Human Resources


Are you good with people? Could you interview candidates, settle disputes,

and devise reward packages to really motivate staff? Would you be

able to make people redundant without damaging the morale of those left

behind? If so, a career in human resources (HR) may be for you.The mantra of the HR department is: 'People are an organisation's most

valuable resource.' Recruiting, assessing, training, retaining and rewarding

people all fall within the HR remit.

You may start by learning something about everything, to become an HR

'generalist'. Many HR people start as generalists and specialise

later. HR departments are often divided into different

functional areas, with people specialising in a particular role, such as:

* employee relations

* recruitment

* compensation and benefits

* training and development.

Working in HR is more exciting than it used to be. During the last five

years, uninteresting tasks such as payroll management have either been

outsourced or rendered less time-consuming by computers. Liberated from

bureaucracy, the HR worker has metamorphosed from a mere administrator into

a 'strategic partner'.

At least this is how human resources experts would

have it. "HR is operating at a higher level", says Paul Turner, a

Vice-President at the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD),

"Its role has become aligning the vision and values of employees to those of

the organisation."

Whether this is the case in financial services is another question. In

investment banking, where the business areas are all important, HR is

usually seen as less dynamic than elsewhere.

George Wilson, head of HR at Rothschild and a former HR head at JP Morgan in London, says HR in investment banking pays well but can offers less strategic input than

elsewhere; if you want to do value-added work, you're better off working for

corporates such as Mars or Coca-Cola.

Nevertheless, HR departments have played a prominent role in financial

services firms in the recent past. During the 'dot-com' boom, HR departments

were in the front line of 'talent wars' as organisations competed for scarce

staff. Since the boom turned to bust, HR has been absorbed in less pleasant

but equally necessary work helping select for redundancy and informing

workers of the bad news.

Despite the redundancies, HR departments are likely to become more rather

than less important to financial services firms in future. The UK's

Financial Services Authority (FSA) has specified that all employees must now

be recruited and assessed according to HR procedures - people can't just be

recruited because the boss likes them.

Similarly, anti-discrimination

measures have become more significant and will be even more so when new

European laws are introduced from 2003.

Players

Few investment banks recruit graduates to work in HR: Merrill Lynch, Goldman

Sachs and UBS Warburg are some which are recruiting in this sector in 2002;

Deutsche Bank plans to recruit graduate-level HR staff from 2003.

Places tend to be scarce - UBS Warburg, for example, recruited just three graduates

into HR in Europe in 2001 - but the low number of applications means the

sector is less competitive than other areas of financial markets. …

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