From its bright pink branding to its inclusive, collaborative culture, Shawbrook is not your average bank – or your average ACA training employer. Founded in Brentwood, Essex 12 years ago, it has grown quickly to employ 1,200 staff in seven locations across the country, including a large office in the City of London.
From the start, Shawbrook’s leadership team have strived to do things differently. There is no dress code. Staff enjoy a flexible, hybrid working pattern. The vibe is youthful and dynamic. “We don’t write down what our culture is or how we expect people to be,” explains Dylan Minto, Chief Financial Officer. “But the one thing we’ve always tried not to do is to become a mini big bank – that’s not what we are. As a result, I think it’s a place where younger colleagues find themselves more at home than they might elsewhere.”
From an external perspective, ACA holders within senior finance roles are held in high regard.
Offering ACA training is another thing that sets Shawbrook apart. “Some of the larger banks offer the ACA, but no one our size as far as we know, so it’s a way of differentiating ourselves from our competitors,” explains Matthew Hayes, Senior Finance Business Partner and the Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT) at Shawbrook. "From an external perspective, ACA holders within senior finance roles are held in high regard", adds Dylan, himself an ICAEW Fellow.
Shawbrook became an Authorised Training Employer in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2022 that Matthew proposed launching a dedicated graduate scheme. “We’d reached the size where we needed to get that feeder of home-grown talent into the business,” he explains. “It was a good way to get in a number of young, high-quality people in one go and help to grow our finance team. The idea was to create a rotational system where we could train people up and have them gain experience in all the different functions across finance. So after three years, you’ve got a fully qualified chartered accountant who knows a bit about financial planning and analysis, a bit about financial control, a bit about corporate development – and with all that experience specifically at Shawbrook.”
Over the three-year ACA Finance Programme, trainees spend six months in six different rotations in the Financial Control, Budgeting and Forecasting, Mergers and Acquisitions and Treasury teams. As well as a line manager within each function, they are assigned a mentor for the duration of their training. “They’re also integrated into the finance team, so they get involved in other ad hoc projects,” says Matthew. “They’re embraced by all of finance and supported wherever they can be. It seems to be working well for us.”
Taking advantage of the government’s Apprenticeship Levy by offering the ICAEW Level 7 Accountancy Professional apprenticeship made launching the scheme less of a risk for the business, Matthew explains. Shawbrook already had experience of apprenticeship programmes – its Thrive scheme trains school leavers in various areas within the bank – but for the finance team, it made sense to start with graduates. “The Level 7 qualification seemed a logical place to start,” Matthew says. “We’ll run this for a couple of years to see how it works out, refine the process, and then further down the line perhaps open it up to school leavers as well.”
It was the rotational programme at Shawbrook that really made me want to apply. Another thing that attracted me was the workplace culture – knowing that people are nice and that I would be able to fit in. I have no complaints so far!
Priyanka Patel is one of four trainees who joined Shawbrook’s first graduate intake in September 2022. For her, it was the rotational nature of the programme that really stood out when she was looking at opportunities after university. “Most of the schemes I saw at other banks and large firms were in just one sector, like tax,” she explains. “It was the rotational programme at Shawbrook that really made me want to apply. Another thing that attracted me was the workplace culture – knowing that people are nice and that I would be able to fit in. I have no complaints so far!”
The programme is open to graduates from any discipline; of the four who have joined so far, two have an engineering background and two, including Priyanka, a degree in accountancy and finance. Having just sat her first ACA Professional Level exam – her degree has given her exemptions from most of the Certificate Level modules – Priyanka says the support from those around her at work has made a real difference. “Before I went on study leave for the Audit and Assurance exam, I got in touch with someone who works in internal audit here and sat down with them to go through some things,” she explains. “It feels like everyone around us is happy to help. We have regular weekly catch-ups with our mentors, and as grads we tend to huddle together because we’re all going through the same thing. We support one another.”
We’ve had a lot of support from ICAEW. They made becoming authorised very straightforward, and since then there’s been a lot of support from their side with everything from posting job adverts to helping our students get up to speed with all the various bits and pieces they need to do to qualify.
Priyanka applied for her role through the ICAEW Training Vacancies platform – exclusive access to the platform is one of the benefits of being an Authorised Training Employer, and one that Shawbrook is making good use of, alongside recruiting via its own website and LinkedIn. "We’ve had a lot of support from ICAEW,” says Matthew. “They made becoming authorised very straightforward, and since then there’s been a lot of support from their side with everything from posting job adverts to helping our students get up to speed with all the various bits and pieces they need to do to qualify.”
Once qualified, the new chartered accountants will be offered permanent roles in the finance team – armed with real, hands-on experience of how the business operates, and plenty of prospects for the future. “Finance is at the heart of the bank,” says Dylan. “If you come to the end of the three years, you will have seen each and every part of what makes a bank tick – and you’ll have a clearer idea of where you want your career to go. The rotation allows our graduates to really get a 360-degree view of what’s available.”
Launching its bespoke graduate scheme has given Shawbrook the opportunity to grow its own high-calibre talent pool, one with the right skills and experience, and the backing of a respected global qualification. “It’s an exciting place to come and grow your career,” says Matthew. “Ultimately we’re building our finance team for the future. A lot of work and effort goes into training our graduates, but three years down the line they will form part of our finance team. And you never know, in 15 years’ time, they might be doing Dylan’s job.”
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