‘Energy, innovation and diversity is key when hiring new talent’

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Krishen Shah Ortus Secured Finance

Ortus Secured Finance’s new and unique accountancy graduate scheme is helping to improve both the financial expertise in the bridging industry and boost diversity. We talked to the company and its first graduate about how the scheme works and why more lenders should follow their lead.

Krishen Shah, pictured above, is the first to admit that the world of bridging and specialist finance was a bit of a mystery when he was considering career options after university.

“I knew a little bit about its funding role in the property sector but no it wasn’t something I was very knowledgeable about,” he says. “I have learned a lot more recently!”

That’s because Shah is the first graduate trainee in a new 3-year programme developed by Ortus Secured Finance.

“We have always tried to commit to the investment and development of our people, and we felt that creating a graduate scheme was a key next step for us as a company,” says Ortus marketing manager Nicola McCoosh. “We therefore went through the process to become an ICAEW – (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) – authorised employer and were delighted to recruit Krishen, our first accountancy graduate trainee at the beginning of the year.

The opportunity to train to become a chartered accountant with the ICAEW outside of an accountancy firm is relatively unusual and we are therefore extremely proud to be able to offer it.”

Indeed, Shah will continue his ICAEW ACA qualification path whilst on the graduate programme.

“I have already completed 6 ACA exams and I have 6 more to do! The latter ones are a bit harder,” says Shah. “But Ortus is funding my exams and my college time and is giving me the necessary time off to revise.”

Shah is no stranger to revision of course.

“I did economics at the University of Warwick,” he explains. “I did an internship with a Big Four accountancy firm in my second year and after graduating it was roles in auditing and accountancy that I was seeking. In fact, I worked in a small accountancy practice for about 5 months, but I didn’t feel the environment, or the role was right for me. The tasks were less general and wide-ranging. I wanted to do something that was more business related. That is why the Ortus scheme appealed to me so much.”

As part of the scheme Shah, apart from day-to-day accounting tasks, has been able to gain experience in a range of business departments at Ortus.

“My main focus is on the finance side and ensuring the loan book is up to date but just learning more about the property market has been a real eye opener for me,” Shah explains. “I’ve worked a little bit on the deals side and alongside our valuation teams and solicitors. I’m really enjoying the industry. It’s quite intense at times but that exposure to business development and acumen is something I like, wanted and am receiving.”

Shah says in return he has helped bring more ‘youthful energy’ to the business and encourages other finance graduates to take a look at the bridging sector.

“I am certainly likely to stay when my 3-year programme ends perhaps moving to the credit side of the company. However, at present I’m enjoying my role, the business and the industry which is also doing really well despite the pandemic,” he states. “I believe we will see more finance graduates coming to bridging in the months ahead.”

Shah especially encourages more entrants from diverse backgrounds into the industry.

“More diversity is a good thing in any industry,” he states. “It brings people with different outlooks, background and knowledge together. It helps the sector appeal to a wider range of clients and provides a deeper understanding of their needs and circumstances. It is important to have more diversity in bridging.”

McCoosh agrees that energy, innovation and diversity is key when hiring new talent such as graduates.

“Graduates bring a fresh perspective and innovation to the sector,” she states. “Innovation and thinking differently is one of our founding values at Ortus and so we always want to encourage a company culture of taking the initiative and thinking creatively.  A diverse workforce is an important part of this.  We have some colleagues who have been in financial services for decades; others who went straight into work from school and have developed amazing skills in the process; and others who joined Ortus from totally unrelated sectors.  We felt that recruiting a graduate relatively fresh from university was a logical next step.  We hope to see them question the way things work, suggest solutions and help to improve our processes.”

She believes that now is a prime time for graduates to enter the financial services industry and that lenders in the bridging sector need to facilitate the process for them.

“Financial services is thriving in the UK and is therefore an attractive career path for ambitious graduates wanting to establish themselves within the sector.

Graduate recruitment schemes are common within larger companies, but recent surveys have shown that SMEs are increasingly attractive to graduates who want to make a more noticeable impact on a business from day one,” she says. “Many companies fear that once graduates are trained, they will then leave and so deliver no return on the investment. However, according to a recent ISE survey, 72% of graduates remained working for the same firm 3 years after graduating and so having a strong graduate program is a fantastic way to nurture and retain talent within a business.”

She also believes that graduate schemes are a sure-fire way to future proof an organisation.

“Recruiting graduates can bring a new energy to the team, they generally have a habit for learning and often arrive with up-to-date technical skills particularly in areas like presentations, data analysis and IT and so with the proper support and training there is huge potential for them to develop into members of the leadership team,” she states.

“They also play a part in the wider economy. We see university as one of many ways in which young people can begin their career and, just like the experiences of people who choose different journeys, they have a huge role to play in the success of a business.

However, we also believe companies have a role to play in offering opportunities to people from a variety of backgrounds – and this includes graduates.”

It’s certainly working for Shah. “I feel my skills are being enhanced in this role,” he says.” I also enjoy the fast-paced working environment. If you are a financial graduate looking for exposure to a growing business sector, then come to bridging.”