“Through the Looking Glass” – Episode 1: Quantum Advisory

Cardiff Capital Region

Welcome to the first in CCR's series of looking at the day to day impact the Coronavirus is having on a selection of businesses within the region through the different perspectives of both a newly appointed graduate and their respective managers.

Our first feature covers Quantum Advisoryan independent financial services consultancy that provides solution based pension and employee benefit services to employers, scheme trustees and members – and are one of many organisations in the CCR  who are  doing their very best to maintain business as usual in these unprecedented times.

We spoke to Suzy Lloyd, Financial Controller about the challenges the Coronavirus “lockdown” has presented to Quantum Advisory.

Suzy told us:

We were expecting it, and our Business Continuity activity was actively engaged in planning for it, but despite that, the speed of implementation was a challenge. Getting over 100 people set up at home within a day or two isn’t plain sailing especially as some, without business laptops, even had to come and collect their desktop computers and chairs!”

Along with every  IT department in the country, Quantum Advisory’s IT team also had the challenge of getting remote access sorted for everyone, getting the whole team briefed on using networking tools such as Teams, downloading conference calling apps like Zoom, through to sorting out diverting all landlines to mobiles.

With regard to how Quantum Advisory is addressing the very real need to keep spirits up, maintain motivation and deal with the potential issues around mental health all of which we know can be exacerbated by periods of isolation and lack of companionship, Suzy told us:

“We are doing our very best to keep everyone engaged and inject a bit of fun into the way we work. We have weekly team calls using Zoom, we have a WhatsApp group to keep the little day to day conversations flowing. Our investment team are even having team lunches – where everyone dials in and has a chat over lunch.

We are also placing more emphasis on phone calls – making sure we talk to each every day and stop the temptation to overuse email just because it’s easier.”

Another thing Quantum Advisory is actively looking at is personality types and how that affects communication preferences. Having invested in Myers Brigs profiling for each employee, they are now looking actively at how they use that to make sure everyone in the team is communicated with in a manner that suits their style and preference. This is laudable and a fabulous example of putting investment in people development to good use in difficult times.

Finally with regard to their recent employment of Toni Edwards through the CCR Graduate scheme and how they are finding remotely managing a newly recruited graduate in these difficult times, Suzy said:

“Toni has adapted really well to the changing environment and her appointment has given us much needed extra capacity in a period where tasks are taking longer, whilst we all adjust to the new modus operandi. Using technology to communicate comes second nature to Toni’s generation so she has had no issues at all with all the new tools we are having to use.

We find Microsoft Teams and the ability to share screens works fine to discuss work related questions so there are no issues with us progressing tasks together or indeed with regard to on the job learning and development.”

When asked if Quantum Advisory would be recruiting any more graduates in the short term, Suzy said;

We would not rule it out. If the crisis goes on for months and we need to recruit, our experience of working with the CCR graduate programme and working with Toni in particular, seeing the value she has been able to add to our business despite the difficult times we are having, means we would definitely consider another graduate an option.”

We also spoke to Toni about the challenges of being a newly recruited graduate in a business that has had to shift from being office based to home based within six weeks of taking up her new role.

On how the role came about Toni told us:

“My manager mentioned the Graduate Scheme and I thought it sounded like a great idea, it’s all about keeping the graduates from Welsh universities in Wales and being Welsh myself that’s something I’m passionate about. My boss explained that it’s helping the region to get jobs and then retain them. I studied Accounting and Finance at Cardiff University so I wanted to get a job in an Accountancy Firm and hopefully stay local. It’s also been good to meet the other graduates and get the qualification”.

So you were not working for the Quantum Advisory for very long before the onset of the Coronavirus, has that changed your working life?

“I started on 4th February and started working from home on 23rd March I believe. It’s been a change for everyone, we have flexible working hours so now I’m working from home I usually start around 8am as I’m up and then I can finish earlier than I would normally. They asked everybody if they had the means to work from home, I had a laptop so it was fine and if you didn’t then the company would provide one for you. We have a works app, you login remotely and then it’s basically the same as working in the office, so not really a huge change”.

Do you prefer working from home or do you miss the office environment, especially being quite new to the role and the working world as a whole?

“It just means a lot more email contact rather than being able to just talk to people where the answers are instant. I prefer working from the office as I am still learning and at my stage I think that face-to-face contact, especially in terms of feedback is better. There is a lot of trust involved and it’s good that they do seem to trust me. We have a works WhatsApp so we can all stay in contact which is a big help. We also play a game on there to lift people’s spirits, ‘Through the Q Hole’, where everybody shows a picture or short video of their house and we have to guess which member of the team lives there. Little things like that make a big difference with everything that’s going on. We also use Microsoft Teams and are trying out Zoom for meetings so we are all still very much in contact”.

What does the future hold for you?

“Well I’m hoping nothing changes too much. I am waiting to hear when the ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management) will commence ND. Quantum is paying for my ACA qualification to be a Chartered Accountant which will hopefully still start after my probationary period. It’s really good that they offer that and I’m excited about making a start on the next chapter of my career”.

Finally, if you are evaluating your capacity and need any further resource to manage at this time, the Cardiff Capital Region Graduate Scheme may be able to help. The Scheme can provide a free and streamlined recruitment service that can match your immediate resourcing needs to high-skilled graduate talent in the region.

If you are interested in finding out more please get in touch with either laura.carter@cardiff.gov.uk or Geraldine.OSullivan@cardiff.gov.uk.