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Financial Services Recruitment in a Time of Disruption: What We’ve Learned So Far

Posted on June 2020 By James Findlay

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Remote working works

While remote working has been a staple in a number of industries, banking and finance has traditionally been very ‘office-focused’; whether this be through legacy preference of face-to-face interaction or regulatory necessity. However, confronted with a global pandemic, it has had to adapt and adopt to working from home (WFH).

In general, the impact working from home will have on the banking and finance industry will clearly be monumental, but I want to focus simply on recruitment. Firstly, let’s look at space. Some institutions have had to curb, or delay, growth plans due to lack of space in their offices. In the future, if those firms implemented a policy where every employee worked from home for one day a week, they would immediately gain 20% extra space – growth is enabled. While in the short-term hot desking will not be feasible because of social distancing measures, in the long run employers should consider how they can use this additional space to their advantage.

Now to cost-cutting. When institutions look to cost-cut, recruitment is often first on the chopping block but that can limit growth and innovation – the latter something we know is imperative to come out of a crisis as a winner. In the wake of the global financial crisis, the BCG 50 Most Innovative Companies delivered four percent greater total shareholder returns p.a. than the MSCI World Index between 2008 and 2012.

Instead, think what you could achieve by reducing expensive office space for some functions (likely non-revenue generating positions or those that don’t require regulatory monitoring). We have already seen this with near-shoring or low-cost European locations, but having staff working-from-home could prove a shrewd move to lower some costs. However, there is one caveat: the time and money spent on setting up the infrastructure to work from home can be costly. That said, real estate costs, especially in London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam, are significant, so any reductions in spend or more efficient use of space will free funds.

For recruiting and onboarding new hires, using video conference technology has proven a success despite initial hesitation. This has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for employers looking to snap up the best talent in the global market. Particularly post-Brexit, where candidates from local European countries may not be viewed so favourably, instead you can hire and onboard staff from the far flung reaches of the globe without having to worry about flying them over or offering relocation packages. This reduces costs and time-to-hire.

Weathering the storm

Firms that come through the current crisis will be stronger for it. They will increase their resilience and confidence; knowing they can weather future market dips and where they need to bolster staff to protect themselves.

When the full implications of this global pandemic were first realised, it was likely that someone reached down into a bottom drawer, blew the dust of the 100% work-from-home scenario plan and tried blindly to implement that. Many found that while they had a plan in practice, the practicalities from an infrastructure perspective was lacking. Those shortfalls will not be felt again as sadly, global pandemic has now been added to terrorism and natural Disaster on the list of scenarios which need to be potentially accounted for.

As such, all the groups associated with disaster planning, such as non-financial risk management, third party vendor management, and business continuity, have become business-critical and imperative growth areas for hiring.

Volatility means opportunity

Fairly obvious, but we have seen several desks perform exceptionally well, especially those using Algo / Quant strategies. We have seen continued hiring across QR/QT/QS and Technology – this crisis has been the litmus test to really prove their worth and will continue to be heavily invested in.

What financial services candidate want

This pandemic has sparked lasting changes to what daily working life looks like in the UK and Europe; the landscape has been changed, perhaps permanently in ways we will discover in the coming months. However, focusing again simply on recruitment:

  • For candidates considering new opportunities, working from home flexibility will be an expectation not a benefit. In a recent poll, Selby Jennings found that 74% of banking and financial services professionals want their employer to encourage more working from home.

  • Benefits packages that include childcare and eldercare will also be drivers in decision-making.

  • Candidates need choice, not assumptions, about what environment suits their work style and productivity.

Employers should note that not everyone will view work-from-home favourably. Over the last decade I have worked in a thriving and noisy sales floor. The transition to the deafening silence of my home office has been difficult. Companies that enforce working-from-home to save retail costs, like we have seen with Twitter, may deter certain candidates. Of course, employees can adapt but employers should ensure they create flexibility that caters to everyone. If they don’t, they may reduce employee productivity and performance; worse, they may miss out on top talent.

While these are simply my musings based on my observations of the market, I am keen to hear how others have found the transition to working from home. Have you enjoyed it or found it more challenging than imagined? What would you like to see in the future? Get in touch to discuss.

About the Author

James Findlay heads the client services and business development functions for Selby Jennings across the UK and EMEA. He is responsible for managing Selby Jenning's relationships with key partners and ensures that we continue to deliver a top-tier service across all our market verticals.

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