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By Rob Pointen, CFO, Vacancy Filler Recruitment Software

With both the IT and the finance worlds undergoing dramatic changes, financial services companies are facing greater challenges than ever in finding the right staff – at all levels.  The desire of companies in this sector to expand into emerging markets, changes in finance products and regulation, the increasing use of technologies such as AI and predictive analytics, changes in demographics and many other issues all mean that finding talent who can add value to an industry in flux is becoming more and more difficult.

The big banks in particular are facing difficult times. Disruption from digital innovation in the sector has meant that to stay relevant,  banks need to embrace agile methodologies across their entire operation.   Digital transformation in the banking sector has unleashed some difficult challenges.  These include regulatory changes such as GDPR and Open Banking, together with  growing pressure from FinTechs, tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA), and challenger banks who started from the outset as customer-centric innovators.    And all this means the war for talent is also greater, and with it, the need for those with the necessary skills, including those who understand cybersecurity.

The reasons why many financial services companies find it difficult to hire the right quality of candidate can be many, including because the right candidates don’t apply, or of those that do, the best are quickly snapped up by a competitor.  Slow recruitment procedures can hamper the chances of hiring good staff, and a lack of a good onboarding process can mean that new recruits can become disillusioned and leave.

There has been a sharp decline in interest of EU graduates looking for jobs in the UK after referendum – as much as 18% according to Linkedln data.Noeleen Cowley, Banking Partner at KPMG says,‘For financial institutions to adapt and prosper in this ‘brave new world’, they will need to foster a culture of entrepreneurialism and technological innovation and open their doors to a generation of young and tech-savvy professionals.’ 1

There is a requirement for some roles in this sector for a clear credit history, very specific experience and skills, and to operate under stringent regulations.  All this is coupled with the uncertainties brought to the City by Brexit and the possible loss of key personnel abroad, meaning that recruiters for financial services firms are finding it harder than ever to find good candidates with the required range of unique skillsets – including, increasingly, a need for ‘soft’ skills –and the right level of education.

The uncertainty about the future relationship with the EU means that financial firms in the UK are looking to open hubs in Paris, Frankfurt and elsewhere by March 2019.  However, it is likely that whatever happens, London will remain a major global financial centre.   Reports of the City losing up to 75,000 people because of Brexit seem to have been much exaggerated, with recent estimates being along the lines of 5,000. 2

Even if the losses are on this kind of scale, the pressure to have the right candidates in place to meet the rapidly changing financial services market will still be enormous.   According to a recent article in City AM,  “Just prior to and immediately following the Brexit vote, we saw firms significantly reduce their recruitment programme by 15 per cent or over 4,000 jobs. Over the last two years, as confidence has returned, business has expanded, more staff have been hired…The scale of the surge in recruitment suggests that the profession is surprisingly resilient given that many firms are activating contingency plans in case of a hard Brexit and some are opening small satellite offices in other European jurisdictions.”3

Although Brexit may directly benefit some professions, such as accountancy, in general, people working in financial services at all levels are likely to be less willing to jump ship and will only do it after careful consideration of the kind of organisation they would be willing to move to.  Employees today are increasingly looking beyond just financial rewards – soft benefits such as flexible/home working as well as the culture of the organisation, level of support and good  company communications are all factors, and these can be demonstrated – or otherwise – during the recruitment process.

To meet their hiring challenges, companies of all sizes in the financial services sector are now starting to rethink their approach to recruitment.   While recruitment agencies and press advertising still have their place, many businesses are looking to newer technologies to help them find the right staff.  Organisations are increasingly aligning their recruitment process to ensure only those candidates who match the company culture find their way to the final stages.  So what are the best ways to do this?

Changing Recruitment Methods

The first step is for companies to really think through the entire recruitment process end-to-end and make sure it is as seamless as possible for the candidate.   A good candidate journey is essential to ensure the best applicants don’t drop out along the way -as well as for the simple reason that many candidates are also often customers of the organisations they are considering working for. Virgin Media4 recently calculated that its own poor recruitment practices cost it some £4.4 million in lost subscriptions.

Organisations need to think about having an attractive and informative careers page on their website, and an easy-to-use application process so that potential employees understand that the company takes the candidate experience seriously.   With the competition for the best candidates very strong in this sector, organisations need to consider whether they are making themselves as attractive as possible to work for, including, for example, offering flexible benefits, defined career paths, training packages, social schemes, remote working, and the latest technology. They also need to consider how they will manage a three month onboarding process.  And using sophisticated recruitment tools is one way to provide both candidates and those hiring with a first class experience. Once a company has thought through all this, and has a clear idea of the skills, experience and type of cultural fit they are looking for in a new hire, as well as how flexible they are willing to be regarding the exact match, they need to consider the methods they will adopt to find them.

One way for businesses to find the best candidate match for their business is to widen the channels that they use to recruit.    Increasingly, social media is being used as a recruitment method. Although LinkedIn is an obvious hiring tool for businesses, the importance of both Twitter and Facebook is increasing dramatically, while Snapchat and Instagram are proving to be creative sources of under-the-radar recruiting.

A large number of financial institutions of all types – even start-ups – are also turning to cloud-based recruitment software.  If they want to, companies who are not ready to make an up-front investment in the software can use a pay-as-you-go contract, until the volume of recruitment justifies the spend.   This technology allows the recruitment process to be managed more efficiently including – since much of the process is automated, although still personalised – speeding up the time it takes to hire, essential when trying to ensure the best candidates are not tempted to go to competitors with a more efficient recruitment process.   The technology also reduces recruitment costs and makes fewer demands on HR teams and hiring managers. The best systems offer seamless integration of all stages of the hiring process from careers page to recruitment process to onboarding.

Companies such as Guernsey-based Sovereign Trust (Channel Islands) Limited, part of the international Sovereign Group, one of the world’s leading financial services groups, are turning to these online recruitment systems to help streamline and improve the effectiveness of their recruitment processes and make it easier for candidates to apply.

As organisations develop, recruitment needs usually increase substantially and manual processes become time-consuming.   Online recruitment systems offer, among many other benefits,job board integration and customization. The flexibility provided by the best of these systems allows them to be tailored to existing processes, negating the requirement for the recruitment team to undergo retraining to be able to operate the new platform.They can speed up the recruitment and onboarding process and provide a wealth of information on, for example, diversity, the numbers of candidates who apply compared to those recruited, and where candidates are being recruited from.  They can offer, among other things, video interviewing, which makes it easy for potential employees who live a long way away to apply, automated but personalised candidate communication and integrated background and criminal records checking.  The best of these systems provide video interviewing as an embedded solution at no additional cost.

Businesses should not rely on one recruitment method alone, however – building a good brand and reputation and using social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook effectively as well as, where appropriate, the more traditional route of press advertising and recruitment agencies, in combination with the latest recruitment software- will produce the best results.

Whatever happens with Brexit, the scale of the regulatory and technology changes in the financial services sector alone means that there is an ongoing need for a good recruitment strategy, using a range of tools and techniques, and the organisations who put this in place, take the candidate experience seriously, and take advantage of the latest recruitment technologies are those that are likely to prosper the best.

Vacancy Filler Recruitment Software provides a comprehensive, flexible and easy-to-use recruitment software solution which streamlines the hiring process for both candidate and recruiter.

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