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Talent Management Challenges – A Julius Baer Perspective

Tom Burroughes

26 June 2023

This publication has published a number of articles looking at the state of talent management within the wealth management sector. (See articles here and here.) We talk here to Alan Hooks, managing director, head of private clients, at . 

Where do you see particularly strong demand from the talent market and where have things weakened?
In the talent market we are seeing a strong demand from those looking to develop their careers with a firm which has a coherent and focused strategy, often focused on a dedicated private wealth offering. 

Along with the desire of clients to see their wealth managers locally, candidates are increasingly curious about opportunities outside the usual financial centres and we see real interest in regional locations.

Now more than ever there is a real emphasis on culture and the alignment of a company’s values with those of the candidate or indeed the client. Candidates want to see that their own ethical judgement is lived out in the corporate purpose and they’re rightly asking that leadership teams show how they’re acting as role models for this. 

At a time when there is much talk of digital change, how important today is it for RMs, bankers and others to have lots of technology skills? Is this an area where firms and other bodies need to invest in training and career development? Any comments on how AI can affect the job?
It’s important that we meet client expectations to use technology as part of our service where it benefits them. This is particularly relevant for the next generation who will engage with us and consume information in a tech-centric manner. Similarly, increased technological ability will allow us to reach the tech-savvy high net worth individuals who are not being catered for by existing digital offerings or overly traditional wealth management services.

It’s essential then to have the right training in place to enable relationship managers to use technology as second nature. When this is done, client service can be improved. By simplifying processes and procedures, technology provides wealth managers with more time to build and strengthen client relationships. Therefore, alongside training in technology, investment in interpersonal and communications training is crucial to make time to further utilise these border skills.

Any comments on how AI can affect the job?
Successful implementation of AI in wealth management is dependent on people. AI will make organisations more efficient through automation and analysis, but it doesn’t change the nature of the relationship manager’s job. Connection and emotion determine our engagement with clients, and ultimately whether or not we thrive as wealth managers is dependent upon our ability to understand those we serve.

Another big theme in recent years has been that wealth management must be less “male, pale and stale.” What in your view are the challenges in bringing and retaining more women to the industry and ensuring that they can climb up the hierarchy and not drop off after having children, for example? What can be done to make the sector more appealing and less “stuffy” and intimidating? At the same time, how can change be made without in any way compromising standards, merit, etc?
It’s true, and sadly the diversity issue in our industry is far broader than just gender disparity. It’s imperative that our industry actively recruits from a broader talent pool to establish a rich and diverse culture. Representation is key, so if we strive to connect with a broader client demographic, which wealth management firms increasingly do, we must reflect this in our own recruitment of people.

Lack of flexibility can be a barrier to attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce. Whilst the role of a wealth manager is all encompassing, allowing flexible, hybrid or part-time work options is a key strategy for attracting talent within the industry. Adapting the role to fit the right person is preferable to changing the person in order for rigid job parameters to be met.  

Broader education about our industry is essential to make it less intimidating, particularly in those less traditional breeding grounds for talent attraction. Breaking down the jargon, simplification of approach, and a firm’s openness to change is vital. Clients greatly value the breadth of their wealth managers’ experience and background, in as much the same way as they can demonstrate curiosity, care and empathy; if you can do that then you are likely to be sure of a successful career in wealth management. 

At the same time, how can change be made without in any way compromising on standards, merit, etc?
This question implies that the current way of doing things is the gold standard, which I would argue cannot be the case given the lack of diversity. So much of the workforce is not tapped into by wealth management firms. Change doesn’t mean compromising standards; change is imperative for improvement. Firms resistant to change are going to fall behind, which is what then compromises standards.

What would you say sums up the ideal qualities of a good wealth management figure, and why?
A good wealth manager is one who demonstrates credibility through their breadth and depth of expertise; those who can show a real passion for care and empathy and who can build meaningful relationships based on integrity and principals. 

Great communication skills which they can demonstrate by simplifying the seemingly complex whilst being able to show strength in depth with the most sophisticated investor or those with the most complex of needs. The skill of active listening is often overlooked in the desire to show off your knowledge; those with the ability to genuinely take interest, understand some and challenge thoughts are those who can serve clients best. 

Beyond all of the professional attributes that we expect, clients like to see and hear the personality of their wealth manager, they want to see the real person with whom they place so much trust.