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Strategic Insights

Don’t Bank On It

Don’t Bank On It, takes an in-depth look at the evolution of investment banks’ talent propositions post-GFC, how they align with employees’ priorities and the sizeable costs of the industry’s growing talent crisis.
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Investment banks have long held a reputation as the Holy Grail of financial services careers. For many decades, Wall Street’s largest firms would regularly out-woo – and significantly out-bid – their corporate rivals for their pick of the world’s elite business school graduates. Huge bonuses, lavish perks and unlimited scope for career advancement had the best and brightest lining up at every global investment bank’s front door. Following the global financial crisis (GFC), the industry’s reputation was turned on its head, with unethical practices and sky-high employee compensation coming under intense scrutiny from regulators, shareholders and the public at large. In response, banks moved quickly to better align employee incentives with their long-term performance. Annual bonuses were slashed and cash payouts were increasingly replaced with share- based incentive payments, much of which are subject to prolonged deferral schemes and clawback provisions. Many corporate benefits – including expatriate packages – were cut or severely curtailed. The multi-million dollar carrot that once attracted so many to the industry all but disappeared. With reputations badly damaged and compensation on the decline, banks are finding themselves in the midst of a major talent crisis. Global bulge bracket firms are no longer regarded as the destination of choice for Ivy League and Oxbridge graduates, who are instead turning to companies like Facebook and Google, as well as a host of new technology start- ups. Young investment bankers, fed up with gruelling working hours and lack of a social life, are following suit. For more seasoned executives, morale is at an all-time low, while dwindling job satisfaction, combined with an absence of exit options, has created a disheartening working environment. Many are opting to leave the industry altogether, sparking a rise in voluntary turnover rates. Recognising these challenges, banks have undertaken a variety of measures designed to stem the talent bleed. They have also sought to overhaul their image as ‘churn and burn’ factories in an effort to market themselves as attractive employment destinations for millennials. Some of these measures have been relatively concrete, such as accelerated promotion timelines for analysts, while others have focused on ‘softer’ employment benefits, such as greater commitment to work-life balance for junior employees.

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