• Rachel Treece

Why our kids don't want to be bankers


Rachel Treece writes about the future of financial services in her article - why our kids don't want to be bankers!







Over the holidays, I bought my 12-year old daughter a book titled “The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager” by Andy Cope. My daughter is already brilliant (no bias of course!) and from the reviews online, the book looked packed full of interesting content covering everything from relationship advice to ideas for future careers. She started reading it almost immediately and loved it.


If you want to be a Banker you need to get used to having no mates NOW and FOREVER!”

Then, yesterday she showed me the following page about careers:


“If you want to be a footballer you to have to be practicing 7 days a week and will have to start playing for your local team. Now!

If you want to be a web-designer you need to start designing websites. Now!

If you want to be in the Army you need to be in the cadets. Now!

Tell me when you’ve got the point!

If you want to go to Uni you need to be working your backside off. Now!


If you want to be a Banker you need to get used to having no mates NOW and FOREVER!”


So there it was, in black and white:  don’t be a banker kids, or you’ll face a life of loneliness and misery.


Shocked by the innocent negativity of the statement, it prompted me to reflect on who or what is a banker? Why has it become such an undesirable profession? And how can we ever hope to change this perspective?


Starting with the first question…. what is a banker? For anyone who doesn't work in the financial services industry, a banker could cover a wide number of different roles and even whole geographies. Whether you work in investment banking, asset management, insurance or any other financial service related organisation – you are a banker. If you work in the City of London or Wall Street, or even perhaps the whole of Luxembourg, Frankfurt or Switzerland, you must be a banker.


Much of this world of financial services is, to the outsider, a mysterious and altogether Shakespearian place – associated with greed, self-interest and (post the financial crisis) even incompetence. I was once a banker too – working in asset management marketing, together with the Demi-Gods that were our Fund Managers.  But the world has changed a lot since then and financial services must up its game to change with it. If it doesn’t then the people and organisations risk being left behind which would be disastrous for both the profession itself and for society at large.


Much has been written about the huge changes underway in society and technology that are impacting financial services. And yet somehow the image of banking has stayed stubbornly outdated, increasingly out of tune with a civilization that is becoming more open, more global and interconnected and more driven by technology. The culture and communications of most financial services organisations is weak and prosaic. Alien language and vague propositions abound in every corner.


One of the few institutions seeking to strike a more relevant, contemporary and engaging tone is HSBC with their recent UK campaign “We are not an island” (https://twitter.com/HSBC_UK/status/1080176833499295744) with over 8 million views to date.  Key to any change in culture is to match glitzy message to reality. Only this will fundamentally shift consumer perceptions such as that expressed in my daughter’s book. 

How is this even possible? Most importantly, this means starting from inside the organisation, not with its external advertising. It requires a much more human-centred and holistic approach to leadership & culture. It also requires making whole organisations relentlessly focused on customer value. Literally: how can we add greater value to all our various constituents. This means focusing organisational efforts on new and better ways of supporting people with their savings and pensions, of facilitating business success and better livelihoods, investing in better infrastructure and development.



I’m not sure I would want my daughters in the world of financial services. And they have NO interest in it at all. That’s kind of telling. But the good news is that the financial world is changing. Lots of leaders are starting to tune in to creating a better world.” Jim Ware


These are all noble and essential causes, which are at the backbone of society - and that would also succeed in putting genuine corporate social responsibility at the heart of banking, a far cry from the accusations and reality of greed and self-interest that have dogged the profession for so long. Such an approach would be much more powerful and relevant for a young audience today than any advertising campaign could hope to achieve by itself.

If the financial services industry is to attract the strongest talent into the sector in future, then this change is essential. Indeed, it's just as important to inspire, engage and retain the best people already in the profession today. Speaking about this topic to Jim Ware, who is fellow warrior in the mission to make financial services better. Jim is founder of Focus Consulting Group, he observed: “I’m not sure I would want my daughters in the world of financial services. And they have NO interest in it at all. That’s kind of telling. But the good news is that the financial world is changing. Lots of leaders are starting to tune in to creating a better world.”


This is no small change and yet, like Jim, I am hopeful. I believe all of us involved in financial services have an opportunity to raise our game in 2021– to invest in better culture and leadership, and to deliver greater value to our customers and to society overall. If we do this, then maybe a future edition of Andy Cope’s book will have a very different punchline.