Young Professionals Seeking Meaningful Careers Add to Banking Talent Gap

An insightful article in Efinancialcareers highlighted an interview with a Millennial woman who had this comment about the financial services industry:

Finance is a bunch of old white guys doing sneaky things in a conference room. I graduated from high school in 2008 when the market crash was happening, and I recently saw The Big Short, which explained the process of what went into the crash. That makes me reluctant to deal with large financial institutions other than what is absolutely necessary. I recently bought a car, but I didn’t want to deal with lease terms or loans, so I decided to pay for it outright. I’d rather eat peanut butter and jelly than deal with the financial stuff.”

Financial Crisis Fallout

The financial crisis cast a cloud over the sector, persuading young talent to pursue options in other industries.A recent Forbes article corroborates the millennial woman’s attitude:Blog quote 5.17.17

The financial collapse has unquestionably tarnished the reputation of the industry. Millennials have especially questioned the industry because they became adults during the time of the financial crisis, bank failures, and the foreclosure boom. As a result, 21% of millennials have decided to avoid the financial services sector.”

The fallout from the financial crisis led to tighter regulations, rules that demand greater transparency, and higher tax burdens on financial institutions. The Dodd-Frank Act is considered the most powerful regulatory enactment since the aftermath of the Great Depression.

The myriad of regulations is causing more compliance and risk-management experts to emerge, while “revenue-generators” have exited the industry given the restrictive regulatory environment that surrounds deal-making. As a result, many banking professionals, happy to accept significant salary cuts in return for a share of the new equity pie, are handing in their resignations and making the leap into the FinTech sector.

The Demise of Career Development Programs

Bank executives say recruiting commercial lenders is among the most significant challenges they face in 2017. Bank Director cites the actions by many large banks to curtail career development programs (along with the retirement of aging baby boomers) as key contributors to the industry’s talent quote 2 5.17.17

Apprehensive banks have cut training programs that developed strong sales talents into commercial lenders, contributing to a lack of young commercial lenders. The 2016 Bank Director Compensation Survey revealed that Millennial professionals identify the “opportunity to learn new things” as a key motivator for working in the banking industry. Commercial banks that slashed training programs in response to economic pressures must restore these career development opportunities by establishing mentorships and leadership programs, and reinforce the company’s commitment to individual growth if they want to attract younger talent.

Industry Consolidation Triggered by Aging Baby Boomers

In the U.S., one of the biggest concerns is the rapid pace at which lenders are being sold—the fastest in 20 years. This pace is expected to continue increasing, with the rate of bank consolidation expected to rise above 5% during this year’s first quarter for the first time since 1995.

Among the main reasons cited for this frenzied merger activity is the aging of baby boomer bankers, many of whom are now CEOs—approximately 25% of publicly traded banks have a leader at the helm who is between 59 and 62 years of age. This generation of bankers was predominantly trained by way of traditional training programs, which are now outdated. There is an extreme shortage of talent qualified to take over the top jobs, and this is contributing to the decision to sell lenders. The shrinking talent pool in banking appears to be a problem not only for the entry-level and middle management positions but also for the top executives.  

Fewer Qualified Candidates

As the banking industry continues to experience more competition, particularly from the booming FinTech sector, professionals at all levels are questioning the traditional bank employment model—long hours, working lunches, and sizeable amounts of internal red tape. In the face of increasing regulation and decreasing profits, is the effort worth the return?

Upstarts may allow employees to work flexible hours, wear jeans to the office, and play beer pong on company time, but the differences in corporate culture go beyond such superficialities. Greater learning opportunities, less bureaucracy, and the chance to work on issues they feel genuinely passionate about are some of the reasons cited by those who have ditched jobs in traditional financial institutions for tech-savvy startups.

Traditional Skill Sets Are No Longer Enough

Technology is changing how finance is conducted—from payments to investments to regulatory practices—innovative start-ups with revolutionary concepts (e.g. blockchain) are set to make many traditional banking functions redundant.

That’s not to say the industry won’t continue to attract talent. However, the talent will likely possess a different skill set than ten years ago. The longevity of the industry inherently implies that banks are resilient to an array of external pressures. A career in banking may not have the same cutting-edge appeal as one in FinTech, and it remains far from being a “lifetime job.” However, the longevity and relative job security that financial services offer in today’s more regulated, competitive marketplace means that the attractiveness of a banking career will not fade anytime soon.

Banks face fierce competition when it comes to attracting and retaining the talent with the technical skills they need in an increasingly digital world. By 2025, millennials will make up 72% of the workforce, and they will not want outdated concepts. This new generation of workers is tech-savvy and diverse in thoughts, both of which can be encouraged and leveraged to nurture a collaborative talent pool.

Sophisticated tools, like SoGoSurvey can attract millennials back to the financial industry while enabling banks to collect data and better understand their customers. Learn more.