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Outplacing financial staff challenges traditional mindset Back  
With at most 35 per cent of staff in traditional functions likely to move to international services, many people in financial services will be making major career and lifestyle adjustments in the near future. There are plenty of opportunities apart from early retirement, writes Gerard O'Shea.
The next three years will bring dramatic changes in the employment mix and perhaps levels within the Irish Financial Services sector. The change will come from consolidation in certain areas and a very significant growth in e-banking.

The pace of change will be remarkable and indeed will take many by surprise. The pattern of mergers and acquisitions on a global scale will increase as companies strive for the economies of scale.

The pattern of companies constantly evaluating options / opportunities within the financial services area and indeed other areas such as retail, will be crucial in both their ongoing viability and perhaps survival. So the reality in the financial services sector, particularly retail and back office functions, is going to be ongoing adaptation and an ever changing horizon.

In addition to this, e-banking and e-commerce will revolutionise the retail financial services as we know it today. The number of outlets will be reduced to a huge extent. More and more financial transactions will be done on the internet. The move has started already - people are securing mortgages via the internet having evaluated the best options in the market. There is no doubt that the face of financial services is going to change, the only question is how quickly.

Transferable skills?
Not only will the face of the financial services sector in Ireland change but also many of the actual faces will also change. On one side employment levels in retail financial services will decline and on the other international financial services will show a growth in employment levels.

The question is whether the employee skills are transferable within these two areas. In reality, the transfer rate from retail to international services will be unlikely to exceed 35 per cent. This will arise from a variety of reasons - skills mismatch, relocation reluctance, career / lifestyle choice.

It is interesting to note that in the city of London, 40 per cent of employees made redundant following mergers/acquisitions, are choosing not to return to the financial services field.

So, during the next few years in Ireland, many employees in the financial services field will be examining the transferability of their skills and, for some, a career outside that field will become a reality.

Moving beyond
The vision to see beyond the existing horizons will be needed and indeed employees will be banking on their skills to take them towards those new frontiers. There are two keys needed to unlock the potential: the first is to understand the extent of the skill base they have, and the second is the ability to think laterally and to visualize potential opportunities elsewhere.

A key challenge for Senior Management in Financial Institutions wishing to implement restructuring will be to provide a framework which deals with the financial aspect for departing employees and also their future plans. In creating a win-win situation the provision of career transition support is a crucial element as this is the component which turns the financial package into the realms of a unique opportunity.

The skills of employees within financial services are very broad and are definitely transferable to different settings. They include competencies in areas such as project management, sales, customer service, administration, people management, P.R., event management, planning, assessment and evaluation.

Lateral thinking will be essential in order to visualize the possibilities where these skills might be used. The thinking must be such as to create possibilities rather that to eliminate potential opportunities.

Career re-launch
The practicalities of a re-launch process will require individuals to develop strong CVs, have the ability to perform well at interviews and to recognise that they are in a marketing process.

In many cases, if employees can embrace change rather that feeling threatened, they will go forward positively taking control of their future career and lifestyle.

The thought of leaving the nest may be very difficult for employees in the financial services area, particularly for those with long service. The nests have been very comfortable and secure although, in recent times, they have begun to be seriously affected by the changing climate.

It would be a pity if those individuals with long service decide to leave these institutions and think only of early retirement. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience, much of which they are unaware of or take for granted. This treasure should be identified, nurtured and utilised within our environment whether commercial, social, cultural or educational.

In the minds of those facing these important decisions, voluntary early retirement (VER) should be replaced with ‘viewing every road’. Many of these roads will lead to interesting opportunities, others will be cul-de-sacs, but the challenge will be to make the journey.

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