Interview: 'Working in finance means shaping a future that is still unwritten'

9 min Reading time

The search for talent has been causing a lot of headaches for HR managers from various sectors for some time now. It raises questions such as: how do you, as a sector, ensure that it is attractive to (starting) professionals? And also: how do you keep these profiles? In response to the offline job theme 'working in finance & insurance' that Jobat published on April 2, Febelfin talked to two leading ladies in finance, Wien de Geyter, Secretary General of Febelfin and Barbara Van Speybroeck, Communication Director of Assuralia. They give their 'jobtimistic' view.


Jobat defined 5 trends for the labor market in 2022, with the 'search for talent' consistently being number 1. Other sectors also know that this will be the most important challenge post-corona. How does the financial sector view this?

Wien: The financial sector is indeed experiencing difficulty attracting new talent. This has to do with various factors: the sector is not always seen in a positive light. The enormous social role that the sector plays is not always clear to everyone. Furthermore, we notice that young professionals nowadays have less patience when developing their careers (laughs). In the past, it was generally accepted that some time would pass before recognition for your achievements followed. Today, young people often have a different expectation: it has to happen quickly, it has to happen now. And it is an art to deal with that. As in other industries, technological profiles have become indispensable thanks to digitalization. But there are not many of these applicants and the employers have a choice.

Barbara: The financial world deals with difficult matters. These complexities used to make it difficult for us to communicate openly. Because you don't want to make mistakes, so you communicate very carefully. This then leads to an unintentional lack of transparency. And in this way you promote the idea that we are an inaccessible sector for job seekers. Moreover: unknown is unloved. We must dare to communicate more about who we are and what we do.

What do you do to distinguish yourself and be attractive to applicants?

Barbara: The sector is catching up to communicate more transparently. By opening the windows and doors and illustrating the beauty of our profession, we are already making a big difference. With campaigns we show what kind of diversity the sector promotes, how we help to make the world go round and what our social role is. For example, the insurance story used to focus on reactive communication, post-accident for example. We now focus more on the preventive, health aspects and the pension and investment story. Thanks to this positioning, professionals see a different side of the finance industry.

Wien: Communication campaigns such as 'You make the world go round' can contribute to the image of the sector. Because a campaign that emphasizes the social and economic role of the banks and the relationship with the customer creates more interest among professionals and shows them that they can contribute to a social story. We have a transformation role and a great profession: banks use money to make people's or companies' dreams come true. Because working with us means shaping a future that is still unwritten. This presents a nice challenge.

There are some misconceptions surrounding working in the financial sector. For example, that the sector is not very innovative and that the jobs are only located in Brussels. To what extent does this correspond to reality?

Wien: 50% of the headquarters of the Belgian financial world are located in Brussels. But it is no longer the case that people come to Brussels every day. Even before the corona crisis, the sector already had a lot of experience with large-scale teleworking and remains flexible now. We are also an innovative environment: a pioneer in the field of digitalization and with a focus on digital inclusion. We guarantee a double promise: people can count on us both online and offline (bank branch). And that requires a sense of innovation and challenge. And to achieve that, we of course need the necessary workers.

Barbara: When people think of 'the financial sector', they still think of the strict white man who spends hours at a desk in a suit. That image is outdated: it is no longer a white man's story, just think of all the female CEOs and women in other top positions in our organizations. There is a place to celebrate the power of diversity.

How can we convince people to work in the sector?

Wien: We zijn een dynamische en sterk gedigitaliseerde sector die innovatie vooropzet. Dat biedt interessante werkgelegenheid voor IT, juristen, experts en dienstverleners in een wereld waarin mensen 24/24 online kunnen bankieren. Toch mag het niet doorslaan naar de andere kant: mensen willen naast alle digitale oplossingen ook persoonlijk contact met hun bankier. Want bankieren blijft bovenal een vertrouwensrelatie. En de digitale omgeving kan dit bereikbaarheidsgevoel belemmeren. Daarom blijven wij inzetten op persoonlijke dienstverlening. Door de combinatie van de digitale sector met offlinedienst verlening, zijn wij een boeiende en veelzijdige werkomgeving met aantrekkelijke arbeidsvoorwaarden, een gevarieerd takenpakket en interessante doorgroeimogelijkheden.

Barbara: This narrative also exists in the insurance world: in addition to countless digital solutions, we must also focus on physical services. In this rapidly changing world, people look for confidence in financial matters. Creating this issue of trust requires great human insight: people want handles, help and advice for their future. It is valuable to know that you are part of a social radar work in which you contribute to a continuous guarantee of trust. As an employee you can get a lot of satisfaction from this.

