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Negative opinions among graduates could leave the banking sector short-changed of talent

The prevailing public opinion of banks is, to put it mildly, not a positive one. Stories of major banking firms conducting themselves in an unedifying manner seem to be popping up almost daily.

With ill-feeling still lingering over the banking crisis of several years ago, recent scandals involving Standard Chartered and HSBC have done little to convince the public and graduates that the sector is an honest one. It comes as no surprise that a YouGov poll last week placed 'all banks' at the top of a list of brands that angered the public. Barclays, perhaps suffering for its recognisability and the prominent role the company played in the damaging Libor affair, was named specifically by respondents. Phrases most commonly associated with the bank were 'greed', 'bonuses' and 'ripping off the public'. With such a negative attitude towards banking and bankers, it is predicted that the sector's ability to attract graduate talent could diminish rapidly. There is already mounting evidence to support this supposition, with the revelation from The Telegraph that banks are raising starting salaries to attract graduates put off by their reputation.

Money ventured, nothing gained

Throwing cash at the problem, in what might seem a standard reaction from a sector often accused of having more money than sense, is unlikely to ease the difficulties banks now face when recruiting. Increasing what were already attractive starting salaries is a reactionary gambit that fails to address the long-term needs of the sector. Of course, in order to regain the trust of a disenchanted public, the most effective solution is for the banks to collectively overhaul their practices through a sustained campaign of reform and improvement.

However, a more immediate resolution is vital for the banks, which have traditionally relied heavily on maintaining a steady stream of the brightest fresh recruits. With demand for such graduate talent far outstripping supply, banks can no longer rely on leveraging high salaries when competing against other sectors with far more desirable employer brands.

Fundamental to stopping the rot needs to be an understanding among banking recruiters that a well-developed progression programme communicated throughout the recruitment process is as important as, if not more so, the starting salary on offer. With talent in such demand, the most desirable prospective employees have a wide variety of options. Top-quality candidates expect a top-quality recruitment process and, while advertising and spin can go some way to repairing the damage, a cohesive onboarding experience will drastically improve the perception surrounding banks. The most effective platform through which to carry out the progressive building of brand legacy required is where the criticism is most fierce, namely online.

Banking online

Recruitment across all sectors is increasingly taking place online or via social media. This raises a particular conundrum for banks, with such platforms extensively used to express negative feelings towards the sector. Recruitment process outsourcers (RPOs) that specialise in online candidate identification, selection and recruitment could help those banks wishing to reverse what is in danger of looking like a toxic employer brand.

Currently banks tend to approach recruitment with a scattergun approach, relying on individual HR teams, each possessing its own criteria and processes to place candidates in specific offices. A way to reform this fractured approach is the complete overhaul of the recruitment process, either in-house, through consultation with an RPO company, or by outsourcing the work to an RPO organisation directly. This method can provide end-to-end, flexible, scalable online recruitment, crucial for the long-term future of the banks.

Such an approach is an effective one because not only does carrying out initial candidate filtering online streamline the recruitment process, it allows banks to directly engage with critics and address candidate concerns.

Cashing in on proactive recruitment

In the ultra-competitive banking world, RPO can provide options on how to attract graduates away from rival firms and professions. Such approaches require a proactive strategy that traditional recruitment struggles to offer. Rather than wait for responses to advertisements from a graduate pool apathetic towards banking as a career option, recruiters need to approach candidates directly and via social platforms through which they are more likely to engage. This will be essential if the industry wants to overcome the negativity currently felt among potential employees and clients alike.

With a more efficient recruitment model provided by an outsourcing company, a bank would have access to a pool of talent specific not only to their sector, but to the employee brand they project. Specialist recruiting firms understand the key characteristics of successful graduates suited to the industry and are able to identify ideal candidates quickly, effectively and sensitively. With an impartial RPO that is not tied to agencies, a talent pool is developed and maintained on an exclusive basis for the client under the umbrella of their brand identity. This allows the employer to enhance its brand reputation in the marketplace, while simultaneously securing and engaging with a future pipeline of the best talent within the sector.


A best practice recruitment process, supported by cutting-edge recruitment technology, ensures the swift attraction, identification and recruitment of desirable candidates. The process enables banks to simultaneously improve their employer brand image and maximise the flow of candidates through the recruitment stages, reducing time-to-hire and allowing companies to stay ahead of competitors searching for the same skills.

Howard Flint is MD of recruitment process outsourcing organisation Omni Resource Management Solutions