Employee Surveys, News & Updates

Financial Services Insights: data from our benchmarking report

Lydia Watson

What did 2020 bring for the Financial Services sector? From the changing landscape of UK business, as the Brexit transition period came to a close, to the unforeseen impact of Covid-19 – the industry seen digitalisation speed up even more, and its potential workforce shrink.

With a range of new pressures, where did the sector succeed in the last year? We looked at our new 2020 benchmarking data to find the strengths and weaknesses of the Financial Services sector, when it comes to their people.

The top 3 strengths of the Finance Services sector in 2020

1. Role Fit

84% agree or strongly agree with this statement: “My skills and talents fit well with my role and I feel able to get the job done.”

‘Role fit’ was a strong area across all sectors we researched, but particularly encouraging in the Financial Services (FS) sector. Consider the industry’s staggering 13.8% attrition rate in 2019, the significant shortage of “mid-career talent”, and the financial incentive of job-hopping (an average 17% salary rise for Londoners), and ‘role fit’ takes on an important relevancy.

With the sector forced to adopt a remote working model, fast-forwarding their own digitalisation, it indicates a people-first approach wasn’t lost: with employees aware of and confident in their function.

2. Transparency

81% agree or strongly agree with this statement: “Within our team, we talk openly and transparently about both the challenges we face and our successes.”

Perhaps following the customer demand for transparent business decisions in the FS sector, it scored 15 percentage points higher for transparency in the workplace compared to the all sectors average. This is promising, as the move to remote working during the pandemic is likely to have affected “the balance of trust and expectation” – putting communicative, collaborative cultures at risk.

This uplift suggests that risk has been more than mitigated – with another study seeing just 30% struggling with collaboration. The FS sector should continue to encourage employee feedback, and be open about challenges and wins, to maintain high standards of performance.

3. Inclusion

81% agree or strongly agree with this statement: “I work in an environment where everyone can feel included, respected and accepted for ‘who they are’.”

For a sector criticised for its lack of diversity, this high inclusion score could go either way: it could be indicative of its continued (relative) homogeneity (as low diversity and high inclusion are often correlated), or an encouraging sign that change is happening.

From the wider discussion of existing institutional inequalities in 2020, it could be that D&I initiatives are firmly on the agenda – even if largely for the innovative culture that diverse talent brings. Our work with the Diversity Project should provide more motivation to continue this focus: with the pandemic changing the way the sector operates, understanding the different needs and motivations of different employees will be crucial.

The 3 biggest opportunities for improvement

1. Tools

Only 50% agree or strongly agree with this statement: “Our tools, systems and processes make my working life easier and set me up for success.”

All sectors struggled with ‘tools’ in 2020, likely due to the practical limitations of remote working. But while the FS industry isn’t alone here, it does face more significant challenges – due to the necessity for data security and privacy.

Employees are handling sensitive information in less-than-secure settings, and the quick switch has exposed gaps in the IT systems. Coupled with added difficulties in getting sign-off for high-cost actions – due to internet issues, or the reduced availability of decision-makers – and frustrations are likely to build.

2. Purpose

Only 55% agree or strongly agree with this statement: “Our organisation sets goals that are important, meaningful and help keep me motivated.”

Crafting a meaningful purpose continues to be a struggle for the FS sector – so its low score of 55% is cause for concern. Though the monetary motivation of working in this field has long been a primary one, it’s clear that employees are looking for more: considering the values, ethics, and goals of the organisations they remain with.

In an industry with such high attrition, neglecting the power of purpose would be a mistake – and where related concepts like ‘public trust’ have also been associated as a key focus, it’s important that businesses in the FS sector communicate their ‘purpose’ loudly and publicly.

3. Listening

Only 62% agree or strongly agree with this statement: “There are opportunities to give genuine feedback and I feel like my voice is heard.”

Though the FS sector scored low for ‘listening’ at just 62%, it’s 10 percentage points higher than the all sectors average. There’s still work to be done here, though: with employee autonomy and collaboration already weak points of the sector, organisations should make sure not only to listen, but make sure its people feel heard.

Encouragingly, other research suggests FS executives are prioritising autonomy in remote working and that 75% of employees felt collaboration hasn’t been damaged so far – suggesting that a sense of feedback and listening will be fostered.

Our takeaway for financial services:

This is a period of change for the sector. The long-term impact of Brexit is yet to be seen, but will likely impact the workforce – as 17-28% of workers in the London Financial Services workforce are from the EU. The forced move to remote working continues to need careful management, and care should be taken with any return to the office – due to the differing needs of different demographics. All this is complicated by the continued rise of FinTech, in an ever-quickening period of digitalisation.

The sector can thrive by addressing its weaknesses, and reinforcing its strengths – continuing diversity and inclusion efforts, for example. On a practical level, it means providing the right tools for its remote workforce. On a cultural level, it means fostering an open and honest atmosphere – crucially, one founded on organisational purpose.

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