However, the improving trend must also be seen against the backdrop of a post-financial crisis business environment; one in which job security should no longer be expected or assumed.
The financial sector in particular has been at the sharp end of job losses. A report by Switzerland-based global financial union UNI Finance, revealed that over the past two years 193,000 banking jobs have been cut in the 26 countries where it has a presence.
Nor are the job cuts done with yet. New regulatory frameworks to restrict riskier, opportunistic trading, together with the rise of online banking and other sophisticated ways to conduct trades and transactions electronically, put power into the hands of others and will shrink the sector even further.
Hardly surprisingly, job security in the industry is a thing of the past. In Europe, the EU’s attempts to constrain annual bonuses are forcing banks to convert them into a monthly allowance instead. While this will have little, if any, impact on the sums involved, what it does is to create a disconnect between employer and employee.
Suddenly, an employee is just a little bit closer to being hired on a monthly basis – and to being more easily dispensed with as circumstances change. While regulatory and contractual obligations rightly ensure that traders are tied in to their companies, the threat is not unrealistic for other bank sector staff.
For older, more senior employees the outlook is even gloomier, with banks increasingly replacing them with younger, cheaper workers, often themselves on temporary contracts.
Flexibility is Key
Look around at the world in general and the employment picture is one that is increasingly focused on flexibility. Perhaps that is to be expected, given the inherent unpredictability of a global economy where success or failure is frequently determined by the ability to respond and act quickly.
This means that we are entering a new era of employment, from which the old certainties have already gone or are on the way out. No longer can anyone in any sector assume long and stable periods of work for a single employer. Instead, employees have to presume that they are riding on a sea of continuous change, a fact which they must embrace, because they certainly can’t go against the tide.
So if job security is taken from them, how should workers approach the future? Maybe by focusing on job satisfaction instead.
In the financial and banking sectors, long hours and constant pressure go with the territory. So much so, that many become almost immune to the experience, able to ignore and endure the pain for the gain that lies beyond. Although not always, as highlighted by the suicide of Zurich Insurance chief financial officer (CFO) Pierre Wauthier and the recent case of Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt, found dead after a period of round-the-clock working.
What’s the Alternative?
In the future world of work, each of us will be required more and more to ‘do our own thing’, using our skills, knowledge and experience to create our own work rather than waiting for others do that for us.
With their highly-developed abilities and talents, those who would previously have slid seamlessly into careers in banking and finance are well placed to prosper – provided they are able to see themselves not as corporate animals but as entrepreneurs.
A recent report by the IPAG Business School in France, entitled ‘Future Working: The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals (iPros)’, revealed that the number of iPros, stand-alone, highly skilled, self-employed individuals, has risen in Europe by 42% over the past 10 years.
This trend towards self-employment, which economists were predicting would go into reverse once the downturn turned to recovery, is looking as though it’s very much here to stay.
In this new brave new world of work, those who choose to remain employees may be failing to consider alternatives that would make use of their skills in ways they would find far more fulfilling. So rather than opting for the ‘safe bet’ of another post, it could be time to rethink what they have been doing for so long. For many, an entirely new career direction – through business or self-employment – could prove far more rewarding, personally and financially, particularly when new technologies are quite literally opening up a world of opportunities where ‘local’ businesses can quickly become global.
So, rather than fight for space within a shrinking sector, many in banking and finance would do well to look outside it, and to reinvent themselves as ‘new entrepreneurs’. As such they would have greater control of their lives, still able to reap high rewards, but to do so from the perspective of someone in charge of their own destiny.
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