If you perceive the financial services industry as a conservative monolith slow to change, think again. Today’s banks and other institutions are undergoing an incredible transformation leading to new opportunities and challenges. The digitalization of workflows, proliferation of new products and consumerization of services are leading to greater complexity for every company — which, in turn, requires employers to find new skills to accommodate waves of market reinvention. As a result, the sector is facing unprecedented pressure to innovate talent acquisition strategies targeting a broader range of talent than it has in the past.

The good news is that the sector offers two very compelling reasons for attracting talent, according to the 2018 Randstad Employer Brand Research, an exhaustive survey of 175,000 working-age adults in 30 countries about their employment preferences. Large financial service businesses are perceived as financially healthy and offering good job security, which are among the top five qualities that workers desire in an employer. 

different strokes for different folks

The bad news is that among major sectors, financial services employers are not well regarded, ranking eighth behind businesses such as IT, automotive, consumer goods and others in overall attractiveness. Few workers see the industry as one that gives back to society or promotes diversity and inclusion in its workforce, which can be problematic when attracting the kind of skills it needs to support innovation. 

This can be especially challenging when developing talent acquisition strategies to recruit millennials, who are now the largest generation in the global workforce. Surveys have consistently shown that when it comes to the softer employment benefits, this group values employers who have a strong corporate social responsibility policy, promote diversity and offer a shared sense of purpose. Unfortunately for the financial services sector, continuing scandals and regulatory scrutiny around the world in recent years have hurt its image among consumers and workers. For those who survived the great recession from 10 years ago, the industry’s role in bringing down the global economy is still fresh in their minds.

So how can the sector overcome the negative image many workers have about your business? After all, the unflattering perception has unfolded over time and will be difficult to dispel overnight.

investing in the future

According to Nancy Brown, a vice president who specializes in financial services with Randstad, companies in the sector are making a greater effort to reshape its image on many fronts. They are bolstering their employer brand and talent acquisition efforts through various investments, including more diversity training and recruitment, spending on technology to enable their workforce and increasing budgets on learning and development.

“To compete for scarce skills, financial services employers understand they need to keep up with other sectors such as IT and communications, which is viewed as the most attractive globally. And we are seeing the banks and other institutions doing this,” she says.

In particular, investments in learning and development are rising, she points out. According to Training Magazine, U.S. training expenditures rose 32.5% in 2017, and trainingindustry.com estimated the global corporate marketplace training spending reached $360 billion in 2016. For the financial services industry, the rise in workforce investments will be critical to not only addressing talent scarcity but also worker retention, Brown says.

Upskilling in the sector is absolutely necessary with the adoption of technologies and new workflows. Automation and self-service continue to make inroads in trading and other transactional services. In retail banking, companies are adopting more consumer technologies a la Amazon, creating a more enjoyable customer experience. And many companies are exploring additional innovations as competition in cryptocurrencies and other forms of monetary exchange grows.

To ensure they can deliver a better experience and more innovative products, the sector’s talent acquisition is focused on many of the same talent needed by the technology sector. The challenge for banks, however, is competing with the likes of Apple and Google, whose employer brand is much more attractive to digital specialists. Brown points out that some companies are changing their image by offering more flexible schedules, better benefits, improved work environments and even relaxed dress codes. They also recognize the need for greater workforce diversity, especially in developing women leadership. According to the IMF, women account for less than 2% of banking CEOs around the world and  less than 20% of executive board members.

“The sector is well-known for its shortcoming in gender diversity. There are few high-ranking women executives, let alone CEOs. However, we are witnessing some changes occuring, with the release of pay-gap data from some well-known organizations and more aggressive enforcement of workplace harassment policies,” Brown points out.

How quickly will this change? That’s anybody’s guess, but if the sector hopes to build up its talent attraction strategies, it will need to create more inclusive policies and employee value propositions that appeal to women and minority groups. This must start with understanding what various groups look for in an employer. 

global insights into the perception of the financial services industry

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