4 ways Wall Street firms can revitalise their millennial recruitment

Millennials are sceptical of the financial services industry. This is hardly surprising given that most entered the workforce after the global economic downturn in 2008; a crisis that many feel was due to Wall Street recklessness. 

Finance may still be a popular choice for top business graduates in the US, but numbers are dwindling. MIT’s Sloan School saw 27 per cent of graduates enter finance jobs from its class of 2007, yet the proportion had slumped to just 16 per cent in 2016. 

So how much do Generation Y, as millennials are otherwise known, distrust financial services? The Millennial Disruption Index found that 71 per cent of them would rather go to the dentist than listen to what their bank says. 

But Wall Street can shake up its recruitment practices to attract and retain the best millennial talent. Here are some of the changes we think hiring managers can make to disrupt the status quo. 

1. Commit to social responsibility during recruitment 

One of the major draws of finance has always been salary, particularly in investment banking. Yet, less than one-quarter (24 per cent) of millennials in a 2018 Deloitte survey believed organisations should prioritise generating profits. 

Instead, millennials believe businesses should spend more time creating jobs and improving society through better education and the promotion of health and wellbeing. If this all sounds a tad naive, don’t worry; the research shows millennials understand that profits are necessary, but they want their bosses to focus on a broader set of goals. 

Paying lip service to corporate social responsibility (CSR) during recruitment processes is unlikely to be enough for many millennials. We expect to see a growing emphasis on CSR during hiring in an effort to appeal to the best candidates. This includes more socially motivated job ads, interviews and recruitment drives at campuses. 

2. Focus more on millennial retention 

Finance jobs pay well, so attracting millennials isn’t necessarily a huge problem for the industry. Generation Y may not be as salary-focused as their parents or grandparents, but 51 per cent still rank financial rewards and benefits as ‘very important’ when choosing to work for an organisation, according to Deloitte. 

But keeping hold of the best talent is never easy, and millennials are no exception. In fact, they are renowned for having itchy feet when it comes to employment. What makes this an issue for financial institutions is that millennials aren’t just changing jobs; they’re switching industries entirely. Tech firms that offer better work-life balances, less rigid internal structures and the chance to develop innovative products and services are an obvious draw for restless millennials. 

The finance industry will need to work hard to make younger employees feel valued after the initial pull of a big-salary career wears thin. Businesses don’t have long either – Deloitte found 43 per cent of millennials expect to leave their current job within the next two years. Offering clear paths to career progression, the chance to develop new skills quickly and student loan assistance could help strengthen millennial loyalty.

3. Emphasise the benefits of technology 

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that millennials are a tech-savvy bunch. However, businesses must be clever in how they position technology within their organisation to attract the best candidates. 

Millennials don’t just want to use the latest innovations in their day-to-day jobs. They’re seeking positions where automation can remove the tedious and repetitive elements of their roles so they can focus on personal development and fulfilling projects. 

In other words, millennials often want to avoid the traditional spreadsheet grunt work handed off to junior employees. This will no doubt irk some senior managers who had to climb the career ladder doing the very same tasks, but they may need to compromise if they want to attract and retain the next generation of top talent.

4. Overcome the culture conundrum 

Since the global financial crisis, the finance industry has suffered a credibility problem. Wall Street has been at the centre of toxic culture allegations, with films like The Wolf of Wall Street hardly doing the industry any favours. 

Unfortunately for financial institutions, Deloitte’s study showed a good corporate culture is second only to salary for millennials who are considering whether or not to work for an organisation. Does the business share their values? Are they receiving enough on-the-job training? Is regular overseas travel a perk of the job? These are quickly becoming must-haves for today’s younger employees. 

That’s not to say that finance organisations aren’t making progress when it comes to fixing company culture. Nevertheless, ensuring the right tone from the top is crucial to delivering on any promises with regards to healthy work environments, which is why culture audits may become key for the future. 

Appealing to the next generation (and the one after that)

There has clearly been a step change in the expectations of millennials compared to previous generations. Younger employees want fulfilling jobs that align with their values and provide the flexibility to pursue outside interests. 

Generation Z is following hot on the heels of millennials and there is considerable overlap between the two when it comes to career priorities. If anything, expectations are even higher for this group, which has grown up able to solve many problems with a simple click of a button. 

Revolutionising recruitment processes to attract and retain Generation Y employees may be a considerable task for some organisations, particularly larger, slower-moving enterprises. But making these changes now will likely future-proof businesses for both this generation and the next. 

Barclay Simpson is a specialist corporate governance recruitment consultancy that can help you attract the best candidates for finance jobs in the US. If you’d like to discuss your options, please contact me on (212) 786 7490 or via email at ww@barclaysimpson.com

Our 2018 Market Reports combine our review of the prevailing conditions in the corporate governance recruitment market with the results of our latest employer survey.

Image: monkeybusinessimages via iStock