Financial services organisations are currently engaged in what many are calling a war for talent. What that often means, however, is firms are only looking for someone who has done the same job before somewhere else. That approach also means financial institutions are potentially overlooking a vast pool of talent that may not tick all the boxes but who are equally capable and could bring fresh thinking to the role. In the first in a series of online events celebrating Women in Risk and Control’s one-year anniversary, host and WiRC founder Rupal Patel was joined by Nadia Edwards, Chief Customer Officer at recruitment firm Harrington Starr; Peter Neville Lewis, Director at Risk Coalition Research Company and Founder and Lead Consultant at Principled Consulting; and Elizabeth Martine, Head of Risk at Close Brothers, to discuss what firms should be doing to find the right candidates and how job seekers should approach applying for roles where they may lack experience. 

Here are five key takeaways from the webinar: 

1. Recognise the right personality traits 

One important lesson from the financial crisis is that having the right leadership qualities is essential for financial institutions to thrive. Too often in the past, the C-Suite has been steered by the wrong qualities, such as greed and arrogance. The three worst traits senior executives suffer from are a lack of care, a lack of humility and a lack of discipline, Neville Lewis says. “It’s something that needs balancing out,” he says. Given that women tend to have higher levels of empathy—a much needed quality in high-level decision making—they can bring a different skillset and perspective to senior roles that can lead to better business outcomes.  

2. Hire on potential not just experience  

There are more vacancies today in financial services across all levels and sectors than at any point in the past two decades, says Edwards. Given the number of openings, she advises that applicants should be selected for their potential, not what they have already done. “It’s very easy for archaic mindsets of hiring to think that they are looking for a leader who has leadership experience right now—if you do that you’re looking at a very tiny pool of talent,” says Edwards. “It’s about understanding potential and people potential.” Furthermore, taking a chance on potential talent means that person will likely work harder and be more inclined to stay, as opposed to someone experienced who may be more tempted to leave when another offer materialises. Patel adds that one useful piece of advice she received is to ask yourself if you could fail at the job you are applying for. If the answer is yes, then you have room to grow into the role and prove yourself. If the answer is no, then you should ask yourself what you would learn from the role and whether or not you really want it. 

3. Don’t be shackled to job specs 

Job specs can sometimes act as a deterrent to potential talent applying for jobs if they don’t meet all the requirements, particularly for women. “We all know that men are more likely to apply for jobs where they can only do 30% of the job whereas women will want to ensure they’ve got every box ticked and they can do the job,” says Edwards. While women should adopt a give-it-a-go mentality like their male counterparts, organisations also need to rethink their recruitment process. For Martine at Close Brothers, the focus is on ensuring recruits are the right fit for the team, as well as what transferrable skills they could bring in. “That means we could then grow and develop that person in the role,” she says  

4. Promote what sets you apart  

As the nature of risk changes and becomes more complex, the need for having cognitive diversity within risk and control teams has never been more important. It also means risk practitioners need to be more pragmatic and be ready to pivot to what the business needs at that moment in time, says Martine. “Ultimately our job in the second line, at least from a risk perspective, is really to help the business achieve its objectives,” she says. “That means it is more about the people skills and influencing rather than just the technical skills—technical skills are still core, but’s it what else can you bring, what sets you apart that’s different from just having the technical knowledge.” 

5. Show that you are ready 

Self-promotion is an essential part of securing the job you want—but that doesn’t mean having to boast about your achievements. By advocating for yourself and others, you can ensure the right people get the credit for the work they’ve done, says Edwards. Neville Lewis adds that job candidates should frame conversations around ‘we’—what ‘we’ can do together and what ‘I’ can bring to the job as part of that team. And Martine suggests a good tip when advocating for yourself is creating an “I am great” email folder that includes positive feedback from others, helping you to recall good achievements when needed. 

Click here to watch the webinar.

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