Betsy Williamson: Resilient fund managers have what it takes to weather the pandemic

Betsy Williamson

Betsy Williamson, managing director at Core-Asset Consulting, reveals why resilient fund managers have what it takes to weather the storm of COVID-19.

Scottish fund managers have harnessed five years of painful experiences to weather the pandemic better than many other of the financial services sector.

With an estimated £800 billion of funds under management in Scotland and roughly 100,000 employed by the sector, it has defied lockdown trends and was seeing recruitment growth from October 2020.

The resilience shown by Scotland’s fund management profession is in part due to preceding years of adversity, which drove adoption of technology and recognition of the importance of offering employees a better work-life balance.

For five years, larger fund management firms had been in cost cutting mode but, ironically, redundancies had turned from a constant flow into just a slow drip when the pandemic hit.

Those experiences meant investment houses had already started to move towards flexible working, with a recognition of the importance of culture and work-life balance to attract a
more diverse employee base.

They were also addressing one of the most critical factors facing the industry: attracting, retaining and hiring more female candidates into traditionally male-dominated fields.

Working culture was already centre stage, meaning flexible working hours, holiday allowances, maternity and paternity benefits packages were being recognised.

The global nature and reliance on IT infrastructure meant the fund management arena was well-positioned to embrace homeworking during lockdown.

Covid propelled the investment industry forward in the acceptance of non-office-based working in a way that no policy, government or corporate had been able to do until that point.

This focus on health and wellbeing is going to be essential. We’ve seen candidates willing to take a lower salary if it is deemed there was a ‘good’ company culture.

Looking forward, the report predicts up to a third of employees may continue to work from home post-pandemic, which could be a strategic benefit to large investment houses still in the integration phase after acquisition or international mergers.

Home working can reduce fixed costs; physical office spaces can be smaller and overheads could be dramatically reduced. There could also be gains in employee productivity, while reduced commuting and improved work/life balance for working parents, could benefit diversity agendas.

However, the report predicts businesses will need to move quickly to understand their employees’ new training and development needs. Meanwhile the need for face-to-face interaction with global clients during a time of restricted travel will continue to be a challenge.

We anticipate that the top talent will continue to be passive and will take convincing to change career paths. Likewise, we expect that during 2021 and into 2022, the market will continue to be client-driven, with more candidates seeking employment than vacancies available.

The findings are in our sixth Annual Salary Guide into Scotland’s crucial financial service sector – a forensic of current salary levels and a guide to the major developments that professionals need to be aware of.

It’s also a gauge of market sentiment, activity and the themes that are impacting financial services across Scotland. We predict the financial services sector will have to wrestle with fallout from the pandemic, Brexit, the climate crisis and the clamour for greater diversity.

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