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The Wealth Management Workplace - Opening Up About Mental Health

Alan Foster, 14 October 2019


The issue of mental health in the workplace is getting more attention, and one sector where it certainly applies is wealth management. The author of this article take a look.

The issue of mental health in the workplace is getting more attention than in the past - not before time. On the client side, there is more awareness than before about cognitive decline issues. However, the situation of advisors themselves is just as important. This is a high-pressure industry and its practitioners have targets to hit. Margins are tight; the growth of regulation shows no sign of abating. (We have carried an article on this subject from Irwin Mitchell, the UK law firm.)

This article by Alan Foster, head of people, at UK investment firm Rowan Dartington, considers this important topic. The editors of this news service are pleased to share these opinions and invite readers to respond. The usual disclaimers about the views of outside contributors apply. 

Email tom.burroughes@wealthbriefing.com and jackie.bennion@clearviewpublishing.com

In recent years, we’ve seen a welcome shift in attitudes towards mental wellbeing, with mental health steadily being recognised as important as physical health. Today, many charities and high-profile individuals have been leading the way in creating a more open discussion on it to help address problems.

Within the workplace there has also been a step change in the way we think about and address poor mental health. Certain industries are ahead of the curve, but the financial services industry has so far lagged behind others in terms of progress. We need to implement change quickly in order to address this. A report by HR consultancy AdviserPlus found that financial services has the highest percentage of mental health-related absence of any sector - with up to a third of all reported absences being related to mental health.

That’s a stark finding that should surely spur us on to do more. Of course, there is no getting away from the fact that financial services can, by its nature, be a demanding industry to work in. Volatile markets, increasing regulatory and compliance requirements, clients who rightly expect strong performance from their investments, the long hours sometimes needed - all of these factors can add up. 

We all need some measure of stress to help us perform at our best - it’s not always a bad thing. But when these pressures start to tip over into poor mental health, then it’s vital that we ensure that the support mechanisms are in place to help people cope. A study in 2018 by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74 per cent of people have felt so stressed at one time or another that they have been overwhelmed. It’s a common problem and we, as employers, have a responsibility to support our employees and make sure they are happy, healthy and able to continue to give their best.

I believe that one of the issues in financial services is that there is still a culture where individuals don’t open up about how they are really feeling. Firms need to tackle the associated stigma head on, which in turn will change the working environment.  

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