January 28, 2020 / 11:12 AM / 24 days ago

Britain backs new body to boost financial sector recruitment

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will lose out to rival financial centers and other economic sectors unless action is taken to create a more skilled and diverse workforce, a review commissioned by the finance ministry said.

FILE PHOTO: People walk through the Canary Wharf financial district of London, Britain, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

With Britain’s departure from the European Union hitting recruitment and the technology sector luring away talent, the ministry backed calls for a new financial industry body dedicated to filling the skill shortages.

At present, 90% of workers in the sector are white, and only a third of senior managers are women, said the review, which was presented on Tuesday.

Restoring public trust in finance was also critical to attracting skilled staff, it said.

“The industry lacks the overarching vision, coordination and focus needed to weather the megatrends transforming global business,” said Mark Hoban, chair of the task force that authored the report.

An employer-funded and managed Financial Services Skills Commission could lead real change, it said. It would identify what skills were needed, how to increase training for employees, and “champion the sector as a great place to work”.

The report found that financial services has a growing skills gap, up 30% between 2015 and 2017, and only a third of senior managers are women.

About nine out of 10 financial services workers are white, failing to reflect the mix of people in urban centers where many people who work in the sector are based, the report said.

The sector is also facing fundamental changes as automation eliminates clerical and administration jobs.

Demand for specialist skills in data and tech is growing in a sector that has a high reliance on imported talent, with more than 12% of Britain’s banking and finance workforce from the EU.

The unfettered ability to hire talent from the EU will end after Brexit.

“In the short term, changes to our ability to access overseas talent, as a result of Brexit, will present an additional challenge as investment in our domestic talent will take time to manifest,” the report said.

Britain’s financial services minister John Glen said the sector had an image problem and needed to “up its game”.

“The government is absolutely committed to supporting the long-term needs of the sector,” Glen told the review’s launch event.

The government welcomed the creation of a new commission and will engage closely with it on a regular basis, Glen said.

Glen said Britain was considering a new points based immigration system from 2021 that would help recruitment.

“This is a competitive world and we must never lose sight of where our own competitive strengths lie,” Glen said.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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