Recruitment is nearly always part of the solution in Financial Services however bad things become. It became almost impossible at the height of lockdown, but a few people were still being placed and we should know because we were still placing them.
UK Financial Services is a remarkably resilient sector, employment numbers have remained at a solid 1.1m for over a decade. The breakdown of roles has changed a lot during this time but a consistently large sector, full of expertise and innovation, and supported by world-leading infrastructure, will always find a role to play in the global economy. London continues to rank highly as a Financial Centre, a FinTech Hub and it is a strong player in Global Trade Finance. Maintaining a 7-figure workforce means new hires will always be required. And so to 2022…
2022 A Candidate’s Market
As we recover from the worst of the pandemic, there is high staff turnover in most industries in what some have dubbed the “Great Resignation” and companies have embraced hybrid employment models. The effect is amplified by pent up demand and the emergence of ambitious, high growth start-ups and scale-ups across the sector. There is a strong drive towards diversity, equity and inclusion and Financial Services is becoming increasingly driven by technology. All of these factors feed into the trends we are seeing and demand is strong, with high vacancy rates, which makes this a candidate’s market across sectors and functions.
A buoyant recruitment market, weighted in favour of candidates, is a double-edged sword for our clients because potential new hires will receive competing offers, including counter-offers from their current employers, and they don’t always make the decisions one would hope for. This means that your search and selection processes have to be fast, frictionless, polished and proactive because you’re not the only show in town and you need to compete for the best talent.
We perform comprehensive executive search for mid to senior-level positions. We have the advantage of approaching known professionals in our network. Being able to propose a role to specific individuals rather than merely advertising it means that we can be quick and there is also a certain amount of buy-in that results from the personal approach. There is no time for complacency though. Interviews have to be set up quickly, the role needs to be well-defined, feedback should be very prompt and if a candidate seems to fit the bill, there is no point prolonging the search to see if somebody better turns up; make the offer!
The biggest driver of the churn we are seeing is the desire for a better work-life balance precipitated by the imposed hybrid-working experiment of the last two years. The prevailing trend is towards higher flexibility, lower toxicity and reduced stress, but there are roles in Financial Services where compliance means that remote working can never be part of the norm.
There are also banks that may have some success with mandatory office attendance, benefits of which include team development, staff engagement and bonding. People who value these aspects of work and have felt disengaged over the past two years make up another prominent group in the resignation statistics.
Companies that have standardised flexible working are relatively well-placed here. For companies that are still developing their hybrid policies, it is important to cater for all types of employee profile, potentially with flexible reward schemes that allow people to personalise their reward packages. Another pitfall to avoid is rewarding new hires with salaries and benefits superior to those of existing employees, this miscalculation has also led to people quitting. It is the kind of situation where professional search consultancies need to be able to work closely with HR teams to avoid any miscommunication.
As for the other trends, a market like this gives recruiters more leeway to propose candidates based on transferable skills. The ability to adapt, to work well in diverse project teams and a high level of technical ability are already valuable in a FinTech environment. As technology becomes more central to the industry as a whole, these skills and traits will become increasingly essential. This approach to recruitment can help to overcome some of the diversity issues that the industry is clearly focused on.
At the seniority level we focus on there is often prerequisite sector and role-specific experience that means we can’t be so creative. However, due to the increase in flexible and remote working, it does become easier to tempt people back to the industry as a subset of the “boomerang employees” who return to former employers. People who do this tend to achieve productivity quickly and become loyal so some Professional Services firms are taking it seriously as a recruitment strategy. The hybrid environment creates mutually beneficial opportunities, particularly when bringing experienced women back into the working world.
Healy Hunt expects the market to stay like this for the foreseeable future as The City rebuilds and reinvents itself following the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. The instability that is so prominent in the news is unlikely to slow things down. Financial Services professionals have clear opportunities for progression this year and recruiting organisations will need to up their games to stay ahead in a competitive talent market.