Tapping into Emerging Talent for a Greener FinServe Future
World leaders are demanding radical change on a global scale. Mega issues such as social justice and sustainability have gripped the news agenda, with the pandemic putting a firm focus on protecting the environment after factories shut down, the skies emptied of planes and the once-clogged roads were left deserted. In response, governments around the world have pledged to cut carbon emissions, with the UK aiming to decarbonise all sectors of the economy to meet its net zero target by 2050.
In the wake of COP26, every industry has been under review for how it contributes to climate change, and by 2023, most big UK firms will have to set out detailed public plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future. The financial services sector is no different, but leaders in the industry actually have a huge opportunity to drive significant, cross-sector change. Financial services firms underpin the infrastructure of other industries by financing them, and therefore a more purpose-driven, sustainable financial services sector can create more sustainable practices in other verticals, such as manufacturing, construction, transport, agriculture and energy.
There are three core areas of focus for financial services corporations who want to have a greater impact on the world. Firstly, they must look at their own operations to make them as sustainable as possible – including a review of suppliers they work with. Secondly, they should create a robust CSR policy that is both adhered to and communicated, both internally to the workforce and externally to customers, suppliers and the wider market. Thirdly, they should work towards creating a more diverse workforce, through social mobility and an inclusive company culture that prioritises employee wellbeing. In this piece, I will focus on the third strand – how employers in the sector can drive more impactful change through talent attract and retention.
Drawing in Gen Z talent to lead by example
If we look at the current financial services workforce, we see older millennials reaching the C-suite, sitting within senior leadership positions with deep knowledge of the sector. At the other end of the scale, Gen Z workers are stepping on to the career ladder, many of whom are passionate about protecting the planet and making their mark in the workplace. Together, these individuals are a powerful, transformative combination that can drive real change.
Not only did the pandemic bring the causes we care about into sharp focus, it also helped individuals get more clarity on their own professional goals. The latest Workmonitor survey from Randstad found that “the concerns and inconveniences [workers have] weathered have profoundly altered their perspectives and desires. Taking charge of their destiny… has become the defining characteristic for the post-pandemic workforce”. Nearly half (42%) of 25–34-year-olds now cite having meaningful work as the most important consideration in making their career choice and over a third (35%) want to work for respected and caring employers. That’s a colossal number of individuals who are hungry for more purpose-driven roles. By hiring these eager young minds now and forming inter-generational collaborations within teams, financial services leaders can be the driving force behind pushing more sustainable initiatives in business.
Promoting sustainable practices
Gen Z workers don’t have to compromise between corporate roles and sustainability-focussed careers anymore, and there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to take action now. We are seeing huge demand from our own clients for talent with a passion for sustainability, who want to go into ESG-focussed projects, and competition for these individuals is tough. Just as investors are now looking more closely at the funds they’re investing in to make sure they align with the impact they want to have on the world, young people are looking more closely at the pledges that financial services organisations are making to check that they align with their own interests and career goals.
Historically, ESG might have been viewed by some as a nice-to-have, but it’s now a business imperative for those who want to attract the brightest talent. Gen Z are hungry to be part of the change, but they’ve got to see a commitment from their prospective employers first. To stand any chance of attracting the best, most passionate minds to their teams, financial services organisations must demonstrate their commitment to ESG-focussed programmes and roles. If they don’t shout about their efforts, they won’t draw in the young talent they need to make a difference.
By backing Gen Z and giving young people a voice on eco-focussed initiatives at the grassroots level, financial services firms have a big opportunity to both drive ground-breaking change in their own industry but also inspire a legion of other sectors to reflect and champion these practices themselves. Of course, finding enthusiastic individuals who want to make a difference is half the battle, but a battle worth fighting when you consider the benefits of doing so. Financial services businesses with higher ESG ratings typically perform better financially and have a higher market value, boosting both investor and consumer confidence alike. At the same time, by putting green initiatives higher up the corporate agenda, they can implement change that will have a long-lasting impact on the global market and society as a whole.
About the author: Daniel Sutherland is the Financial Services Practice Director of Grayce, a UK-based fintech technology solutions provider. He specialises in change consultancy, providing people and technology based solutions. He also support FTSE100 & 250 Financial Services organisations to build sustainable talent pipelines, close skills gaps, and shape tomorrow's leaders, today.