The UK’s financial services sector has seen intense change and upheaval since the onset of recession in 2008. Factors driving the change include increased regulatory demands and the need for strengthened business practices in response to weakened public confidence and a changing global marketplace.
Preparing for a positive future, many companies have already committed to putting responsible business and investment strategies in place, based on the core values of transparency, accountability, responsibility and ethics. They are gradually changing cultures and behaviours and creating solid pathways to stability.
Reflecting the wider business belief in an improving UK economy, more than 50 per cent of private sector employers expect their workforce to increase during the next 12 months, according to a recent Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey. Building the foundation of a rich talent pipeline is, therefore, an essential next step to ensure innovative, market-ready companies.
With more than 1 million young people still classified as not in education, employment or training – there is a recognised skill shortage that must be remediated to ensure the financial services sector can meet the UK’s demand for renewed economic growth.
By taking action now, firms will be instrumental in enabling the sector’s ability to successfully compete in the challenging global marketplace. Through such opportunities as virtual work placements, companies can ensure that young people aged 14 and over can get access to the programmes that offer them practical opportunities to improve their employability, and realise their full potential.
Companies that recognise this responsibility to positively influence the development of skills training in the financial services sector will also ultimately benefit from greater accessibility to a new pool of innovative, work-ready talent.
With increased access to vocational training, apprenticeships, and virtual work experiences, young people can make effective transitions into the workplace, armed with the right skills, attitudes and knowledge. Such improvement of young people’s ability to compete and advance in their careers is strong sign of forward progress resulting from sector- and company-wide cultural change.
Supporting sector firms by providing practical guidance and toolkits, Financial & Legal Services Partnership initiatives enable the development of fresh skills and new talent to encourage and sustain a commercially dynamic industry. The initiatives work across the entire spectrum, attracting, encouraging and developing the sector’s multi-talent pipeline from the earliest workplace experiences through to executive management level.
For example, the GetinGetOn initiative, an online work experience programmes co-funded by UK Commission for Employment and Skills, aims to attract young people into the sector and provide them with the opportunity to learn about the sector and improve their employability skills. At the other end of the spectrum, initiatives such as Leadership 21 Century provide practical guidance and toolkits to boards, which encourages diversity and the development of a pipeline of talent for future board appointments.
The boards of companies in FTSE 350 will receive personal copies of the FLSP industry-driven set of statements of good practice, which is supported by both the Financial Reporting Council and the Finance Conduct Authority.
By taking part in these initiatives the sector’s most forward-looking employers are gradually creating real organisational change and growth.
There cannot be a ‘quick fix’. As FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley recently commented, the direction for 2014 is more towards an analysis of culture and ethics, rather than enforcing rules. He sees the next 12 months as “an important period of consolidation”, and “increasingly focused on transitioning towards next steps”.
These small steps will be the foundation for renewed sector growth, ultimately resulting in firms’ increased ability to offer exceptional career opportunities in a culturally diverse industry.
By supporting, nurturing and encouraging young people we will not only create a new pool of innovative, work-ready talent but will also be instrumental in ensuring the sector’s continued significant contribution to the UK’s renewing economy.
Sarah Thwaites is acting chief executive of the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership