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Investment Banks Need to Provide Better Work/Life Balance

13 Jun 2019

Once upon a time, investment banks were the darling employers of newly minted MBA students. However, while they're still among the top three industries for MBA grads, they aren't as popular as they once were with technology companies rivalling investment banks and consulting firms as the top choice for post-MBA employment.

In fact, investment banks risk losing the most talented employees to other industries if they don't address this shift. The newest generation of workers has completely different ideas about work than its predecessors, which is why MBA recruiters at investments banks need to make these changes if they hope to lure the best of the best.

You can't just pay lip service to work/life balance

Banks are notorious for having newly minted MBAs pay dues. They work relentlessly, in part to get the work done and in part to satisfy the expectations of superiors. The culture is known for having hungry young analysts live, eat and breathe the job. For years, people bought into these sacrifices. After all, the banks pay young MBAs well for their drive, ambition, and output, and it's one of the quickest routes to decent ROI on the business school investment.

But times are changing drastically. Millennials and those in Generation Z, who are earning MBAs now, don't view work in quite the same way as their parents and grandparents. They're more concerned with having certain life experiences. In most markets, work/life balance is a bigger factor than career progression when evaluating job opportunities, according to a Deloitte study of Millennials. In fact, it was at the top of their priority list.

The notion that young people want more time for themselves is not surprising. They are used to a world where work never ends, literally. They are linked to mobile phones and tablets that keep them in touch with the office long after the old-fashioned workday is done. They are plugged in on vacation or even in the wee hours of the morning when they are still in bed in their pajamas. Seeking more work/life balance is a natural reaction to the 24/7 workday.

Work can't just be about making money

Work that provides a sense of meaning is fourth on the millennial priority list, according to the Deloitte report, showing that making profits and boosting the bottom line isn't enough for today's graduates.

They want to conduct business with heart and many of them are looking for employers who are aiming to infuse sustainability, charity, and significance into their mission. Sure, they want to achieve money-making goals but not at all costs.

Importantly, they want their work to do more than pad the pockets of senior executives or even themselves. Most of all, they want to have purpose, an ability to use their talents to their maximum potential on a regular basis.

Technology needs to take center stage

This generation of employees was born into a plugged-in world. Today's MBAs don't know how to live or work without using technology and all the internet has to offer.

"Technology has become completely unified into the everyday life of millennials," according to a Forbes article. "They no longer ask for sufficient technology at their jobs; they expect it. Often, this expectancy has been painted as entitlement, but what millennial workers really want are the tools they need to do their job efficiently."

Future executives are on the cutting edge of technology's advances, just as you would expect them to be. As a result, they are keenly aware of the merits (and drawbacks) to social media marketing, the possibilities of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and the wonders of artificial intelligence (AI), which might just replace us all someday. Employers have to keep up with them. The beauty of this awareness is that understanding technology and investing in it is a way to keep your bank competitive.

Diversity is a must

Demographics are changing, and the world is getting ever smaller. Banks are already realizing they need different types of people represented throughout their workforce and in leadership. For years, they have been making inroads to include more underrepresented minorities, including women, among their ranks, but there's still work to do.

For starters, attracting minorities and women to banks is one component of this. Frankly, the banks need to find ways to retain them and treat them well once they are there. At the start of 2018, some called for more transparency around the sharing of statistics regarding the employment of women and minorities, according to Reuters.

The #MeToo Movement has played a significant role in the call for change. People want to know if women at investment banks are getting paid the same as their male counterparts and how many of them actually hold leadership positions. In addition, they want to make sure the banks are providing safe work environments, where everyone is included and respected.

Of course, they want to guarantee sexual harassment is never tolerated. Work/life balance is relevant here, too. Women are still taking on the burden of childcare. Many people have biases about working moms and others that need to be confronted and alleviated. Changing perspectives and a culture does not happen overnight but it will be a worthy shift in thinking.

Investment banks are still breathing. The industry remains somewhat popular even if it's not the king of employers in the way it once was. However, banks risk losing out on top talent if they don't commit to transforming their cultures and behaviors. Like any industry, they have to keep up with the times and respond to societal shifts.

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