Culture or salary: What do financial services professionals value most?

New research has revealed whether salary or team culture is more important to financial services professionals when considering a new position.

Keegan Adams, a boutique recruitment agency, has released its inaugural Financial Services Talent and Employment Report which surveyed over 4,000 participants working in investment management, wealth management, insurance and superannuation.

According to the findings, those surveyed ranked team culture as the top factor for candidates when searching for a job. This was followed by salary, flexibility, mental wellbeing and job security.

“The prominence of team culture and mental wellbeing – and their importance above salary and job security respectively – in candidate priorities show that, despite scarcity of demand, it is the way they feel at a job that matters most,” the report wrote.

It noted conducting in-person interviews with applicants were a better way to test the culture fit between a company and candidate versus digital or remote options. Another option was internal staff referral programs where candidates could be advocated for as a good fit by a current member of staff.

A quarter of participants stated flexibility as a “non-negotiable”, with hybrid working environments cementing as the new normal for many businesses.

When broken down by gender, the recruitment agency highlighted that women ranked flexibility as the most important consideration, while men placed salary at the top.

A separate survey of 2,000 professionals by Robert Walters also found an inspiring company culture was the number one factor to attract professionals to a job advert, ahead of company benefits or flexible work.

On the flip side, a bad workplace environment was fuelling a phenomenon known as “rage applying” where employees applied for multiple roles in a short space of time. Over half (65 per cent) of workers said a negative or toxic workplace was a reason they sought a new role. A fifth blamed poor work/life balance, and 13 per cent cited unmanageable workloads.

Shay Peters, CEO of Robert Walters ANZ, said: “It’s rather intriguing to observe that this surge in job applications is not primarily motivated by factors such as salary or career advancement. Rather, it seems to stem from the work environment and policies, which lie entirely within the employer’s control. Identifying toxic workplace cultures isn’t always a simple task, yet it can profoundly affect the mental wellbeing, morale and creativity of employees.”

The survey recommended changes to a workplace environment could include ensuring managers foster team morale and introducing anonymous feedback surveys which are reviewed to identify root issues.

ESG highest in demand

When examining which positions will see the greatest demand this year, Keegan Adams pinpointed ESG-related roles as top of the list. Investment firms are increasingly seeking ESG professionals due to regulatory and consumer pressure for sustainable and ethical operations.

This has been partly driven by firms hiring more in-house staff to deal with the regulatory focus on greenwashing than using outsourced businesses. 

“Nonetheless, ESG as a niche is currently an immature market in Australia and there remains a shortage of candidates with the necessary skills,” the report explained.

ESG analysts at investment firms are currently earning between $120,000 and $180,000, while ESG managers at superannuation funds make between $170,000 and $230,000.

Earlier this week, recruitment manager Robert Half’s 2024 Salary Guide found financial services businesses are looking to hire individuals in roles focused on risk and compliance in light of increased regulatory activity.

The top five roles are compliance officers, compliance managers, finance managers, legal counsel and head of legal. Salary ranges for compliance officers are $83,000–$127,000, rising to $136,000–$161,000 for compliance managers.