Prepare for the rush of finance job-seekers when the pandemic is over

With hundreds of daily deaths still happening in New York and London, the coronavirus pandemic is not clearly not over. However, there are some tentative signs that we may be past the peak and as countries like Germany talk about easing the lockdown, a possible path back to semi-normality is emerging even if it is contingent on the kind of testing that has proven impossible in the U.K. and the U.S. so far.

When the pandemic passes, there are signs that financial services recruiters could find themselves juggling a rush of jobseekers. Many banks and finance employers have acquitted themselves very well during the virus – guaranteeing jobs and offering employees the opportunity to work from home. However, others have antagonized employees with deficiencies – perceived or not. When a semblance of normality resumes, the unhappier employees say they will look for jobs elsewhere.

According to our most recent survey of financial services employees globally, a significant minority of people fall into the unhappy camp. 42% of our 300 respondents said the crisis has made them more inclined to find a new role when the pandemic wanes. “My employer literally cares not at all about employee wellbeing,” said one typical respondent. “I could have realized that earlier but has become crystal clear now.”  Others complained of overwork, poor technology and low morale: “My team is overworked and crumbling,” said another.

For banks and finance firms, employees’ response to the pandemic highlights the importance of considering business holistically during the virus. As Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman noted today, COVID-19 is a once in a hundred year event that has the potential to cause high levels of employee suffering. Prioritizing wellbeing is partly about integrity, but it’s also about keeping the organization “tanked” said Gorman: when the virus passes, talent will be needed more than ever and people should not be alienated for the sake of short term considerations of revenue of profitability.

For financial services recruiters, the cohort of dissatisifed employees across the industry emphasizes a need to maintain a profile and to continue engaging with candidates during the lockdown. Gavin Christie, a senior equities headhunter in London, has begun mentoring bankers who are thinking through their career options while working from home. The new routine is prompting plenty of salespeople and traders in particular to question their futures, says Christie: “These are people who’ve been getting up at 5.15am and going into the office every day of their working lives. This time spent working from home and seeing their families has given them a different perspective. A lot of people are questioning whether they’d be happier earning less and seeing their families more and finding that the answer is that yes they would.”

Some banks may decide to allow employees more flexibility to work from home even when the pandemic passes. As Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon pointed out earlier this month, doing so could help Goldman attract new employees. However, Solomon has also expressed a wish to get some of Goldman’s traders and settlements staff back into the offices (98% of the firm’s 38,300 employees are currently working from home) when it’s safe to do so. Goldman won’t be alone in this: many other banks already have around 20% of front office markets staff in the offices and would like to increase this if possible.

While the pandemic is a human and economic catastrophe, the hiatus in normal working practices and opportunity for reflection are therefore also opportunities for mindful finance employers and the recruitment industry. When this is over, some people will not want to resume their previous existences. Well-positioned flexible employers will benefit, as will recruiters who have maintained a profile and dialogue with candidates during the dark days of the lockdown.


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