Employer Resources

What If… Finance Was a Go-To Industry for Working Parents?

We need to start offering employees the same flexibility and freedom that we’re offering our customers. We’ve got 24/7 banking, channel of choice, etc. The opportunities that these options bring for flexible working, both in terms of working hours and location, are significant.

We should be mirroring that customer flexibility in our internal teams.

That’s what the future looks like for me.

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in the Financial Sector

What could happen if industries such as financial services – notorious for its long hours and inflexibility – embraced truly supporting working parents?

What needs to change in order to promote gender equality in finance and create a ripple effect that lifts more modern role models to the top positions?

Motivated by the actions shared in our “What If…?” cross-sector employer event at the House of Commons, we recently held a focus group with several of our Fellows and Senior Leader Mentors working in the finance industry. The individuals work for key financial and fintech organisations including Santander UK and Kuda.

The goal was to more deeply explore how to drive change for working parents in the financial sector by starting the discussion about what employers can do to help working parents thrive.

Why Financial Services?

This focus group was the first of a series of industry specific deep-dives that we plan to run.

Nearly 1 in 4 Fellows on our Spring 2023 Cross-Sector Fellowship identify as working within the finance sector. They are using the skills and confidence developed during the programme – many, with the support of their employers – to redefine the norms of leadership in a sector that has traditionally rewarded overwork and the sacrifice of personal life.

Thanks to our Fellows and Mentors for contributing to this insightful discussion and providing many of the tips that are shared below. Thanks also to their respective employers for acknowledging the work that needs to be done to drive change within the industry.

Key themes emerging from the discussion:

  • How to create role models, and how to be a role model, for new norms of working
  • The impact “role design” could have in supporting working parents working in financial services
  • How to encourage more diverse applications for senior leadership positions in finance
  • Creating a ripple effect for widespread change in the finance industry

How to create role models – and how to be a role model – for new norms of working

The need for flexibility will ebb and flow as you go through the different phases of raising children. I don’t think that’s talked about enough. There’s almost an embarrassment, sometimes, if you do need to go and do the school pick-ups etc. There needs to be more openness around flexibility

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in the Financial Sector

  • Try putting a meeting free hour in everyone’s diary across the school run. When implemented from the top-down, it reinforces the time as a protected space for flexibility without stigma.
  • If senior leaders ARE working flexibly to accommodate childcare or other caring responsibilities, make sure they are communicating it across the organisation.
  • Ensure flexibility is role modelled for all employees, not just working parents.
  • Empower line managers to manage their teams flexibly, rather than implementing blanket policy.
  • Advertise all jobs as flexible/ potential job shares from day one. Rather than putting the onus on the applicant to design what that looks like, offer examples of what is already working within your organisation as a springboard for ideas. It was noted by participants that Zurich already does this well, and can serve as a benchmark for other organisations in the financial services industry.
  • Set a policy where you’ll trial anything for 3 months – if it works, that employee will serve as a role model for others. If you communicate trials and their impact without judgement, more employees may be encouraged to ask for what they need to help them progress their careers.

If UK financial institutions were the go to place for working parents who wanted a good work life balance, the industry would be known for ‘flexibility by default’. Nobody would need to ask, it would be assumed for every role.

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in the Financial Sector

The impact “role design” could have in supporting working parents working in financial services

Roles within financial services are massive, especially at senior leadership level. They need to be broken down in order for flexibility to become feasible.

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in the Financial Sector

What’s role design? Find out more in this blog article by our friends at TPP Recruitment.

  • Consider job shares as an option for customer-facing roles that need continuous support. This offers a balance between the continuity of service that customers need and the flexibility employees need.
  • The return to work from maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave offers a crucial opportunity for job redesign. The return process should be equally as considered and supportive as the handover before leaving to have a baby. If you are an employer, what additional support could you offer at that time? Are your line managers trained to have tactful, empowering conversations led by the returner, about what their role should look like in order for them return with confidence?
  • Rethink performance evaluations. Can you measure an employee’s output and performance, rather than the hours worked? How does the output vary if a job is resized to 4 days a week, or a job share that might equate to 1.2 FTE? When designing role objectives for part-time roles, resize the expectations to reflect the reduced number of working hours, rather than expecting employees to deliver the same work, more efficiently, for less money. Don’t forget to review the bonus structure – are part-time employees being short changed for delivering the same output, in fewer hours, and having bonuses pro-rated?

There is a difference in what flexibility looks like for back office employees versus those who are customer facing. Organisations that support working parents ensure continuous service delivery without expecting employees to compromise their parenting responsibilities, this may need some communication with clients to manage expectations.

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in the Financial Sector

 How to encourage more diverse applications for senior leadership positions in finance

Role models who demonstrate flexibility in working hours and location at a senior level in finance would encourage those in the leadership pipeline that it is possible.

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in the Financial Sector

  • Counter the push to “return to office” and consider whether that’s necessary on a routine basis. If you do need regular “team days” in the office, make sure to schedule them on days where working parents already have childcare or, if that’s not possible, give enough notice for them to make alternative arrangements or explore ways that they can participate asynchronously.
  • Foster – and, if you’re an employer, financially invest in – internal support networks, such as Parent-Employer networks that can share information and build confidence and skills that those who are unable to participate in traditional networking opportunities might miss out on.
  • Offer equal parental leave to all parents regardless of gender or birthing status so career progression and financial viability doesn’t drive the decision for parents regarding who takes time out to raise children.

Creating a ripple effect for widespread change in the industry

From a FinTech perspective, it would be great to see these actions become the norm in traditional finance companies, as this would serve as the roadmap for new enterprises, and supporting working parents would become the norm from the start.

It can only be made normal, though, if enough people find their voice to ask for things. Because if enough people ask for things, there is no company that would keep saying “No, we can’t do that”.

Leaders Plus Fellow Working in FinTech

  • An overarching theme from our discussion was the need for trust. Trust that employees want to do a good job, and will do, if they are able to do it in a way that works for them. The impact of trust is likely to be higher degrees of productivity, loyalty, and innovation.
  • Communicating that the culture has changed from the stereotypical “salaryman” will lead to younger people coming back into the industry, further cementing a more modern approach to working. Actions speak far louder than words, and employees who feel supported will be an organisation’s biggest advocates.
  • In order for the financial industry to be a go-to industry for working parents, conversations still need to be had around the implementation of flexible working arrangements at middle management level. Our focus group shared that often the policies are there, the advocacy is there, but the practicalities need working out.
  • Consider whether your bureaucracy is slowing down your progress. Traditionally, the finance industry is heavily regulated and slow to change. While caution is necessary to protect integrity, ask whether there are ways that your organisation could safely speed up some policy changes, even in the form of a trial, in order to support working parents more responsively.

Are you a parent working in the financial sector?

Are you looking for support to progress your career while raising children?

Join other parents like you on our Cross-Sector Fellowship, register your interest below to be the first to know when applications open for 2024.

Step 1 of 3

We love to partner with employers, big or small, that share our vision for radical change.

Together we can support leaders with babies and young children to continue to thrive in their careers, regardless of their gender.

By partnering with Leaders Plus we can help you to retain talent by offering extensive support to working parents at a critical point in their lives when they are most likely to drop out of the talent pipeline.

There are a number of different partnership options available and we offer a range of attractive benefits for employers. Please get in touch to find out more.

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