Bankers are now practically saints. Well, compared to how they used to be. Photo: Shutterstock

Thursday 12th February 2015

Bank errors in our favour

Recession turned bankers into better people, survey suggests

According to Morgan McKinley, a professional services recruitment consultancy who have been monitoring trends in recruitment in the banking sector for the last ten years, the last decade has seen a marked shift in banking culture.

The consultancy interviewed several major figures in banking recruitment on the issue of culture shift. Paul Murphy, director of recruitment at Royal Bank of Canada, said:

Before the financial crisis there was a desire to move upwards as fast as possible. Now the motivation for joining the bank is more about balance sheet strength, our history. Culture is key. Pre-financial crisis, no-one would have asked about the culture of the bank. Now it’s the first question I am asked.

Shaking the magic 8-ball indicates that HR issues are now being seen to align more closely to business aims. Murphy continued:

The chair of our global diversity committee is our CEO – that’s how seriously we take this issue. It’s not a tag-on to HR: it’s a business issue.

Diversity, especially in relation to increasing the amount of women in banking, is now a higher priority. Hakan Enver, Operations Director at Morgan McKinley, commented: ‘Diversity has leapt up the hiring agenda. In UK banking and financial services, where diversity is seen as a priority, there continues to be a dearth of suitably qualified women, particularly at senior levels. There has been a huge drive from a number of the major banks to focus on diversity.’

It isn’t just about plugging the numbers for a pretty press release, either. A homogenous workplace is a potential liability – when everybody sees things the same way and has similar backgrounds, it is all too easy to go down a rabbit hole without any oversight whatsoever.

Not for nothing have a number of papers been published questioning whether more women in banking could have prevented the recession from ever coming about. Would ‘Lehman Sisters’ have collapsed in the same manner as the Brothers, or even at all?

Barclays’ own report into gender diversity said: ‘Women use partly different strategies of financial discipline than men’, and ‘more often avoid information about markets that may lead them to deviate from their long-term strategies. Hence, women seem to be less overconfident than men in their investment behavior.’

Barclays, big losers in the recession and recently heavily implicated in the Libor scandal, have something of an interest in these matters. Other banks like Lloyds have also been far more active in their approach to increasing diversity in their offices than before the recession. Coincidentally, they were the other major bank stung by the Libor scandal.

Whether this is change for the long term or whether it’s just firms playing once-bitten, twice-shy for the short term, remains to be seen.

About the author

Jerome Langford

Jerome is a graduate in Philosophy from St Andrews, who alternately spends time writing about HR and staring wistfully out of windows, thinking about life’s bigger questions: Why are we here? How much lunch is too much lunch? What do you mean exactly by ‘final warning’?