to reap the full benefits that apprenticeships can bring to the industry, the levy will be the catalyst to make the change that is needed.

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