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How businesses are preparing a new generation of financial services leaders

January 12, 2023, 10:50 AM UTC
A new generation of talent is reevaluating their relationship to where, how, and why they work.
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When Wemimo Abbey immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, he and his family had no credit score and that led to great challenges to obtaining critical financing. 

Abbey and his mother went to traditional financial lenders and were quickly turned away. They eventually settled for a payday loan that came with an interest rate of 400%. That experience is what led Abbey to start Esusu, a financial tech platform that helps individuals save money and build credit. 

Esusu has grown from 40 to over 200 team members in just a year. “We ask people to quit Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 companies to come work with us, because they wake up every day knowing they can keep a roof over peoples’ heads,” said Abbey, speaking as a leader for Fortune’s CEO Perspectives Series on Wednesday.  

Many established players in the financial services industry are in the midst of a purposeful transformation. Firms are discovering that there is a greater appetite to do well by doing good. And that shift in focus is needed for both recruitment and retention.

“To attract the right talent, you are going to have to be very purposeful,” said Mark Sullivan, chief revenue officer of global financial services at Salesforce. “There is a next generation of talent that is looking for more than a paycheck, that wants to understand what you stand for, what you are going to accomplish, and what it means to them to spend their lives working for you.”

Some firms accelerated hiring amid the pandemic and have had to be creative when it comes to attracting new employees. At Thrivent, a diversified financial services organization, the company’s 2.3 million clients gave back to their community through 11 million hours of volunteer service in 2021 and donated $151 million, which was supplemented by $85 million from Thrivent. 

“What we are finding is that the pandemic did cause employees and the workforce to step back and say, ‘What meaning do I get out of my job,’” said Teresa Rasmussen, CEO and president of Thrivent. The company increased hiring by 47% last year, and it believes that giving back to local communities makes Thrivent an attractive employer. 

PenFed, the second-largest federal credit union in the U.S., doubled in size the past seven years. “All talent isn’t created equal,” said James Schenck, resident and CEO of PenFed. To recruit the last three executive vice presidents that he hired—all from much larger financial institutions—Schenck said he ensured that they got paid what they served, were given the best titles possible, and provided resources to succeed. 

PenFed also believes in promoting hybrid work environments and remote working, even as many employers in the space are trying to lure employees back into the office. Salesforce agrees. Roughly 30,000 of the company’s employees were hired during the pandemic and even as it subsided, many had never been to a Salesforce office. 

“We need to create meaningful reasons to assemble,” said Sullivan. Simply asking employees to commute isn’t enough, but there are ways that employers can make it more compelling, says Sullivan, including changes to how staff is trained, how internal meetings are run, and how operations are driven to promote culture connectivity. 

Fintech company Early Warning Services is keenly focused on enabling career growth. One out of every six employees at Early Warning has a new job now versus the one they started with in 2022. “We’d rather you find another job at our company,” said CEO Albert Ko. While attrition was wobbly during the pandemic—low in 2019 and spiking in 2020—Early Warning says that among top talent, attrition rates remained consistently low.

And while it is important for financial services companies to remain keenly focused on purposeful commitments and values, sharing those ideas internally is equally crucial.

At private equity firm Access Holdings, which owns businesses as varied as a pet cremation service to a yellow school bus operator, each company it owns has a podcast studio to ensure all team members internally are aware of what’s going well in the field. 

“It’s all about reinforcing mission-vision values,” said Access founder Kevin McAllister.

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