Young Employees Want Banks to Bring the “Sexy” Back

By Alaina Webster, Managing Editor 

While attending BAI Beacon in Orlando, Fla., I had the privilege of speaking with three members of the organization’s “Emerging Leaders” program, individuals handpicked by BAI as being among the best new talent to enter the financial sector. Having been selected in previous years, these Leaders now serve as advisors to incoming participants. All three hold various positions at financial institutions of all sizes across the country, but they were uniform in their passion for the industry. Moreover, they did not hold back when it came to discussing what’s missing as banks and credit unions struggle to attract younger employees in a tight labor market.

Julieta Falcón Uribe, program manager, retail consumer segments for Birmingham, Ala.-based BBVA Compass described millennial attitudes toward the financial sector, thusly: “I don’t think it’s sexy to work for a bank. I mean, just to be honest, it’s not.” In conversations with peers about her career, “They automatically think I’m counting money,” she said.

Ben Lemke, associate vice president, audit and compliance at Technology Credit Union, headquartered in San Jose, Calif., echoed her thoughts. “When you look at them [financial institutions], you just see money,” he said. “Money’s great — it’s a means to an end — but you don’t see the connection to lifestyle.”

However, Yury Nabokov, omnichannel experience manager and digital marketing strategist for Maine-based Machias Savings Bank, disagreed. “I truly believe that banking is as sexy as anything right now,” he countered. “My banking experiences are on my phone now, artificial intelligence is playing a big role.” He believes that banks, which are already beginning to operate more like tech companies than the staid FIs of yesteryear, need to embrace and market that tech savviness. He sees FIs’ social media and marketing campaigns as not only communicating with customers but also potential employees.

“If you’re exposed [to what] your bank is communicating to you, you start learning about what’s available. Banks are talking about helping non-profits and businesses; they’re talking about getting awards. There’s a lot of community impact in banking.”

All three also agreed that the recession damaged the public image of banks, and for purpose-driven millennials especially, this can make a financial career a tougher sell.

“With the recession, the banks were seen as the bad guys. If you’re driven by purpose, then I don’t want to be one of those bad guys,” said Falcón Uribe. “I think that’s kind of been driving the negative perception with banks with this generation, what we grew up seeing in our early, formative, young adult years.”

The group expressed the wish that young people knew about the mobility within a finance company once a foothold has been established.

Speaking specifically of smaller institutions, although Falcón Uribe pointed out the same possibilities are available at larger institutions, Lemke said, “Because you wear so many hats, you have the opportunity to do a lot of different things. If the first thing, the second thing, the third thing you do you don’t like, there’s five, six, seven, eight down the line.

“I think one thing to pitch … we’re on the cutting edge of really topical things like cryptocurrency, marijuana banking … You’re not just taking deposits and processing loans,” he noted.

Nabokov sees financial institutions as, culturally, offering something for everyone. “I think financial institutions … we are family first and community driven, obviously we’re competing against other financial institutions and contributing to the bottom line — if you’re competitive by nature, you’ll appreciate that. If you are civic-minded and mission-driven, financial institutions embrace that.”

Still, he cautions, banks and credit unions must ensure their policies and practices align with their mission statements. “I think the financial institutions need to take a closer look at what they are and what they stand for at their core,” he admonished. “That will change the perception. I think that’s what will attract people to work for banks and make a difference and see the impact of their work.”

Want more insights from these leaders? Be sure to check a more in-depth version of our conversation

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