During my 46-year career, I do not recall ever having seen a sign such as the one above. I still have not, but we do keep hearing from our member banks, as well as from bankers throughout the country, that attracting the next generation of bankers has become difficult. There has been much speculation as to why.
First, many people have surmised ‒ in today’s world of advances in technology being made almost daily ‒ that more traditional businesses such as banking do not offer the same excitement factor. This makes sense, especially given that most of the current job openings in banking are in compliance, audit, loan review and accounting. These are critical functions, but they do not present the same sizzle to a 22-year-old college graduate as that new job opening at Google. Yet not everyone is cut out to be the next Bill Gates, so how do we find those with more of a penchant toward the areas of need for banks?
Second, everyone knows that the number of banks has shrunk significantly over the past few decades, so it is easy for job seekers to assume that few opportunities remain in banking. Also, with the industry continuing to consolidate, a career planner would have to ask if banking offers advancement potential. We need to do a better job of telling the story of our business. We are financial intermediaries. Our services have always been needed, and will continue to be needed in the future, as long as trade and commerce exist. While I do not pretend to know what banking will look like in the future, I do know that we will always need people and companies to provide financial services.
Third, the pristine image of banking and bankers has been unfairly tarnished by the financial crisis. The young people we seek to hire today grew up during the crisis. Many saw their families, or the families of friends or neighbors, lose jobs and homes during this time, leaving a negative impact. They may not trust banks and bankers, so why would they want to become a banker? Of course most banks and bankers had nothing to do with causing the financial crisis, but the national media relentlessly blamed banks for all of the problems related to it. How do we convey the truth to potential employees?
A few years ago, the Indiana Bankers Association identified leadership training as a priority. The IBA established several leadership opportunities for young banking professionals, including our well-received Leadership Development Program and Future Leadership Division, but the programs are not growing as quickly as the need for a new generation of bank leaders. Our members tell us that they value our programs and are using them, but that they are struggling to find people to hire to take advantage of these opportunities.
One way bankers can appeal to today’s young adults is by touting banks’ community service. Not since the baby-boom generation entered the workforce in the early 1970s has there been the current level of concern by young job seekers for giving back to the community. Young professionals want to work for companies that demonstrate a record of and a commitment to community service. No one does that better than banks.
What else can we do collectively to attract new talent to the business of banking? I expect this topic will be a huge issue at IBA’s strategic planning event this fall. In the meantime, we can hang out our new sign: Talented People Wanted to Join the Business of Banking!
– S. Joe DeHaven