Lockdown is easing, but has anything really changed?
There are signs of some movement in the market: while very sadly some firms haven’t made it through, some are gearing back up for a return to the office, and others are intending to continue working from home for the remainder of 2020. Not everyone is able to be that confident but anything that gives some certainty for longer than the next few weeks can only help staff, clients, and investors.
As the country moves from responding to the initial crisis to gradual release from lockdown now really is the time for firms to be thinking about their strategy and changes to their operating model. In doing so it is key to consider the risks and challenges to the firm, its people, and its investors, of coming out of lockdown remembering that low risk is not no risk. Consider the triggers for and key services that can start returning to normal.
It is unlikely that the summer months will be anything like as quiet as they usually are as holidays are being cancelled and annual leave held over until 2021. The summer months are more likely to see businesses using that time to get back up and running.
What this means for people managers
Many people managers used the lockdown to invest in their people, embracing voice and video links to spend more time having coaching and career development conversations with individuals in their teams. These managers will now have a deeper bond with their people but also be better equipped to help them achieve their goals, and there is nothing more rewarding as a line manager than seeing one of your own team succeed even if that means they are no longer working for you.
The lockdown has given people space to think and reassess their situation. Some individuals may be thinking about a change in direction be that a change of role, sector, or even early retirement. Others have valued the additional time with their children and may not want to lose that when lockdown is finally lifted. Some are thinking about moving out of the city. Be ready for questions from the people you manage about longer term remote working arrangements and think creatively about your succession planning, so you have options if your high performer decides to move on.
You will almost certainly experience challenge and push back when you ask for budget approval for new or replacement headcount. The uncertainty from the current climate will naturally lead to reluctance to hire on a permanent basis. None of these things mean that you cannot continue delivering or starting new projects.
As you work through your succession plans apply the perspective gained from the lockdown to how you approach replacement hires or new roles. Does it really need to be a traditional 9 to 5 Monday to Friday role? Could you break up the work by offering mini projects to consultants or contractors, and put greater reliance on off the shelf materials from shops like www.leamancrellin.co.uk/shop so refocussing your people on the value add work which will be more interesting and rewarding for them. Do you really need the role in London, could you hire someone outside of the South East, saving budget on office space and the premium to hiring in London?
Whilst the shift in liability employers from contractors to assess IR35 compliance has been postponed to April 2021 many employers are carrying on as though it came in April 2020. The main things to remember are that if you are filling function such as a Head of or team manager, or you need an individual to maintain BAU then you are effectively hiring an employee albeit temporarily. If you are able to specify what needs to be completed (often referred to as deliverables or outcomes) then you need a consultant and should provide a statement of work, as you would for any consultancy firm that you bring in. In readiness for April 2021 you need to review your Preferred Supplier List to ensure you have a good mix of big four type firms as much as the smaller sole traders.
What this means for candidates
I would say to people looking for a role, above all be flexible. The types of firms operating in the financial services sector are extremely broad. During my career I have consciously moved around from insurance to banking to financial advice; and from front office to second line to regulator to consulting; and from start up to small to mid-size to global. I often find people are surprised or wary about gaining regulatory experience often because of the pay. Pay is important, after all that is often the key driver for us going to work in the first place, but different sizes and types of firms give you different experiences. Can you put a price on the opportunities which open from taking on different roles? My time at the regulator was one that I feel privileged to have gained because of perspective I gained and the wonderful friendships I made.
In a smaller firm you may more frequently be faced with a blank sheet without time to spend days researching and putting together a framework or training. Not having access to inhouse specialists means you need to know where or who to go to for help without blowing your entire annual budget in one go. No one thinks any less of you for making a judgement call to buy off the shelf from online shops like mine to free yourself up to focus on that bit of advice which could get the revenue in and you can make an impact more quickly.
The day to day in a larger firm feels more structured because they have teams of people sitting behind their policies and procedures with frameworks covering each area such as financial crime, monitoring, regulatory change, advisory, etc. Larger firms offer a wider range of roles and internal mobility where you can more easily switch disciplines or progress by gaining experience. Whilst you can progress more rapidly by gaining additional responsibilities in smaller and mid-size firms it is less easy to switch disciplines because often an entire discipline is the responsibility of just one person.
Before you send your CV off, think about who is going to receive it. If you adjust your CV to draw out the experience you have which relates to the job profile that you are applying against then you are more likely to get invited to interview. Remember that in larger firm’s CV’s may be filtered by a non-technical person in HR armed only with a copy of the role profile. Avoid including non-work related information such as hobbies and outside interests. If you want to create a talking point for interview, or simply stand out, consider including a personal statement, for example, you are really interested in why people break the rules. Just make sure you are ready to talk about it and answer questions before including anything.
The best candidates are always professionally researched and respond with answers that directly address the issue. Think CV what experiences, expertise are gaps for you, do you need to plug them with hands on experience or can you attend a course or sit an exam to acquire the technical knowledge. Be ready to talk about those gaps openly at interview, after all you want your future line manager’s support for your future progression.
Written for CLARC by Katharine Leaman (Managing Director, Leaman Crellin)