Member Spotlight: Alastair Paterson of Marks Sattin

Attracting top talent is a major challenge for recruiters, not only in candidates, but in their own teams. National financial sector recruitment firm Marks Sattin understands how important it is to find the right candidate for their clients.

We spoke to head of the Reading branch Alastair Paterson about how choosing Work.Life was ‘the best decision [he’d] ever made’.

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So tell us a bit about Marks Sattin.

We are a private equity-owned finance and accountancy recruitment company that started in 1988. We’re probably one of the largest privately-held accountancy and finance recruiters in the UK. As well as Reading we have offices in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Dublin, and we’re looking at some potential new sites as well. The business employs 140 people, 110 of whom are fee-earners. We have been in Reading for 9 years and took up an office at Work.Life last year. We have 10 staff, with potentially more coming on board.

We’ve grown from strength to strength, with many top performers from our competition joining us.

Do you serve a particular career stage? 

It could be anybody coming from university looking to get into the world of accounting, whether in an accounting firm or corporate firm, through to chief financial officers. We cover everything in between that journey from entry into the industry to number one roles.

Each one of our team has a slightly different specialism whether looking at part-qualified, qualified, temp, perm. Also we cover things like tax which is obviously quite specialist, and change transformation projects. Most of the revenue comes from permanent placements but we are also pushing interim options far better now. Salaries can range from £22K for a grad to £250K for a CFO.

We’re sector-agnostic in terms of who we operate with. We’re lucky enough to partner with some of the best brands in the Thames Valley, companies like Johnson & Johnson, Mars and SONY, through to start-ups and boutiques that don’t have any finance and need help attracting talent.

How would you describe the Reading market?

It is a weird market – in a good way! The amount and variety of opportunities within Reading and Thames Valley are pretty immense. Plus salaries are very comparative to London, there isn’t much of a difference. And with Crossrail coming, it is changing perceptions of people not having to live in London any more. There is no shortage of jobs in Reading from an accountancy and finance perspective.

What are your main challenges?

From a brand perspective the challenge is trying to compete with those that are Reading-centric. We are a satellite office of a London company but we’re entering our 10th year next year so I think we’ve proved to be quite stoic in our approach.

But the hardest challenge in any kind of recruitment or sales business is staff – trying to attract people into a business there needs to be a nice setting and different things that are important. When I started it was a hefty bar tab on a Friday! Now it’s a gym and protein, so polar opposites to what it once was!

Work.Life has allowed us to offer something unique.

So on that topic, why was Work.Life a good fit for Marks Sattin? 

I’ve always considered myself to be quite creative. I went to London College of Fashion after a long, weird history (see later).

So, trying to find somewhere in Reading that wasn’t the same as everywhere else was imperative. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Testament to the fact we’ve hired 5 new staff this year, with a couple of others who are in process.

Recruitment is a social industry and you’ve got to be able to communicate, you’ve got to be inquisitive and it’s nice to be able to go up to anybody in here and learn a bit more about what they do, who they are, how they operate.

It’s also a great platform for hosting clients and events.

Also, nothing is too much trouble for staff here. For example, our office was the only office space available at the time. But there was a partition wall we were keen to knock through when a neighbouring office’s occupants left. I had a conversation with Luke [then-Work.Life Reading membership manager], and, when the time came, of course we had to pay for it, but it wasn’t an issue, it was done over a weekend.

I’m a big fan of people doing what they say they are going to do. One of the biggest frustrations with other serviced offices, and I’ve had my fair share over the years, is people saying they’ll get round to it, nothing’s ever done and you’re constantly chasing. But here you feel like a valued client.

So about that ‘long, weird history’?

I used to play semi pro-rugby under 21s for Saracens and played a game for New South Wales Waratahs. But when I snapped my hamstring my club contract got cancelled because I couldn’t play. I left Leeds University given a career in sport was not what I wanted to do long term unless participating. I did an art foundation course because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My tutor at the time said I was the worst artist she’d ever seen in her life but as I can talk to people to try and apply for PR and journalism so I did that at London College of Fashion. Then I interned for Mary Portas’s communications agency, then called Yellowdoor, left uni and went full time with her. I left that and ran a bar then a nightclub in Shoreditch, which was amazing, however not what I wanted to do long term. I joined Marks Sattin in 2006, spent 8 years with the company at its London HQ before helming the Reading branch in 2014.

It’s clearly a company you enjoy working for. Why?

I’m working in an environment where I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Amassing this team is also one of my proudest achievements. I trust them implicitly.

And for your clients, why should someone come to Marks Sattin?

It comes down to the people. The team has a combined experience of over 60 years of recruitment experience and a good blend of youthful exuberance, and wiliness at the other end of the spectrum.

The name is synonymous with quality given the company has been around for 30 years. Longevity suggests we know what we do but again clients deal with us because of the people. So it’s also imperative to look after your staff.

How can people get in contact with you?

Just email reading@markssattin.com. But I’m also happy to meet for a coffee – my door is always open!

 

If you’re interested in following in the footsteps of Marks Sattin and becoming a member at Work.Life Reading then please book a tour now on our website or get in touch at reading@work.life