Culture | March 1, 2017

Culture Change Fuels the Wall Street Brain Drain

So-called “brain drains,” or mass exoduses of talent from one place to another, are a common occurrence in business, and are usually driven by more competitive salaries and benefits on the other side. However the brain drain currently being experienced on Wall Street is unlike any other – the top minds exiting the financial field at alarming numbers aren’t after higher salaries, but better cultures.

Tech Me Away

The tech industry, with its double-digit growth and blooming A.I. and robotics sectors, has over the last decade supplanted Wall Street as the place to be for top talent. As a result, Wall Street firms are finding it harder to retain key positions. Global headcount for the 15 major banks has dropped 12 percent from 2011 to 2015, and some firms are incurring costs related to voluntary turnover in the billions.

Wall Street’s average salaries are six times greater than the rest of New York’s private sector, yet employees are still leaving. In a recent report released by consulting firm Quinlan & Associates and reported on by Reuters, it suggests that the continuing fallout from the Financial Crisis of 2008 in addition to the onslaught of fines, litigation, and scandal over the last several years has soured the perception of big bank culture.

An Honest Start

As a result, more employees are moving to greener pastures at tech companies who offer lower salaries, but more forward-thinking goals and cleaner reputations. We should all take note – in the internet age, companies can’t afford to keep secrets from employees. In the past one could destroy information, but not anymore. What’s done in the dark will see the light in the everlasting digital cloud. In short, honesty, transparency and unimpeachable goals are no longer optional if company wants to succeed – and yes, that includes appreciating employees.

“Only when there is a fundamental re-engineering of a bank’s DNA to deliver a more holistic career proposition,” said one of the Quinlan & Associate report authors, “will they see a meaningful, lasting change in the perceptions towards the industry as an employment choice.”

Why We Work

Thankfully Reuters also reports that some of these banks are taking steps to realign their values to better engage new employees and provide a satisfying, supportive career path.  But it once again proves that the reasons and motivations that make us go to work every day ultimately transcend salary and material success. We go primarily because we want to know we’ve done something meaningful and useful with our time. Whenever a workforce no longer feels that level of commitment from management, a talent crisis is sure to follow.

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