Which job profiles is the financial sector mainly looking for?

Barbara: In the insurance world, the social dimension of the job goes hand in hand with professional knowledge. Insurers often appear at key points in a person's life. When making home visits, it is essential that you have compassion and understanding for the situation in which some people find themselves. You must be able to offer a human face, combined with professionalism. If you have a social and community commitment, then you are definitely in the right place with us.

Wien: In addition to the classic banking and insurance profiles, this concerns a variety of jobs. Digitalization has changed the content of existing jobs and also creates new opportunities with the growing challenges. We are looking for people who enjoy working on data development, data research, protection on themes such as internet fraud and security issues. In short, different IT profiles. People with a strong political and social feeling are also desperately needed: they help us to be ready for the challenges of the day after tomorrow. In addition, customer-oriented employees are also crucial: professionals who can handle change well and who, in combination with technical knowledge, have human feeling.

Banking and insurance have declined in popularity in recent years. What initiatives can we take to get students interested in the financial world again and to help them move on?

Wien: Febelfin Academy and Febelfin founded the FinCompetition a few years ago, an initiative in which students from banking and finance disciplines from no fewer than 16 colleges participate in an online banking game. During the game they gain insight into the front and back office activities of a bank. This way they come into contact with our sector in a different way. We also want to expand the game to universities this year. We will also supplement this with expert sessions: in which employees from different banks give participants insight into their job and the competencies you need for it. This way, students know what to expect. With Febelfin Academy we are currently looking at how we can support teachers in these directions by allowing them to work in a bank for a few days and revise their courses and curriculum for the professional bachelor's degree in Banking and Finance. In addition, we also look at some other initiatives regarding financial education for 3rd grade secondary school that can stimulate passion for economics and the profession.

Barbara: A year ago, the insurance sector itself started a process with several colleges and universities to see how we can help them, under the motto teach us how to teach you. We want to involve young people in the issues of tomorrow, such as pension problems. We need to further develop the feedback surrounding this process. But we certainly do not rule out a collaboration with Febelfin.

Are there sufficient opportunities in the sector to integrate newcomers through training?

Wien: We pay a lot of attention to training: on average 8 training days per person per year. We are a regulated sector in which certain professions may only be practiced if specific training is followed. Banking, credit intermediation and insurance distribution require regular further training and a certain level of education. But we also make efforts to encourage people to train their 'soft skills', for example 'working in a team' or the new context of hybrid working.

Barbara: It is indeed a highly regulated story. Insurers often offer a range of training options internally. Competition is also fierce: training courses that offer the attractiveness and diversification of products are vital for competitiveness. We will soon also offer the 'plain language in the insurance sector' training. Lack of clear language is detrimental to image and customer loyalty. Services and products are often extremely complicated - especially in the insurance world. The training makes the insurance industry more accessible to newcomers.

Applicants and young people attach increasing importance to sustainability and people-oriented policies. How does the financial sector invest in this and does it meet the demands of young people?

Wien: The financial industry plays a key role in the transition to a sustainable economy, because that transition must of course be financed. Being able to support this as a young professional is great, isn't it? Guiding companies towards a more sustainable strategy, and encouraging them to report on this, will become increasingly important. In the future, we will look at how exactly companies are organized in terms of sustainability when we provide loans. In concrete terms, this will help determine whether a credit becomes cheaper or more expensive. We have also played a pioneering role in the investment field: we took the initiative to establish a quality label for sustainable investment products.

In the social field, we attach great importance to diversity and inclusion. You should strive to make your workplace a reflection of society: because diverse organizations are more innovative. The inclusion campaign that we launched together with our members last year consists of an e-book with 25 useful tools that can help companies from all kinds of sectors to pay attention to diversity and inclusion. In addition, there are other numerous initiatives from the sector, such as Women in Finance Belgium or Inclusive Panels.

Barbara: Banks and insurers play a crucial role in sustainability financing. If an organization does not have sufficient CSR reporting, the question is whether there will be a willingness to insure this organization. Climate change has a massive impact and insurers are working on this individually, but these systemic risks as a result of climate change are becoming difficult to manage. The only way to keep it under control is through cross-industry partnerships. A good example of this is the floods in Wallonia last summer: after the disaster, many victims were not sufficiently insured and were in danger of being left without adequate compensation. Thanks to cooperation between the private sectors and the government, a good arrangement was found in the short term. Quite unique and not many other sectors imitate us, I think (smiles).

Conclusion: you can't say 'no' to a job in Finance?