The battle for talent has been a constant theme for financial services firms in recent years. Finance companies continue to struggle to find candidates with the necessary skills to fill roles – vacancies in the UK financial services sector hit 55,000 in 2022, up more than 70% on the previous year (Multiverse).
This is all set against the backdrop of rapidly shifting skills demands – more than a quarter of the top skills required to do a financial services job were different in 2022 compared to 2015 (Multiverse) – while digital transformation is driving fundamental change too. The noise around the rise of ChatGPT and the impact of generative AI on jobs this year is a case in point.
People have always been at the heart of Jersey’s finance industry. Our talent pool of passionate professionals, who are truly driven to deliver the best possible services, is just one of the factors that sets Jersey apart from its competitors.
However, increasing international competition for talent means that Jersey, just like other international finance centres (IFCs) around the world, needs to address skills gaps and remain open to talent from around the world if we are to retain this reputation and become more competitive in the future.
There are many challenges. Some are short term – a shortage of compliance staff for instance. Some are longer term – succession planning and addressing future skills gaps, for example. Other factors like Brexit have further complicated this area by increasing the difficulty of bringing in skilled professionals from Europe.
What is certain, though, is that attracting and retaining talent is at the very top of the list of priorities for finance firms in Jersey this year. In our most recent annual Members Survey, recruitment and skills came out strongly as a theme, with nine out of ten firms highlighting that they would like more to be done to address the anticipated skills gap, and eight in ten wanting better facilitation of education and careers in finance initiatives.
We’ve listened to this and, as a result, have established a new Future-Fit Workforce workstream as part of our plans this year. It’s a multi-agency approach bringing Jersey Finance and the industry together with the Government and Skills Jersey.
It’s a workstream that builds on best practice and existing work in this space from across the sector, to identify key reports on skills-related topics, working groups, current schemes and initiatives as well as relevant ongoing or planned project work taking place in Jersey.
This work has been illuminating.
Among the key outcomes we’re looking at ways to ensure we are creating environments where talent can thrive; focussing on closing skills gaps; reviewing childcare provision to enable parents to return to the workforce; increasing diversity among the financial services workforce; and ensuring that government policies continue to be supportive of talent access, both on and off Island.
It also highlighted the need to be better engaged with schools and universities so that we can appeal to individuals at a junior level, which is paramount if we are to secure a sustainable skills base. Although we have done well in this area over the years – more than 3,000 young Islanders have set out on a career in finance over the last decade – we need to build on this to meet growing demand – in particular by addressing the perception of the industry among this demographic.
This might be, for example, by promoting the industry’s efforts regarding sustainability, societal impacts and diversity, as well as getting across the idea that we are not just a ‘finance industry’, but a diverse community that offers a broad range of exciting roles – from banking, trust and funds, to sustainability, marketing, digital and change management.
In practical terms, we are rolling this out in a number of ways. Our ‘Life in Finance’ initiative, for example, pairs A-Level students with financial services businesses offering summer work experience on the Island. We are also actively working with firms to help them develop and implement their own mentoring and work shadowing opportunities.
We are ramping up our school engagement programme too. So far this year, the team at Jersey Finance has visited six schools, attended four careers’ fairs to talk about career opportunities in the industry. We have also participated in mock interview sessions with students and supported a Skills Jersey workshop.
We are also championing young talent in our industry – ‘Future Connect’, for instance, offers networking and development opportunities to those starting out their careers in the finance sector, while our Rising Stars Awards help promote the development of young talent in the Island.
The good news is that our industry is in a healthy state – the latest Business Tendency Survey for Q1 this year found that the future employment outlook is extremely positive for the industry. The exciting job opportunities are there; getting the best people for those roles – to help us to deliver on our proposition, enhance productivity and support future growth – is vital.
While our future will be shaped increasingly by digital tools, ultimately our business remains a people business. Prioritising our people now will give us the foundation for our industry for the next 50 years and help cement our position as a future fit IFC.