Cathi Harrison looks to rock industry with new company – The Art of Finance
7 February 2019
Just as Cathi Harrison sought to break the compliance firm mould with the launch of Apricity, she tells Rob Kingsbury about how she is bringing a fresh approach to the way the financial services industry as a whole attracts and develops new talent – starting with paraplanning.
Cathi Harrison, managing director of outsourced paraplanning firm Para-Sols and compliance company Apricity, is launching a new company, The Art of Finance, as well as creating an umbrella company for her four businesses – The Verve Group
The Art of Finance is set to bring a fresh approach to the way financial services attracts and develops new talent, just as Apricity has sought to break the mould in the area of compliance, Harrison says.
It has a two mission strategy. The first is to train and develop new talent for the financial services industry, helping to deliver skilled people into specific areas, starting with paraplanning.
The second mission is to help to significantly raise the profile of financial services outside of the industry, showcasing it as an exciting career destination and profiling the myriad roles available.
The Art of Finance will provide training and development in “an innovative and vibrant environment”, Harrison says. The first course to run will be The Art of Paraplanning, a 20-month course, which will take candidates through to Level 4 diploma, “as well as give them the practical skills a good paraplanner needs.”
The first cohort of paraplanning trainees will start the course on 29 April 2019. There will be 10 places available. The second cohort, expected to be 20 places, will be taken on in October. Thereafter there will be two intakes per year, with demand driving the potential numbers.
“I’ve had a lot of advisers come to me and say they simply don’t have a training structure for their trainee paraplanners to give them the skills that they need. This will provide them with what they want and take the pressure off them,” Harrison says.
In line with Harrison’s determination to drive positive change in the industry, the courses will be matched to the candidates’ learning preferences and styles, including online modules, webinars, MP3 downloads and face-to-face training.
Harrison points out that the Art of Finance initiative is not just about paraplanning but will expand to offer courses in a range of different areas of financial services. The next obvious choice would be The Art of Compliance, drawing on Apricity’s already formulated training programme. Beyond that Harrison says she “has lots of ideas”.
The course is distinct from The Grad Scheme, Harrison’s existing training programme which brings in graduate trainees to Para-Sols and Apricity. The Art of Finance will be wider sweeping, intent on attracting and developing new recruits to financial services as a whole.
“Our external mission is to lobby and raise awareness of the range of opportunities that exist within financial services, to shine a light on it for school/college leavers and graduates. But as well as making people outside of the industry more aware of what’s available as a career, when they’ve found something they are interested in, it’s about opening up a route into it, which before now they may have struggled with.”
Art not a science
The brand, Art of Finance,was carefully chosen to reflect financial services as an art form rather than a science, says Natalie Bell, the company’s Director of Culture & Engagement, with all the intonations of being colourful and creative – “the things that don’t normally spring to mind when people think about financial services.”
Harrison says she first wrote down the concept in 2013, “but running Para-Sols, launching Apricity and having a baby meant there simply wasn’t the resource or the time to launch it. Now within the businesses we have hit our stride with specific teams like marketing and sales in place and I can dedicate the time to do it.
“It’s something I feel is desperately needed in the financial services industry. It’s about pushing and developing financial services by making people aware of the opportunities and career paths they can chose from within it.”
“The more people we can get to join the industry the more we can all benefit. And once new people join they will tell other people and hopefully we’ll start attracting more and more people into the industry – including the paraplanning profession.”
Umbrella company – The Verve Group
At the same time, Harrison and her team are bringing Para-Sols, Apricity, the Grad Scheme and The Art of Finance brands under one umbrella company, The Verve Group.
Bell says the name came from a determination to change the perception of financial services as a grey, technically-orientated industry, dominated by middle-aged men in grey suits. “We wanted something that conveyed colour and energy and everything we think financials services could be.”
Harrison says bringing all the businesses under The Verve Group will give the overall firm a greater cohesion in terms of the overall proposition, as well as benefitting the individual businesses in areas like marketing and sales. “Coming under one group will help make our messaging stronger and clearer and also help us to resonate with the adviser firms we are trying to reach.”
Bell adds that it provides a wider platform from which to lobby for change.
“It’s about being innovative, challenging perceptions and trying new approaches. Hopefully that will have an impact on other businesses who will be encouraged to try new things and create new services,” Harrison says.
“When I joined paraplanning it was a relatively new career and there was a lot of sharing and a real feeling that you could influence how it progressed, which was very exciting.
“Now I feel we’re in a similar place, we’re seeing an openness to new ideas and different ways of working coming in with the NextGen advisers. It is such an exciting time and it’s great to be part of that and keep driving things forward.”
On Twitter at: @ArtofFinanceUK and @GroupVerve
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