Attracting talent in the wake of the financial crisis is proving a challenge. But there are innovative ideas around, as Brian Caplen discovers.

Incredibly, in the internet age, the most visual image carried around by most job seekers of working in a bank is that of the hard-pressed cashier sitting behind a glass counter taking in cheques and handing out cash. This remains the most frequent human encounter anyone, young or old, ever has with a bank.

The next most common image would be someone fielding calls, some of them hostile, in a call centre. At the other end of the spectrum, the popular picture is of hotshot traders engaged in frenetic bouts of deal making, earning lots of cash and then splurging it all on high living. None of these images is exactly conducive – post the financial crisis – to hiring the best and the brightest for a career in banking.

For successful hiring across the bank a lot of work needs to be done to give an accurate illustration of the realities of the job. Banks are complex organisations and this means there are many different roles from international to risk management to technology to credit to more standard functions such as human resources, public relations and marketing. In-house training programmes provide the opportunity to work for short spells in different departments so that candidates can discover for themselves what appeals and what doesn’t. This is a huge attraction that banks need to be emphasising in their meetings with school leavers and university students.

The other strong cards have to be technology and overseas postings. Digital transformation means understanding not only how the technology works but, as importantly, the buy-sell dynamics that will appeal to a younger generation of customers. Almost by definition bright young graduates are needed to assist with this.

Banks also need to take their message to a broader and more diverse range of candidates than they have done in the past. In this respect, the UK’s Chartered Banker Institute (CBI) has established the 2025 Foundation – the institute will be 150 years old in 2025 – to provide financial support to young people to enable them to pursue a career in banking.

“Our focus is on attracting individuals who are historically under-represented in the banking profession, including individuals from minority groups and specific socioeconomic backgrounds,” says the CBI's website. The CBI needs funding from banks to carry on this work, but this will be money well spent if it results in an improved image of banking careers and a supply of able new recruits. 

Brian Caplen is the editor of The Banker. Follow him on Twitter @BrianCaplen

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