Market update – February 21

Simon RoderickMarket updates

Notes from the park - monthly updates

What a difference a month, or even a week makes. When I was thinking about writing our monthly newsletter last week the weather was awful and I’d spoken to so many people who were struggling with the monotony and isolation of working from home. Actually, I was getting quite worried about the situation. No updates on unlocking, home schooling, demanding workloads, and seeing the same four walls every day has taken an enormous toll on workers and sadly I think we will only understand how much of a toll many years after COVID has exited our lives (or is at least more controllable). Of course I understand that to our incredible healthcare and essential workers, who’ve battled on, these must seem like luxury problems, but everybody has had their own personal COVID and lockdown battle, and we can’t ignore the wider societal implications of the last 12 months.

Inequality has also been theme of COVID. Countries with access to vaccines vs. those without, garden owners vs. flat sharers, employed vs. unemployed and, whilst financial services has been relatively cocooned from the major effects of COVID, small inequalities have also crept into the industry too. There are some roles very suited to working from home, but for those who rely on conferences and face to face meetings to sell their services, the COVID era has been a difficult time. It’s also been a hard time for younger people to learn and develop. However, going back to my original statement, the weather is better and it seems that many of the challenges we’ve faced are slowly disappearing as the UK’s vaccine distribution miracle continues at pace. I look forward to the day that we can all meet in person, that we can support the local businesses of the City and the cities of the UK, and for the first time in years I feel “bullish” on UK financial services.

Going back nearly 15 years now, financial services has been on what can only be describe as an incredible journey: the financial crisis, the Greek crisis, RDR, the Scottish referendum, Brexit, and a pandemic. Change brings opportunity, but challenges too and for years firms grappled with poor cost/income ratios and low growth. However, I think the future seems rosy. One by one firms had been fixing these problems and, only for the pandemic, I think many would have had a record year in 2020. COVID hasn’t damaged many financial services firms, in fact many are reimaging new ways of working and, whilst I wouldn’t call an end to office life, I can see most firms having more flexible working and needing slightly less office space. The money this unlocks will find its way into marketing budgets and increased hiring and therefore salespeople, who’ve had a difficult 2020, could find themselves in the middle of a “war for talent”. I also can’t see firms rowing back on their progress within digital marketing.

There is much to be positive about, but if there is one thing on many leaders’ minds it’s “how do you build and maintain culture” whilst you have remote working or only part of the team in an office any one day. I think this will be an enormous challenge we’ll have to find solutions to and maybe we’ll see a resurgence in corporate events and away days so that teams have a feeling of camaraderie and belonging.

Throughout this difficult time I hope people feel Fram has been a useful provider of industry insights. We’ve produced a number of informative surveys and the contribution from those who’ve taken part has been amazing – thank you. We’ve also been speaking to industry leaders in our “In conversation with” series about the dynamics of their industry, but also on wider management topics such as the culture challenge I’ve mentioned above and diversity. To view this series please visit our resources section. We’re more committed than ever at Fram to providing clients with exceptional talent from diverse backgrounds.

We too froze our growth plans in 2020, but as normality returns we will be announcing two more new practice areas to continue to give clients access to specialist recruiters. We will also be growing a sister brand called Fram Professionals, which will help formalise and develop the work we’ve done with non-financial services companies. Please visit:

Let’s hope that the good times are now here to stay and we look forward to more positive 2021/22.

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