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Page last updated
February 16, 2003




E-financial services; how do you find the right people?


Over the past two years, much-hyped 'new economy' companies such as boo.com and letsbuyit.com have expanded rapidly, then failed equally quickly.

One of the reasons behind the high-profile disasters has been the unexpected speed with which established companies have responded to the challenge of their new rivals. Within the banking sector, almost every company has responded quickly; major investments have been made in new technology, new ways of working and communicating have been introduced and new skills have been developed. The new businesses still operating in the banking sector tend to be those that complement or add value to services offered by major players; not those that replace them.

What does this mean though for the people working within the banking sector? One result is that there is a desperate need to attract people with 'new economy' skills to join 'old economy' companies. For example, as financial products are traded on-line, there is a requirement for technically skilled people, not just to run these websites and portals, but to understand how the technology is best used and best marketed.

Every organisation has a different need; the remaining small companies are now seeking people with experience in growing organisations and financial management, while large banks need people with expertise in product development and management to run their new 'incubators' and e-commerce divisions.

So, how do you find the right people? A year or two ago, much of the recruitment in these areas was done by word of mouth; chance meetings at First Tuesday events, or friend-of-a-friend introductions. Finding the right people today is much more of a strategic challenge as recruiters look to plan for the longer term, and to develop future managers and global organisations. The person you hired to programme your web site is unlikely to be the person to run a 100-person division of a major investment bank.

Specialist recruitment consultancies are the solution; and although they can be successful at filling occasional vacancies, employers generally find that it is best to develop a long term relationship with them. Matching the work culture of the jobseeker and employer is as important as the skills required for the job, and a consultancy that is aware of the cultural requirements can save an awful lot of time and money by getting it right first time.

How do consultancies recruit?
The best consultancies to employ tend to be those that use a number of recruitment techniques at different levels. Some positions can still be filled through advertising in national newspapers, and some potential employees will be registered already with a consultancy. However, in the new economy, two vitally important techniques are headhunting and online recruitment.

Consultancies that employ a dedicated research team and have a strong knowledge of the wider financial services marketplace will be able to find out which people have been successful in e-financial services, and what would be needed to attract them into a new opportunity. They will also be able to look online, at newsgroups and discussion boards to see who is being talked about.

Equally, many of those working in e-business will prefer to look for work online, so a presence there is essential. This can take the form of a consultancy's own web site, or advertising on a central job board such as Workthing.com or Stepstone. co.uk. Online recruitment is itself an area that is developing quickly. New online innovations such as citipeople.com offer jobs and a full recruitment consultancy service only for those working in global financial services, while others such as MBA-Direct allow employers to access banks of people who have registered their interest in work opportunities online.

For a large number of e-commerce jobs it is necessary to look outside the UK; or at least for people who have international experience. For that reason, a consultancy should have a presence in the USA, as well as other parts of Europe and the Far East.

Using all of these channels allows a professional to choose from the widest possible selection of potential employees.

What additional services should consultancies offer?
The most basic model of using a recruitment consultancy involves asking the consultancy to simply generate CVs. The employer will then have to assess each jobseeker's potential and then decide whether to invite them for interview. An easier process, which should develop as the relationship between consultancy and recruiter grows, is to allow the consultancy to screen the applications and to conduct initial interviews themselves. This will reduce the valuable time of HR and line managers within employing organisations.

Apart from speeding up recruitment, consultancies can offer a wide range of services. These range from the basic, such as arranging company-branded advertising on- and off-line, to researching the attitude of potential employees and developing an 'employer brand' strategy. This latter service can involve creating marketing and public relations plans to appeal to a wide audience of potential employees.

Senior level roles are also available within the e-financial services sector and, as explained above, offer the possibility of fast-track promotion and international experience. Managers do not need to have e-business experience, but will need the experience of the aspect of the banking system they are looking to work in. Some jobs, such as those managing incubator projects, require strong leadership and financial management skills, while others, such as developing e-commerce opportunities for new financial products, need numeracy and detailed product knowledge.

Added value products
It is certainly worth looking for an agency that is constantly innovating and offering new products and services. One area that consultancies should be developing is advice and information. E-commerce, and specifically, e-financial services is a fast changing business. You should look for a consultancy that informs its own consultants of the latest developments, as well as channelling such information to its clients.

Other services that could be useful from a consultancy would include HR consultancy (especially for smaller companies), outplacement (for those who are made redundant by new innovations) and wider HR advice services delivered through seminars, conference and the like.

The Future of E-Financial Services
The e-financial services sector is set to expand further and gain in importance within banks. Within a few years, the majority of businesses will bank online and increasing volumes of trading will take place electronically. Other areas will be automated; from the running of investment funds to the setting up of new bank accounts. The need for staff with e-business skills will therefore only grow; albeit at the expense of people traditionally employed in more clerical roles. Other job areas that will become more important are risk and compliance, as the cost of failure rises.

Another key trend will be the need for clear management and leadership. With decisions needing to be made quickly on a global basis, managers who have experience in this sector can expect significant responsibility.





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