A mix of freelancers and part-time workers have been instrumental in making independent research firm Edison a success, Neil Shah tells 2to3days.
Investment research firm Edison Group believes in doing things differently. Its model of providing business-commissioned research is thriving under MiFID II regulation on financial markets, while its employment model offers a flexible approach rare in City firms.
Since its inception in 2003, Edison has offered its analysts flexibility in how and when they work. “It’s a core part of Edison’s value proposition,” says Director of Research Neil Shah.
“When we started we needed to be innovative. We took on freelancers who were typically mums who had stepped away from city careers and didn’t want to go back to 7am-9pm full-time roles and not see their families.”
The approach has been hugely successful. “We have been struck by the positivity exuded by people who have this as part of what they do but not the entirety. It rubs off on the whole firm.”
Shah adds that flexible workers tend to be highly efficient and having people with a portfolio of different things brings a ‘creative spark’ to the office floor. “Flexibility is not a small part of the firm’s strategy, it’s a core part of our success.”
Of 120 staff members, around 40 people work part-time – ranging from freelancers to those working two, three or four days a week.
Edison’s analysts cover a wide range of industries and companies – currently the firm is looking for analysts in technology, financials, real estate, investment trusts, mining, healthcare, oil & gas and fintech, as well as supervisory roles.
The company set out to be independent of traditional conflicts of interest in banking. Its business-funded model has gained further traction since the financial crisis and growing European regulation in this area. In the first quarter of 2018 business expanded by 10% and the second quarter is on track for similar growth.
While a team of senior analysts manages each sector on a day to day basis, all analysts report to Shah. “Everyone is different,” he says. “In our initial meeting I try and get an understanding of what they are looking for – some people are hungry to get on and are willing to offer three days, others may be at the point where their child has just started nursery, they aren’t sure how it will go and want to start gently.”
Eventually the business aims to have all analysts covering at least five stocks, but this happens over time and is tailored to an individual’s capacity.
Those working flexibly are not left to their own devices. Initially, Shah suggests they come into the office regularly while they bed down in the role.
“We offer flexibility around that,” he says. “We try and get new joiners to develop a routine where they come in at least once a week to spend time with the team and build their network. As that develops it’s much more flexible. Most of my contact with some team members is by email or phone but I’ve got to know them well enough to do that.”
There is a strong team ethos. “If you can’t attend a meeting because of other commitments someone will try and step in and attend on your behalf. If you need someone to review a note before it goes to the editorial team someone will help.”
Shah adds that it is gratifying to see mums returning with low confidence and making a success of their careers. He cites one analyst who went on to a full-time role in asset management at UBS, while others have moved from freelancing at Edison to working part-time for the firm. “Other people like the flexibility and prefer to stay freelance.”
The flexibility offered by Edison is a source of real pride, says Shah. “It’s a key strength of our business. We care about the people working for us and they care about the work they do, which is the best thing for our clients.”
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