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Selling finance - why the finance industry needs to improve its communication with the incoming workforce

By SEC Newgate team
14 September 2023
Financial Communications

By Isabella Dover

Following recent economic turmoil, the lack of financial passion amongst Gen Z isn’t a new topic considering reports from S&P report that only 57% of 18–24-year-olds in the US are financially literate. Its understandable that the big picture of personal finance and investing is often drowned out by the charismas of financial trends like NFTs or crypto.

However, this lack of broad financial awareness has left Gen Z’s impression of finance susceptible to influence. Especially within the careers conversation as more and more graduates express a lack of genuine interest, instead choosing the industry in pursuit of stability and, most notably, the salary. This trend is changing the buzz around finance to a sombre story, as very few graduates believe finance could provide a well-rounded and fulfilling career.

Granted, the industry has been fighting an uphill battle with the media to maintain its reputation since 2008. Following films like ‘The Big Short’, or news outlets reporting Junior Bankers at Goldman Sachs calling the working environment ‘inhumane’. This is exemplified by the Wall Street Oasis survey finding that Junior Analysts in some firms were averaging just 4.9 hours of sleep per night.  One analyst even expressed that 100-hour work weeks were normalised.  It is logical that Gen Z are conditioned to believe the worst, resulting in scepticism towards the sector.

This is not to say that Gen Z have stopped pursuing financial careers altogether, with EY predicting that Gen Z will make up 27% of the financial workforce by 2025. Entry positions at JPMorgan are harder to attain than a place at Harvard. Coveted M&A, trading or PE positions face fierce competition, but an emerging sentiment among Gen Z-ers is the feeling of obligation to enter the industry to gain stability in the cost-of-living crisis. After interviewing a JPMorgan recruit CNBC found they knew all about the negative working culture but was willing to endeavour to  pay off his student loans. The clear correlation between career achievement and job satisfaction poses a missed opportunity to improve productivity, especially, with the labour force entering the industry already demotivated.

As Gen Z proves to be a career hopping generation, graduates are often less incentivised to apply to smaller firms, hoping instead that name brand references will help them stand out.  This recent phenomenon, coined by Anthony Koltz as the ‘great resignation’, has seen resignation rates spike in workers aged 30-45, with Gen Z threatening even lower rates of satisfaction. New talent is starting to look to industries with a well-marketed approach to job satisfaction and work life balance. This poses the threat of a brain drain within the industry, as tech, business and consultancy pose as favourable alternatives.

The markets rapid growth also demands a new finance focus, as projections from The Bureau of Labour Statistics suggest that 773,800 new jobs will be added to the industry by 2026. The skilled labour population is projected to fail in matching this growth. This will lead to 63% of CEOs becoming seriously concerned for the skill of the future labour market according to PWC. Consequently, an emphasis on communication and marketing is paramount to selling a career in finance to Gen Z. Safeguarding the longevity of industry, and widespread prosperity.

Passion for finance needs reigniting, starting with an increased dialogue between firms and students about the benefits of a financial career. Gen Z consider social impact more than any other generation when choosing a job. Therefore, communication should reflect this with initiatives that guide the narrative. Otherwise, they risk preventing new advancements in diversity, innovation and technology within the workplace. Most importantly, the current efforts to modernise the workplace show that firms are striving towards a culture of wellness, flexibility and purpose for their employees, this is critical to altering Gen Z’s perception. Financial education should also be targeted, Shepards Friendly found 25% of British teenagers already source financial advice from TikTok. Utilising these platforms further to market financial careers shows strong promise in eroding negative stereotypes, replacing them with a culture of excitement.

Stefanie Coleman (People Advisory Services at EY) consults for financial firms to combat the emerging strategic people issues. She works on the basis “you can’t put tomorrows talent in yesterday’s jobs” and it is clear, as the financial workplace evolves, that a strong communication campaign is necessary to highlight the bright future of finance to the emerging labour force.