UK financial services faces a talent crisis

UK financial services faces a talent crisis

KPMG UK finds financial services’ talent pool is narrowing due to its reputation and lack of social mobility.


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KPMG UK finds financial services’ talent pool is narrowing due to its reputation and lack of social mobility.

  • 65% of people outside of financial services would not consider a job in the sector. 
  • 41% of people working in finance had parents in the same sector; the national average* is 12%.
  • 87% of finance workers** like their job compared to 82% national average.

KPMG finds that at a time when competition for talent is fierce, 65% of the UK’s population would not consider taking a role in financial services. The main reason being the perception that finance is boring.
Forty one percent of people outside the sector said they wouldn’t work in financial services because it ‘sounds boring’. However, people working in finance are happier than average, with 87% of bank, insurance or asset management employees saying they like their job compared to 82% of workers in different sectors.

Those aged between 25 and 34 working in finance are the happiest employees in the UK, with 90% saying they enjoy their job. And yet, two thirds (58%) of 25 – 34 year olds working outside the sector said they would not consider financial services for their next career move. Their main reasons being because it sounds boring (41%) or because they have no contacts in the sector (16%).

Commenting, Lisa Fernihough, Head of FS consulting, KPMG, says: “There’s clearly a gap between what the public think, and the realities of working in financial services. That has to be addressed if we are to attract the diverse mix of skills and experiences needed to navigate the changes going on in financial services and society. Technology and customer engagement is a priority for most of my clients right now, so people working in retail, leisure or IT could have a huge amount to offer. But, the sector has an image problem that’s putting off that talent.”

There is not enough social mobility

KPMG also found that two fifths (41%) of financial services employees had parents who worked in the same industry, by contrast, across non-finance employees the figure stood at 12%. This trend was most prevalent in younger people with over half (55%) of 16-24 year olds in financial services having followed in their parents footsteps. This was true of just 21% of 16-24 year olds in other sectors.

Fernihough adds: “The fact that people in financial services are more than three times more likely than the national average to have followed in their parent’s career footsteps is staggering. There are a few, understandable reasons why that may be - it’s a growing sector and of course, it fits with the finding that those working in the sector enjoy their roles, whilst those outside looking in, don’t fancy it – but, whatever the reason the consequence is the same; a narrow and narrowing talent pool and not enough social mobility. That is a big challenge for the future of the sector.”

Pay is the main driver for FS workers

Whilst people working in financial services are on the whole happier, the main driver for working in their current role is salary. When asked their motivation for being in their current role, over a third (31%) of financial services employees said salary, which was followed by ‘it’s interesting’ (16%) and ‘it has good progression opportunities’ (16%).

These motivations are very different with those in other sectors, just 16% of whom listed salary as a key driver. Outside of financial services, the most common reasons for being in a role were ‘it’s interesting’ (29%) and ‘it’s in my local area’ (23%).

Karim Haji, Head of Financial Services KPMG, says: “Whilst it seems sad that FS workers are only half as likely to find their jobs interesting as people in other sectors, the fact that people feel they are well rewarded with both salary and career progression is clearly the reason why FS workers are happier than their peers.
“But, the workforce is changing. We are always told that Millennials and Generation Z are more interested in their social impact than their finances and so our sector has to get more imaginative in the way it attracts and retains staff. As automation takes away some of the more monotonous roles in finance, and boundaries between sectors like technology, retail and financial services disappear, firms have to work harder to appeal to young talent. If financial services can’t attract the brightest talent pipeline, someone else will.”


*National average here relates to a nationally representative set of more than 1000 workers who are not employed by a financial services company.
**Finance workers relates to over 500 people across the UK who are employed, in any capacity, by a bank, insurer or asset management firm.

About KPMG in the UK

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 16,300 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.338 billion in the year ended 30 September 2018. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 154 countries and has 200,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

© 2021 KPMG LLP a UK limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organisation of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

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