Strategic workforce planning in Investment Banks: what employers need to know

by Nicola Hancock, Client Services Director of Investment Banking, Alexander Mann Solutions

We’ve all heard of the so-called ‘war-for-talent’ within the US Investment Banking and Financial services field. In fact, it’s no secret that there’s an ever-increasing demand for specific and niche skills, but short supply of the requisite talent. In particular, the ability to attract technology[i] experts into investment banking is arguably presenting the greatest challenge for many employers.

Nicola Hancock, Client Services Director of Investment Banking, Alexander Mann Solutions
Nicola Hancock, Client Services Director of Investment Banking, Alexander Mann Solutions

Whilst Deutsche Bank chief executive John Cryan’s famous idea[ii] of replacing as many as half of his 98,000 staff with robots has not yet come into fruition, the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on trading floors is impacting the skills that firms need to stay competitive. And with technology acting as the enabler behind almost everything an investment bank does, having the right Tech talent on board to support the management of existing systems and integration of new ones is now more crucial than it has ever been.

The challenge for employers, however, lies in competing for these professionals with Tech giants such as Google and Facebook – which, on the surface, may seem to have more appealing employer value propositions for this talent pool.

On top of this, hirers in the investment banking arena are facing a further battle that can often go undiscussed: the sheer extent of irrelevant CVs that need to be sifted through in order to seek out the perfect candidate. In general, many banks are likely to hire between 1% to 5% of the applications that they receive – that’s a vast number of individuals that need to be deselected. With so many organizations preferring the human approach and relying on people to complete this time-consuming task, the impact on resources and costs can be significant. This, of course, can also present a significant challenge in terms of providing a positive candidate experience to all involved in the hiring process, even those unsuccessful applicants.

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In this volatile and ambiguous landscape, implementing the right strategy to secure and retain the talent they need to thrive is crucial for investment banks. But how?

Make the most of Tech

Technological evolution is increasingly becoming a crucial component in every role, across all sectors and geographies, and talent sourcing in Investment Banking is no different. With resourcing teams facing a barrage of applications, the integration of AI and robotics to manage much of the administrative process can streamline hiring for the benefit of the candidate and hirer alike. Crucially, this can free up time for better interaction between the employer and the selected applicants, enabling hiring teams to build a greater rapport with potential talent. The ability to speed up the entire process will also be hugely valuable to improving the candidate experience, allowing feedback to be shared with unsuccessful applicants in a timely manner.

Of course, in many cases it’s not easy to get this technology through the information security processes at banks, so whilst there is certainly an appetite for this, it will be those who can navigate it best that will reap the greatest rewards.

Strategic talent pools

Critically, firms need to be tapping into data and market insights to identify where the talent they need both now – and in the near future – can be found. Time spent on developing a strong, targeted proposition, which is proactively focused on where talent is and has a clear ongoing engagement strategy, will help organizations get ahead, rather than relying on responses to live roles. This will also impact how banks look at their location strategy, especially in a context of reducing operating costs and increasing efficiency. In the US specifically, New York still remains the largest hub of financial services talent, but it has begun to stagnate, with Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Jacksonville and Denver some of the fastest growing hubs of today.

Really analyse your employer brand

When it comes to attracting Tech talent into the industry, too few firms are integrating their digital credentials into the wider employer value proposition in order to really compete with the major Tech giants. Too often organizations assume Tech talent will come to them because of their brand as a big global bank.Tier 1 investment banks can perhaps be forgiven for believing that their well-known brand will resonate with Tech talent – but the simple fact is, it won’t.

That’s not to say that these firms should seek to directly compete with the likes of Google – what we need to see across investment banking is a greater emphasis on the opportunities for Tech talent. There’s more room for digital innovation than many potential employees are perhaps aware. Communicating this is the first step in generating a strong employer brand that appeals to this talent pool.

Utilise training and development

It’s vital that all of the above effort doesn’t end once a candidate is hired. Given the scarcity of Tech talent available to Investment Banks, competition will be rife and there’s the risk of potentially losing high performing professionals quickly.  It’s here that training and development plays a pivotal role, with the likes of Toronto-Dominion Bank leading the way in innovative thinking in this field.

The leading North American bank has introduced [iii] a process to facilitate quick promotions of junior employees in order to beat the competition for top emerging talent. According to the firm’s Vice Chair and Head of Corporate and Investment Banking, Robbie Pryde, “to continue to attract and retain exceptional new colleagues, we need to demonstrate leadership among our peers and commitment to the development of our people. We must also ensure that talent development D is top of mind as an employer of choice among graduates.”

There’s no doubt that strategic workforce planning is becoming increasingly complex in the US Investment Banking arena. Employers are now facing a battlefield that has moved markedly from the landscape of ten years ago – and this will only continue to evolve. The need to adapt talent attraction and engagement strategies quickly is now more important than it has ever been, and it will be those organizations able to swiftly innovate that will get ahead in the war for talent. Are you prepared?

[i]Quora. “Which Areas In Investment Banking Are Experiencing Talent Gaps?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Dec. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/12/20/which-areas-in-investment-banking-are-experiencing-talent-gaps/#352bbde55450.

[ii]Hess, Abigail. “Deutsche Bank CEO Suggests Robots Could Replace Half the Company’s 97,000 Employees.” CNBC, CNBC, 8 Nov. 2017, www.cnbc.com/2017/11/08/deutsche-bank-ceo-suggests-robots-could-replace-half-its-employees.html.

[iii]Rastello, Sandrine, and Bloomberg News. “TD Bank Speeds up Junior Bankers’ Promotions to Attract and Keep Young Talent.” Financial Post, 9 July 2018, business.financialpost.com/news/fp-street/td-bank-speeds-up-junior-bankers-promotions-to-attract-and-keep-young-talent.