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Campbell Macpherson: Why graduates are turned off financial services

In the first of a three-part series on the next generation of employees, advisers and customers, Campbell Macpherson looks at employees and asks how financial services firms can attract them

Campbell Macpherson MM blog

The next generation is different: every generation says this but this time it just might be true.

The previous generation aspired to a corner office with an über-efficient secretary standing guard outside. They yearned for the big house in the country, the apartment in the city, the annual first-class season ticket and the holiday home in the sun. They coveted the Mercedes-AMG, the Range Rover, the offshore investment portfolio and the Coutts cheque account.

They aspired to pay off their mortgages, pay off their previous wives and quit work in their 50s. They were the generation of Gordon Gekko, Donald Trump, Conrad Black, Alan Bond, Fred Goodwin and Rupert Murdoch. They were the work-hard, play-hard, take-no-prisoners but thanks-for-the-final-salary-pension generation.

This generation is passing on a world that is drowning in debt, with an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, young and old, and they have decimated the very concept of employer-employee loyalty. Many of the companies they are leaving behind are dripping in insincerity; from the corporate values that hang from their ceilings to their tick-box corporate social responsibility charters.

The next generation wants none of it.

The next generation have no use for an office, let alone one in the corner. They carry their PA around in their pockets. They avoid commuting as much as possible and have enough debt from their time at university, thanks very much.

They are not into status; they are into making things happen. They are not into the status

quo either; they want to change the world. They are the Apple generation; the Google, YouTube, Facebook generation. To them, email is a near-extinct form of communication.

They are “generation social”, who understand the power of networks; the power of connections; the power of sharing ideas and building upon them. They have a moral contract with their employer which roughly equates to “as long as both parties are winning from the relationship, it will continue”.

Very few of them will ever be wedded to one company – or even one industry. They believe business is about more than simply making money; their employer needs to be doing something for the community; for the world.

They have no plans to retire – late or early. The very word retirement makes no sense to them. A significant proportion of the next generation will live to 100; they are in this for the long haul. Oh, and they can spot insincerity a mile off.

How on earth can you attract these people to your business?

Well, the truth is, when it comes to financial services, very few companies will, unless they make some dramatic changes to the way their businesses work.

Only nine financial services firms made it into the top 100 companies for graduates, according to the latest rankings from The Job Crowd, which is ridiculously low given the importance of financial services to our economy.

The ranking is based on thousands of reviews written on by employees in their first three years of work at hundreds of UK graduate employers. The nine FS companies that made it into the top 100 were The Kiln Group at Number 10 (an insurance and pensions specialist according to its website), Nationwide at number 17, Mitsubishi Securities at 38, Morgan Stanley at 48, Citibank at 49, HSBC at 59, Marsh at 65, Fidelity at 75 and Aon at 85.

Where is Prudential, Aviva, L&G and Zurich? Where is Barclays, RBS, Lloyds? Where’s Goldman Sachs? Where is Jupiter and Henderson? For goodness sake, the Bank of England was ranked 89 and even the FSA snuck into number 96.

Perhaps we can ascertain some of the reasons for the dismal performance if we take a look at some of the comments received by the top-ranking companies, and ask ourselves: “Would your employees say the same things about your organisation?”

  • “The people here are amazing.” (Microsoft, ranked #1)
  • “There is a culture of openness where ideas are shared and welcomed on all levels of this incredibly dynamic and rapidly-growing company.” (Newton Management Consultants #2)
  • “Everyone is so helpful, approachable and very enthusiastic.” (National Grid #3)
  • “It is an incredibly friendly and positive place to work. Everyone works really hard to achieve the company’s goals, but we also have a laugh together.” (FDM Group #4)
  • “A strong reputation for upholding ethical standards. The feeling that you are contributing to the whole community.” (The Co-operative Group #5)

Other comments for those companies ranked in the top 20 include:

  • “Hunger for change and innovation.”
  • “Incredibly open and fun atmosphere within the firm.”
  • “Great support, training and opportunity to progress.” 
  • “Exciting and vibrant place to work.”
  • “Genuinely cares about work/life balance.”
  • “Awesome, relaxed, very open and transparent.”

One thing you notice straight away from the above is that it is all about culture: how people feel, act and behave – and in the eyes of the next generation, very few FS companies measure up.

How many insurance firms would their employees describe as “hungry for change and innovation”? How many banks would be praised for “a strong reputation for upholding ethical standards”?

How many fund managers could be said to “genuinely care about life/work balance”? How many financial services companies could be said to revel in a “culture of openness where ideas are shared and welcomed on all levels”?

According to The Job Crowd, the answer to the last question is nine. That is not enough.

Campbell is MD of consulting firm, Campbell Macpherson & Associates. His career has included executive roles in Openwork, Zurich and Sesame


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There are 8 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. The companies that seem a delight to work for do not have venal regulators continually making changes using their hindsight skills.

    Neither do they have unlimited liability for their actions.

    Would I encourage my children into an industry that is but an echo of its former glory?

  2. roger the cabin boy 30th January 2013 at 2:33 pm

    got to agree with the Captain…….

    i wouldn’t do this given my time over again!

    too much interference from the unqualified and ignorant quangoes who still fail to do the job they were created for.(i will probably get struck off for saying so!)

    IFAs are trusted more than the FSA by the average consumer. that surely tells you a huge amount.

    oh well yo ho ho and a bottle of arsenic!

  3. I will not take on a graduate or any young person for that matter, given my time over I would steer well clear of FS or more importantly the unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable Quango’s that lord it over us.
    I simply will not inflict this life on any of them, my own son, a graduate with a first, included.

  4. Should have joined civil sevice when 18

    Would now be looking forward to packing it all in at 60 on a a nice fat index linked final salary pension guaranteed by all of those tax paying muggings in the private sector.

    Instead I look at my personal pension pot and ……

  5. Where there is a salesman in a suit selling you financial advice, a bank or other financial institution selling you something, you know your getting ripped off. Every week another mis selling scandal uncovered or another FSA review looking at some scam or other.

    That’s why we are not interested in an untrustworthy industry.

  6. Where can I see the full list of top graduate employers mentioned?

  7. Anon@ 6.48
    You are obviously not a graduate of English, if indeed, a graduate at all.

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