Career Development Stressed as Banks Face Talent Shortage

Article excerpt

For those in the financial services industry, a career is traditionally very short compared with one in other professions. Banks often claim that staff are their most valuable asset, but in practice they have tended to view employees as replaceable commodities. But as the competition for top talent has increased, the pool of candidates has been running dry.

Banks are now not only looking to retain talent but they are discovering that helping employees develop their careers and skills is essential.

All too often, institutions do not learn until the exit interview that staff believe they are stuck in the wrong job or burnt out. Banks are now listening to these concerns as way of harnessing their own talent pools.

Burnout can be caused by the failure to provide individuals with opportunities to fulfil their potential or from an overload of responsibilities when staff numbers are cut.

Kris Sasitharan, recruitment consultant in the human resources division at Joslin Rowe, says: "Some of the leading investment banks are now restructuring their human resource process and have adopted a 'consultancy model' as a part of witnessing both the effects of burnout and good candidates leaving due to lack of career progression. The objective is to manage the situation when they first hear about it, rather than at the employee's exit interview - the prevention rather than the cure approach."

Sasitharan explains under this model that each business unit has a dedicated team of HR professionals whose remit is to look at issues such as attracting candidates, motivation and, primarily, retention. Their strategies would include job enrichment and job rotation.

Linda Jackson, business director at Meridian Consulting, says: "Institutions are increasingly worried about the legal ramifications surrounding burnout and are becoming more creative in their approach to the problem."

One such creative solution may be sabbaticals, which are gaining popularity in investment banks. Institutions are realising that sabbaticals can be both beneficial as a break from the daily grind but also as a way to spark the entrepreneurial spirits of employees, which could generate a new source of revenue.

Policies differ towards sabbaticals among investment banks but they may be offered either on a case-by-case basis, at the request of an employee or as policy. In some European investment banks, for example, French employees with six years' experience in a professional role are eligible for a year's sabbatical after three years' continuous service with the firm.

Last year, PricewaterhouseCoopers, in an attempt to lessen the flow of consultants to tech start-ups, decided to give three-month sabbaticals to staff wanting to work on promising e-business proposals. PwC then planned to invest $500m (E570m) through equity stakes in those internet start-ups.

Another aspect of career development can be international postings. Most investment banks offer generous expatriate packages to incentivise employees to transfer on a temporary basis to a role in another location that is likely to enhance or vary their careers.

Philip Marks at Jonathan Wren, recruitment consultants, says: "Banks are far more open in recent years to consider internal moves between departments nationally and internationally.

"This, however, is far truer at the more specialist or more senior end of the market, geographic locations permitting. There is sound commercial sense for this, both in terms of keeping a top producing employee motivated and performing at their peak and avoiding the costly exercise of recruiting, training and bringing up to speed a new employee should the current employee leave. …