The thinning tightrope

The level of staff attrition is rising, while lessors are
finding it harder to recruit staff with the right level of
experience and knowledge.

Even though there are many companies in the asset finance market
which have not been prompted by the economic climate to let go of
staff, increasing levels of staff attrition are a universal concern
acknowledged by recruiters and employers alike.

More than half of survey respondents admitted increased
attrition over the last three years, and five out of seven
recruitment agencies noted increased staff turnover rates across
the industry.

The impact of high attrition levels are being felt keenly since,
at present, for many lessors the priority in both front and back
office recruitment is to acquire credit and leasing experienced
staff – a situation made challenging by the shortage of such
experience sets on the recruitment market.

In the words of Colin Manning, director of Manning Solutions:
“The difficulty in replacing experienced staff is widely accepted,
and retaining good people becomes more and more important.”

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There are two issues to be addressed here. Firstly: what makes
staff leave companies of their own volition? Secondly: what
approaches are successful companies taking to prevent this from

In it to win it

The first question can be answered simply: people on the whole
leave companies because they are capable of getting better jobs

Also, many recruiters pointed to staff feeling there is a lack
of career prospects at the companies they are at. Comment from
recruiters could be best summed up by Matthew Winfield of MJM
Recruitment: “Companies are losing staff because those staff feel a
lack of internal promotion opportunity.”

Interviewees agreed that nearly all companies, apart from the
biggest banks, lacked well developed internal development policies.
Banks, on the other hand, traditionally provide the culture of jobs
for life and thus well developed internal promotion ladders.

Chris Kennedy, of Kennedy Richards Recruitment, however,
provided the argument that a certain amount of sideways movement of
staff between companies would dry up with an economic downturn,
predicting that increased caution in recruitment would keep people
staying in the safety of existing jobs.

Other respondents echoed these sentiments of more timid
recruitment to come, but is there any evidence of such a freeze at

Andrew Bullard, sales director of State Securities, thought not:
“The money is definitely there,” he said when asked about his staff
acquisition and retention policies, giving a clear message that for
many employers, there is to be no expense spared in the pursuit of
experienced staff. “This means we retain those who are confident in
their skills and want to earn significant bonuses,” he continued,
“not those who are simply switching companies for a small salary

This position was expressed by a number of other respondents:
that in an economically worsening environment, money may be a
greater draw than internal development opportunities in attracting
and keeping staff.

Findings revealed that companies are much more keen to increase
salaries to acquire shortage skills than to invest in training raw
recruits in those skills, due to the pressure to make immediate
returns on such investments.

High-tech lease broker Syscap is worth mentioning in its
divergence from common policy on this issue. Perhaps in response to
a high attrition rate among sales staff, its chief executive,
Philip White, revealed that “we spend 2.5 times the national
average on training and personal development, based on statistics
provided by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
(CIPD)” – an extremely forward thinking strategy given the current
atmosphere of immediate returns.

Human after all

A synthesis of the need to provide personal development
opportunities and the need to hire experienced staff with no
training expenditure can be found in the provision of flexible and
personally considered staff incentive programmes.

Neel Amin, of recruitment company New Leaf Search, summarised
the situation:“We are seeing the emergence of improved staff
retention policies undertaken by some of our clients in an attempt
to ring fence their key personnel.This is reflected by a 65 per
cent increase in the number of salary and benefits surveys we have
been instructed to conduct in the last 12 months as employers
attempt to market align their pay levels to attract and retain the
best staff.”

“Many employers are not being flexible enough” said Peter Haynes
of Jonathan Wren Recruitment. “Specialisation is certainly
important at this time, and companies must put consideration into
accommodating the personal specifications of candidates.”

This personal level of attention is summarised in the attached
table, with companies putting a lot of focus on flexibility and
personal wellbeing in their benefits programmes.

Recruiters across the board also reported a recent and
significant increase in counter offers following resignations of
experienced staff – a concrete indication that companies are taking
a much more personally flexible approach to retaining desirable

The findings presented also show that many asset finance
employers report a move towards localisation in company culture,
with morale boosting social events, recognition awards and
team-building exercises being organised on a regional level rather
than through central structures. This shift in corporate culture is
in stark contrast to cost efficiency moves by companies such as
Lombard, which recently relocated its entire sales force to a
central location.

Rapidly expanding leasing firm Close Asset Finance, which
recently consolidated all back office functions to one head office
while maintaining regional arms, provides a good example of the
compromise between the centralisation of company function and the
nurturing of local company culture.

In the words of Linda Fox, HR director: “These systems have
improved retention rates: people work for people, and the local
culture of our business keeps operational staff and their employees
close.We match strong local culture with high levels of central
support, and hopefully this will thrive in current market

This balancing of pressures in order to retain staff is
something that every asset finance company will have to find its
own solution to, and the tightrope will only become thinner as
economic conditions crystallise.


Fred Crawley