Just because you’re moving into a new job with high pay and good prospects, don’t assume you’re advancing up the arc of your career. You may be doing the exact opposite: a recent study by academics at the Wharton School of Management found that moving into a new job is more often associated with stasis than progress – you get paid more, but you end up with less responsibility.
In these days of strategic lability, switching jobs in finance is especially fraught. Who knows if the bank you’re moving to, which claims utter commitment to your business area, won’t make 25% of staff there redundant?
Tread carefully. Before you come anywhere close to resigning from a current role and signing a new contract, you need to ask some incisive questions. There’s an art to this – inquire too clumsily and you’ll alienate a new employer before you’ve even begun; inquire too diffidently and you could find yourself in a career dead-end.
These are the questions, and this is how you might want to phrase them.
1. “Are there any ongoing legal issues I should be aware of in relation to this business?”
In these days of multi-million dollar fines and close scrutiny of banks by regulators, Michael Karp, CEO of finance search firm Options Group, says you need check the business you’re joining isn’t about to be hit with big legal fines. Not only are fines likely to reduce the bonus pool, but they could prompt the bank to reconsider the business area in its entirety and taint your resume in future.
2. “What criteria do you apply to the acquisition of new clients?”
In the interest of efficiency, banks are purging clients. Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan are both cutting client lists and focusing only on big clients who will bring in big revenues (J.P. Morgan is looking for ‘client planners’). Is your putative new employer chasing the kinds of clients you’re interested in? Will you need to leave your existing clients behind?
3. “What kind of targets do you have for cross-selling?”
Alongside the push for big revenue-generating clients, is a push to sell those clients as many different products as humanly possible. Credit Suisse and Deutsche both have cross-selling at the heart of their new strategies. However, while some cross-selling is good and efficient, too much can damage client relationships. Before you move established clients to a new employer, it’s therefore worth checking whether that employer will be trying to hard-sell them its entire product roster.
4. “Who else are you hiring?”
Headhunters also advise asking questions to help elicit information on the culture of the team you’re joining, and the extent to which it has the commitment of the organization.
“You want to find out how the team is constructed,” says Christian Robbins at search firm Alpha Tradestone. “To what extent is it comprised of people who’ve been there for years and are unlikely to allow you to move on? How well integrated is your manager with the senior management of the business? How much support does he have internally?” Judicious questions about recent hires and team structure will help you establish this, says Robbins.
Kumaran Surenthirathas, head of front office at recruitment firm Eximius, recommends questions that will elicit information about turnover within the team. “Ask who else they’ve hired in your area, and how many other people they’re planning to hire. Are they growing, or are they hiring to replace?,” he says.
5. “What are you doing about new regulation/technology?”
Robbins says there are two key things you need to establish in any finance interview now: how the role you’re going for is likely to be affected by new regulations and how the role you’re going for is likely to be impacted by new technology.
Unfortunately, asking either question too explicitly has the potential to damage your candidacy. Banks want to hire people who bring answers to these questions, rather than people who raise them as a matter of personal interest. In both cases, therefore, you’re advised to posit a question in a way that suggests you can offer a solution. For example: “I’ve been working a lot with the MiFID II technical standards. How much further do you have to go in implementing them here?”
6. “How do you structure your bonuses?”
Lastly, Surenthirathas says there’s still plenty of interest in pay. However, nowadays it’s not so much about how much you’ll be paid as how it will be structured. What percentage will be in cash? What percentage will be deferred? What’s the deferral schedule?
Now that salaries constitute such a high proportion of compensation, it might also be worth asking when your team last received a salary rise. This could be a good indication of when salaries are likely to rise next….