Using the Banking Backlash to Your Advantage

Finance firms will care as much about your character as the skills and performance on your resume.


In financial services, reputation matters. So does character. That wasn’t always the case, but in the wake of the recession that decimated the public’s regard for the industry, financial services firms are more concerned than ever in building a reputation for trustworthiness and that starts with new hires, said one recruiter who works in the industry.

Recruiters are now being asked to qualify a candidate’s character as well as their funtional skills and performance, said Kevin Collins, co-director of Financial Services practice at Koren Rogers Executive Search in White Plains, N.Y.

Collins said his clients can’t afford to make mistakes in hiring candidates who may be unethical. Those individuals carry the company’s brand. The demand is even greater for customer-facing roles, he said.

More than seven out of 10 adults claim to have lost trust in the finance profession, according to a February survey by Mintel Comperemedia, a global consumer, product and market research firm. The only way to beat the public perception of mistrust is to make hires that strengthen relationships and repair the industry’s tarnished image, said Susan Menke, a behavioral economist who contributed to the report.

“Companies need to regain people’s trust, but they need to do it on the people’s terms,” Menke wrote in the report. “By trusting a financial institution, customers are in essence allowing that brand to make decisions for them. In order to get to that point, companies need to look at trust from the individual’s perspective, focusing on values like honesty, fairness and consistency. They need to make the customer feel safe and secure.”

Rebuilding that trust, said Collins, begins with hiring executives with impeccable credentials and experience.

That’s a significant shift, said Collins, from the last two years of hiring when many firms considered the poor economy and high unemployment meant they could simply “pull people off the street.”

“The firms that were left standing thought they could get ahead of the game and save money by poaching all the available talent that was now pounding the pavement without having to use recruiting and executive search firms,” he said. That’s not the case. For a variety of reasons, the best talent has been reluctant to leave current roles and the available talent isn’t just ready to be picked up, he said.

Regardless of how easy it is to hire, he said, candidates scooped up without regard to their cultural fit or their character can be harmful hires.