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TrainingZone interviews: John Batten


Recently our sister site Sift Talent interviewed John Batten, senior development consultant at St. James's Place, about what the day-to-day life of a training department in financial services looks like.

Tell us about St. James’s Place and your role there.

John Batten I have been with St. James’s Place in the Partnership Development function for nine and a half years. Prior to joining, the majority of my career has been spent in financial services training roles. My role here is a split one. I have responsibility for a number of our development consultants and I also look after our LMS and the team which administers and builds elearning for that.

How do you manage your day?

My days are very varied. My role involves a degree of training delivery, but a lot of my time is dedicated to looking after members of the training team with one-to-ones or training observations. In addition I look after our remote media webinar-based programme and will spend time developing and promoting that. I also undertake ongoing project work around our LMS, data quality and the technological development of our offering. As such I need to be as organised as I can. I rely on prioritised to-do lists and my Outlook calendar to keep me on track.

What is the best productivity tip you have ever received?

I think for me I’ve picked up tips about being organised along the way. It starts with having discipline around to-do lists and making time to plan. I have a rolling to-do list and on a weekly basis I will review, rewrite and carry forward tasks. Keeping separate wallets of ‘work in progress’ makes it easier to switch from meeting to meeting, or task to task.

What advances would you like to see in L&D that would streamline your working process?

In terms of the advances we are already seeing and starting to exploit, we are making inroads into blended learning and remote learning. Our strategy over the next three to five years is to continue to develop that as a core element of our proposition. Historically we have had a classroom-based training culture but our audience is getting more geographically diverse and increasing in number, so we are looking to increase use of our LMS and web-based media.

We are seeing the benefits of cross-platform media. We are getting a huge amount of participation from our audience on the iPad.

As remote media and blended learning technology gets more embedded into everyone’s daily lives it opens up opportunities for us to have a wider reach and benefit from the efficiencies that brings in terms of cost savings, and reductions in trainer travelling time.

Do you see your industry moving towards mobile learning, like other industries seem to have done?

Yes I do. I think it’s the way the world is going and whilst the demographics of the financial services industry mean that the average age of a financial advisor is 50 plus, we are seeing greater uptake of opportunities to engage remotely.

What would be your essential features of the ideal LMS, and if you’d rather not use one, what would you use instead?

Ideally we would need an LMS that could accept a wide variety of data feeds and manage the diversity and difference in quality of those data feeds. We would need an LMS that was intuitive for learners and administrators to use and a system that was easily customised to our specific needs. At the other end we would need lots of customisable options for the reporting functions. Being a regulated business, security of data and systems is also of paramount importance.

The financial services industry often requires annual retesting, so a system that can manage licensing of advisers could be appropriate. A robust exam engine within an LMS would also be helpful. We also recognise the benefits of being able to track an advisor's CPD within the system and report on that, both to the advisor and to the business.

The LMS enables us to deploy CPD remote media, to generate reports for our internal processes, to monitor and manage an advisors’ progress towards the required number of hours and to share information with our management teams.

Can you tell me more about some of the work that the Partnership Development Team undertakes day to day?

There are five main elements to the work we do. We support induction of new partners in to the St. James’s place partnership; we offer support for partners working towards the CII Chartered level of qualification; we offer a number of skills courses; practice development training and finally technical development. Across the team we have some really strong technicians, and some really strong skills trainers. We play to individual’s strengths as much as possible to get the best outcomes for our audience. On a day-to-day basis we spend our time delivering training, developing new learning material and maintaining our existing content.

What key skills and strengths are you looking for in this role?

First and foremost we are looking for someone with excellent training delivery skills. They need to have the ability to adapt their approach to different audiences. Some of our audiences can be very experienced, time served and successful business people. Others are new entrants to the industry and therefore may require more of a hand-holding approach.

We are looking for someone able to inspire confidence in a room full of people and to carry that room and convey a message positively. Typically our classroom events are designed for around 15-20 people. They would also be required to have a financial services background.

What are some of the key behavioural attributes that are needed to be a success in this role?

We have a strong emphasis on a can-do culture here. Therefore, they would need a positive and proactive mind-set and attitude and would have to be flexible and resilient.

What are the opportunities for career development in this role?

There are opportunities for development within the role itself, through development of subject matter expertise. There are also opportunities to develop in terms of grade and remuneration. As a department, we are working towards all our trainers having CII Chartered status too, so we would support professional development with exam training and study leave as appropriate.

How would you describe the culture?

We are a business based on relationships and have a strong sense of doing the right thing. As a training function we support the partnership to help ensure that our clients are well looked after. Our advisers are regarded by their clients as trusted experts and therefore our efforts are aligned with maintaining that professional standard. We are a very client focused business.

For St. James’s Place our immediate clients are the St. James’s Place Partnership; professional advisers who have chosen to align their own businesses with ours. We offer the back office, regulatory and training support they need to run their business effectively and deliver excellent service to their clients.

St. James's Place is hiring for a Development Consultant. If you would like to join this FTSE 100 business please contact Jayne Florence directly on 0117 3144624 or via email For more info on opportunities through Sift Talent click here and for more info on St. James's Place have a look at this  

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