The Exodus: Young worker exodus predicted to leave big holes in finance sector

Banks have already been struggling to find enough IT, risk and regulatory specialists with increased regulation requirement while auditors at professional services firms have been in short supply.

But worker shortages in other areas could be exacerbated in the next six to 12 months as younger Kiwis leave to get overseas experience with the borders now open and no requirement to go into a managed isolation facility.

ANZ, the country’s largest bank saw its vacancy rate blow out to around 300 in May last year from around a typical level of 200 as it tried to hire new workers.

A spokeswoman this week said its vacancies were back to pre-pandemic levels though they remained higher in some parts of the business such as technology, data and some frontline banking roles.

“With low unemployment rates, it is making it a bit harder for us to fill roles that previously would have been easy to fill, so we are thinking differently around skill sets and solutions to try to combat this.”

“However, we also expect that more people will start to consider different options, such as an OE, over the next six to 12 months, and we’ll be watching this space with interest.”

The spokeswoman said the bank was supporting existing staff by offering on-the-job development, virtual and digital learning.

“We’re also looking at the role being in the office plays and the need to continue to offer flexible working.”

Tonia Calderwood, a senior associate with recruitment agency DGA which specialises in banking, finance and accounting recruitment, said she was seeing strong demand for certain skill sets and was starting to see an exodus of workers.

“Right the way through lockdown and last year we were busy – a lot of companies that may have done their own recruitment in the past have been slightly overwhelmed with the volume of jobs and vacancies as their businesses have experienced strong growth.

“So, it was not people leaving because they couldn’t travel, companies had experienced considerable growth. With low interest rates, high levels of lending and people looking at alternative investment opportunities there has been a high demand for skills in the financial services space.”

Calderwood said she was having to make direct approaches to potential candidates where employers were looking for someone with two or three years’ experience.

“We are experiencing limited response from Seek ads, all our roles are really searched and a lot of the people that we are approaching are saying we would love that job, but we are going overseas in less than 12 months so it’s not fair to take on a new position and then leave.”

She predicts from July until September there will be an exodus of those in their mid to late 20s with experience behind them.

Her own son, a lawyer who has been working three or four years here, is heading to London this month with a job secured before he goes. Three of his friends have been approached by London recruiters and placed in jobs before they leave.

She said some New Zealand financial services organisations have difficulty offering people jobs before they arrive.

“We have bankers currently sitting in South Africa and the UK wanting to come to NZ, but their visa requires them to get a job offer before they come. That’s not always easy. Prospective employers can be reluctant to engage on this basis.”

Calderwood said the Government was opening up New Zealand for those coming in on a working holiday visa but that would not necessarily attract skilled accountants or bankers here.

“And I don’t know if you ever will because our salaries just aren’t competitive enough and the market here is so much smaller. That’s why offshore recruiters are targeting Kiwis – they are tempting them with higher salaries and greater career development.

“Having said that there will always be those coming to NZ for the lifestyle choice or Kiwis returning for family reasons.”

She said companies here were willing to offer more money for certain roles and were making sure their offers were comparable with competitors’ pay.

“I would say the big four accounting firms and banks will be scrambling to find experienced people in the next 12 months.

But higher pay would be unlikely to be enough to keep those who wanted to go on their OE.

Companies were also looking at other perks and were now more open to flexible working arrangements.

“Historically they weren’t very receptive to working from home. Covid has definitely changed that “

Some employers were offering higher KiwiSaver contributions, while others were paying towards medical insurance and wellness packages.

“For a while there, people preferred to have a higher base salary than having additional benefits, but now companies are using things like a car park, greater flexibility to work from home as well as a competitive salary to tempt them a bit more.”

Calderwood said she would be watching closely how many of those with three or four years’ experience leave NZ to work overseas.

“That is going to be a real loss for some firms. Their grads are going to have to step up because these people leaving have been their mentors and managers and a lot of them will be leaving.”

The big four professional financial services firms were looking to recruit overseas as well as law firms. She knew of one law firm that was having an overseas recruitment drive in London in May.

“They haven’t been able to do that for a couple of years.”

The Exodus: A Herald Series


• London calling: Inside the fight to halt the exodus of Kiwi workers


• Recruitment tips from the masters of selling


• Construction industry’s 200,000-plus person shortage


• How Kiwi tech firms are keeping staff loyal and attracting new talent

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