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Global mobility: A powerful talent lure for financial services


After years of relying on the same recruiting pitch, financial institutions—banks, insurers, and investment managers—are now flipping the script. What’s prompted them? The expectations of Millennials, the generation of adults now in their early 20s to late 30s.

Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce1. They’re more educated2 than any previous generation. They’re also digitally savvy, a critical qualification for an industry in the midst of a FinTech revolution.

And, despite popular myth, they’re hard workers. According to a ManPowerGroup3 study, 83 percent of the world’s Millennials work more than 40 hours a week, with nearly a quarter working more than 50 hours a week.

Competing for up-and-coming talent

But the financial services sector has struggled to attract and retain this generation. A Compdata4 survey shows that employee turnover in banking and finance is 18.6 percent, among the highest of any industry. Their loss is other industries’ gain: Among leading U.S. business schools, for instance, the technology industry has doubled its share of recruits5.

Salary isn’t necessarily the problem. For Millennial workers, cash is still king6, and banks continue to pay well. It’s also hard to believe working hours are much of a factor, considering the notoriously workaholic7 culture of many technology companies. 

Instead, what seems to be happening is a shift in the type of work Millennials are prepared to do. With lifetime employment largely a thing of the past, Millennials have grown up with the knowledge that they’ll have to change direction multiple times over the course of their working years. Maneuvering effectively in such an environment means prioritizing jobs that offer maximum opportunities for learning and advancement—which, for Millennials, often translates to jobs in highly innovative industries such as technology.

Appealing to Millennial values

The point has not escaped financial institutions. They’re responding with Millennial-friendly strategies such as mentoring programs and out-of-cycle promotions5 aimed at moving high performers up the ladder faster. On a broader level, firms are partnering with FinTech startups8 to bring leading-edge innovation—and maybe a bit of that freewheeling agility that techs are famous for—into the organization.

But there’s another way to get Millennials excited about a financial services career: international experience. Overseas moving company MoveHub finds that 8 out of 10 people moving abroad believe that working abroad is a significant career enhancement9.

In financial services especially, globally mobile employees can find themselves on the front lines of transformative change. New global players—notably those from BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China)—are asserting themselves10. Meanwhile, insurers, lenders, and payment providers are turning their gaze to underserved markets in developing regions11. The regulatory environment continues to evolve, making intimate familiarity with local compliance standards a must. Finally, there’s the rapid digitization of cross-border transactions, which promises to remake the very architecture of global finance12.

Closing the deal

Still, firms shouldn’t assume that international experience will sell itself. As much as they value experiences, Millennials are also acutely attuned to risk. This is a generation that, after all, came of age during a particularly acute series of boom-and-bust economic cycles. As a result, Millennials can be reluctant to go where a firm’s growth strategy needs them to be.

Firms can overcome this reluctance by making expat assignments a key identifier of future leadership. By articulating—and rewarding—the career-enriching aspects of global mobility, financial institutions widen the path for today’s Millennial employees to develop into tomorrow’s senior leadership. 

A strong support system is also part of the equation. A Cigna survey of expat employees from over 100 countries finds that the most important benefits in an overseas assignment are relocation services, settlement services, and medical preparedness13. This last is particularly important to Millennials, with one study showing that the majority value better health insurance even more than a 10% pay raise14. For Millennials, another powerful tool is wellness programs15—73 percent say they’re important in choosing between two potential employers, according to Cigna15.

Finally, a robust repatriation plan helps to keep all that international knowledge in-house. For many financial institutions, all this may be a matter of strengthening communication and execution around existing programs. For instance, in the Cigna survey only 54% of expatriates say their employer offers a formal repatriation program, even though most employers report they offer one13.

Today’s up-and-coming workforce is better educated and more connected than any other. They want to be part of the global conversation and, technological fluency aside, they’re not content to limit their participation to the digital realm. By positioning global experiences so that they play to the unique characteristics of the Millennial generation, financial services firms can set themselves apart and seize the advantage in the ongoing war for talent.

Click here to learn more about global benefits solutions from Cigna.

Workplace wellness as a differentiator

According to the 2018 Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey, stress remains the biggest issue relative to wellness in the workplace. Some 15 percent of workers said they’re unable to manage stress, with Millennials in the workplace viewing themselves as least able to cope. Those who say they’re unable to manage stress are less physically fit, less sociable, and more likely to seek professional help and be prescribed medication.

One way that employers can improve staff retention and motivation is to provide help with stress management. Over 50 percent of employees in the survey claim they have neither company support in dealing with stress nor access to a formal workplace wellness program. When asked about workplace wellness programs, 73 percent of working Millennials—compared with 68 percent of all survey respondents—agree they make a difference when choosing between two potential employers.

For more survey findings, visit the 2018 Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey website.

Interested in learning about how Cigna can support your workforce?


1 “Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force,” by Richard Fry, Pew Research Center, 11 April 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/11/Millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/.

2 “Today’s young workers are more likely than ever to have a bachelor’s degree,” by Nikki Graf, Pew Research Center, 16 May 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/16/todays-young-workers-are-more-likely-than-ever-to-have-a-bachelors-degree/.

3 “Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision,” Manpower Group, 2016, https://www.manpowergroup.com/wps/wcm/connect/178d19fb-9da5-4a10-9b70-2b0d23e3add2/MPG_NAMillennials2020VisionWhitPr5_20_16+FINAL.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

4 “Employer-Reported Turnover Rates by Industry,” by KC Hall, Compdata, 14 January 2016, http://blog.compdatasurveys.com/turnover-trends-by-industry-2015.

5 “Banks are finding it harder to attract young recruits,” The Economist, 4 May 2017, https://www.economist.com/special-report/2017/05/04/banks-are-finding-it-harder-to-attract-young-recruits.

6 “Global Shapers Survey,” World Economic Forum, 2017, http://www.shaperssurvey2017.org/static/data/WEF_GSC_Annual_Survey_2017.pdf.

7 “In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers,” by Dan Lyons, New York Times, 31 August 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/opinion/sunday/silicon-valley-work-life-balance-.html.

8 “Banks and Fintechs: Adversaries or Partners?,” Knowledge@Wharton, 30 April 2018, http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/banks-fintechs-adversaries-partners/.

9 “Global Moving Trends Report 2017,” Movehub, April 2017, https://images.movehub.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/15150010/movehub-global-moving-trends-2017-report.pdf?_ga=2.242927940.770569015.1531698087-504200236.1531698087.

10 “As European Banks Retreat from the World Stage, China Is Stepping Up,” by Susan Lund and Eckart Windhagen, Harvard Business Review, 25 September 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/09/as-european-banks-retreat-from-the-world-stage-china-is-stepping-up.

11 “Global insurance market trends,” Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 18 June 2018, http://www.oecd.org/finance/insurance/globalinsurancemarkettrends.htm.

12 “Digital Trade and Cross-Border Data Flows,” World Economic Forum, accessed 18 July 2018, https://www.weforum.org/projects/digital-trade-policy.

13 “Global Mobility Trends Survey Results,” Cigna and National Foreign Trade Council, 5 November 2015, https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2015/cigna-and-national-foreign-trade-council-global-mobility-trends-survey-results.

14 “New Study: Millennials Consider Healthcare Top Priority, Wary of Trump’s Impact,” Benenson Strategy Group, 29 March 2017, https://www.bsgco.com/insights/new-study-Millennials-consider-healthcare-top-priority-wary-of-trumps-impact.

15 “360° Well-Being Survey,” Cigna, 9 July 2018, https://wellbeing.cigna.com/international/360survey/#_blank.

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