Graduate Recruitment: Into the money pyramid: Financial firms want graduates but increasingly are not offering jobs for life, writes Philip Schofield

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 15 per cent of graduates entering permanent employment go into financial work, almost two-thirds of them into chartered accountancy.

Chartered accountancy, once dominated by school-leaver entrants, is now almost exclusively graduate entry, while more than 90 per cent of trainee actuaries are also graduates.

Banking and insurance have continued to depend on school-leavers but this is changing.

This month the Institute of Manpower Studies produced a report for the Department of Employment, Changing Policies Towards Young Workers. This states: 'The traditional pattern of youth employment . . . is beginning to change. This has been most noticeable among financial services organisations which have been traditionally characterised by the mass recruitment of 16 to 18-year- olds . . . employers are, in general, reducing their aggregate demand for young people but raising their demands in terms of quality. In certain circumstances this is leading to not only a move away from 16-year-olds to 18-year- olds, but also to a greater orientation towards graduates. . . .'

Another change has been a move away from the pattern of recruiting school- leavers and new graduates into the bottom of a broad-based pyramid hierarchy and then promoting only from within.

David Bell, a consultant in manpower strategy and until recently group personnel controller of the TSB Group, believes banks have got to rethink their job structures, employment contracts and general relationships. 'One thing that's changing very markedly, not just in banking but all branch structured financial services such as insurance, is that the lowest-level jobs are being automated almost out of existence. The next level up is probably being expanded. These are the people who are the interface with the customer.

'Above that, is a diminution of the junior management job. This is for two reasons. If you do away with the vast armies of the lowest-level jobs, there aren't as many people to manage. And, you are automating mundane decision- making that used to be done by junior managers.

'So you've now got a narrow base to the hierarchy, it widens out, then you've got a narrow neck at junior management level, and above that it widens out again a bit. So there is much more of a tendency to recruit people in at the different levels, rather than give them a career right the way through.

'That has all sorts of implications for the 'psychological contract' you have with the people you recruit. We used to say, 'We recruit you and give you the wherewithal to get a qualification, and then the chances are you've got a career for life.' Now we're saying, 'We can't promise you a career for life . . . what we're going to offer you is a decent job for a period.' In my view employers are going to have to say, 'During that time we're going to give you good experience over a range of different things, and we'll give you the facilities to get training in them, so you'll have something worthwhile to take away when you've finished your job with us.' '

He says the length of a job will not be fixed and to an extent will be up to the individual. 'You should be saying, 'We're unlikely to have a career for you resulting in promotion every few years. But we will give you this wide range of experience - and you can stay doing that if you like - but also you'll have something worthwhile to offer other people.' '

Career development is increasingly likely to involve moves between different employers. In most areas of finance this sounds radical. But this is what happens in most other jobs - although it is rarely expressed explicitly.

Chartered accountancy, which recruits one in ten graduates, retains the traditional hierarchical structure, although career patterns are changing. Half of all newly qualified chartered accountants used to move into industry and commerce, but no longer.

'One obvious reason,' says Anne Marie Campion, manager of the student recruitment department of Touche Ross, 'is that the opportunities aren't there in the numbers there were in the mid- Eighties. Also, most large firms have diversified their own services, so people can transfer and develop their careers within their firm.'

Information on education, training, careers and potential employers is available in the 'Ivanhoe Guide to Actuaries 1993' and companion volumes covering chartered accountancy, insurance and pensions management, published by Letts in association with the relevant professional institutions.

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