Around this exact time three years ago I had my financial and economic degrees in hand and was ready to kickstart my career in financial services. Finding an entry level job in the industry was becoming increasingly difficult (unless I wanted to work on 100% commission and pressure my family and friends into buying life insurance from me). Barriers to entry were preventing me from getting interviews for jobs that I knew I could succeed in if given the chance. I have come to realize that these kinds of barriers are some of the root causes why the financial services industry still struggles to overcome its poor history with diversity and inclusion.
Building a diverse and inclusive workforce has been a top initiative across all industries over the last few years. D&I initiatives attract and retain talent, which we all know is of immense importance during this era of the “great resignation”. So, if financial services leaders understand the value that comes from a diverse and inclusive workforce, why has D&I been such a persistent challenge? Why haven’t they made more headway? It starts with their approach to hiring entry level talent.
This past weekend I searched through Indeed.com to look at all the applications posted for entry level jobs within the industry. Listed below, you’ll see two attributes that were ubiquitous among all the applications I read, along with comments of mine to give you perspective as to why these required attributes may not be optimal when looking to diversify your workforce.
Bachelor’s degree in business administration and/or finance
Does this need to be a requirement? Is the fact that I know the rule of 72 or the time value of money truly going to be the deal breaker as to whether I am a successful entry level teller, client services associate or relationship banker? For years, white men have dominated the financial service industry. The same is true for college degrees in finance: In 2020 white men made up 46.4% of bachelor’s degrees received for general finance.
One to three years of financial services industry experience
This is a real catch-22 for the entry level talent you are looking to attract. The vast majority of junior talent have just graduated college and are seeking entry level roles to gain industry experience. Keep in mind how quickly fintech companies innovate: they understand the value of an outside perspective. You need this outside perspective as well if you intend on keeping up with them. If the industry wants to be more inclusive, wouldn’t it make sense to have a talent pool that includes candidates from outside of the industry and who have different perspectives and backgrounds?
What if the industry were to take away these two requirements and focus primarily on the soft skills needed to work in this line of business? Spend the few extra minutes to identify experiences on the resume that express critical competencies like adaptability, ambition, and digital savviness. This opens the door to people who can be successful in financial services but may have shied away from applying or been skipped over in the application process due to the lack of experience or business degree. This shift will have a vast impact on the diversity and inclusivity of your firm.
Think back to your first job in FS. Did you really need the finance degree to perform the day-to-day duties of that role? Or were most skills developed on the job? Would a couple of years in the industry have made a drastic difference in your ability to do the job?
Also, take a moment to examine your workforce. What attributes exist among your top performing employees? What skills, behaviors, and perspectives do you want to see out of a diverse and inclusive workforce? This is what you should be hiring for….
The FS sector has a long road ahead when it comes to D&I in the workplace. Removing barriers to entry will undoubtedly increase your candidate pool to include more diverse talent. We need to see more diversity at all levels of financial services, but this minor change in your approach to hiring entry level talent can be the first step in reaching your D&I initiatives.