Financial services employees are surprisingly happy, except in the Middle East
With extensive job cuts over the last six years and ongoing prudence around pay, financial service employees have every right to feel a little gloomy in the workplace, and yet the majority of people working in the industry are still happy in their roles and the majority are not looking to leave their current job.
Only 34% of finance professionals in London responding to the eFinancialCareers Career Satisfaction & Retention Survey and 36% in Hong Kong said they were actively looking for a new job. This rises to a high of 53% in the Middle East, 43% in New York and 41% in Singapore. While these proportions are relatively high, it's only in the Middle East where the majority of employees are actively looking to switch positions.
Investment banks have undergone huge restructuring in recent years, but their HR teams are also concerned about a potential exodus of talent and are working harder to keep their employees “motivated, engaged and committed to the organisation when times are tough”, says Andrew Pullman, the former head of HR at Dresdner Bank who now consults with financial services organisations’ HR teams through his firm People Risk Solutions.
“After years of slicing and dicing the past 12 months have been more about retention. Investment banks are spending more money on training and development, ensuring their existing employees can acquire a broader range of skills and that they’re really buying into the values and culture of the organisation,” he says.
However, it would not be right to paint a picture of contented and motivated workforce, happy to stay put. While most respondents weren’t straining to leave their current employer, the vast majority said they were either actively looking or would be open to new opportunities if they presented themselves – 94% in the Middle East, 93% in Singapore, 91% in France, 90% in Australia and Hong Kong, 88% in the U.S., 86% in the UK and Germany and 85% in China.
In the Middle East, job satisfaction appears particularly low. Nearly 55% of respondents said they were actively looking for a new job and 39% said they were unhappy in their current position. Only Singapore (38%) came close to this level of job dissatisfaction. In part, this could be down to the fact that the largest proportion of respondents (43% in Singapore and 42% in the Middle East) work in the back office, where the work is relatively mundane and both pay and employment prospects are being hit as firms look for ever-cheaper locations to carry out their operations functions.
However, dissatisfaction in the Middle East is also down to leadership style, says Chris Roebuck, former global head of talent management at UBS and visiting professor at Cass Business School.
“The command and control leadership style in the Middle East is still practiced and it’s at odds with the more collaborative approach adopted in Western locations. These are ongoing issues in the region, where there’s a lot of churn in the job market,” he says.
Roebuck also remains sceptical of the new approaches of investment banks to keep employees happy, which involve more engagement, open communication channels and an increase in inclusive corporate and social responsibility activities – something aimed at allowing employees to ‘make a difference’.
“Ultimately, from a business point of view, headcount turnover annually in investment banking remains at around 10%, and banks are happy with that,” he says. “The majority of retention efforts go towards keeping hold of the top 10% of performers and they also want to get rid of the bottom 10%. They want their elite employees to feel loved, and elsewhere it’s about identifying the ‘high potential’ employees who could become that elite group further down the line.”
At the junior end, employee satisfaction is particularly high. An astounding 100% of 20-24 year olds in Singapore and Australia said they were happy in their current role, a figure that is 92% in the U.S., 81% in the UK, and is the happiest group across all locations.
Dissatisfaction increases in the mid-ranks, before falling again as financial services professionals become more senior. VP and director level roles are becoming increasingly perilous and the prospects for being promoted to MD are diminishing.
“In the few years, it’s all new and shiny and investment banks invest a lot on learning and development. At MD level, you are engaged and have a real strategic stake in taking the organisation forward,” says Roebuck. “It’s that middle rank, when responsibilities and stress increase, but without the organisational buy-in when most people think about moving on.”
In general, financial services professionals still take an active approach to managing their careers. The largest proportion of respondents in the UK (35%), Singapore (38%), Hong Kong (44%) and Germany (35%) said they changed jobs every two to three years, while in the U.S., Middle East and France, the switching employers every four to five years was most common.
Click on the thumbnails below to see country-by-country infographics for the eFinancialCareers Career Satisfaction & Retention Survey