What Does a HR Department Do in a Financial Firm?

HR – Human Resources – forms part of the back office in a financial services firm or bank. But this by no means implies that the professionals that work in this industry are hidden away back stage. Oh no; HR must sprawl across every area of a bank or financial firm and communicate effectively with the employees of all levels in each department, as well as senior managers and even Board members.

Responsibilities of a HR department…

The primary focus of any HR department is the company’s people. HR covers a wide-spanning number of areas, from payroll (in smaller organisations; an accounts department will usually cover this in a bigger set up), employee benefits and pensions schemes, to recruitment across all levels of the business, new hire contracts and disciplinary issues.

The challenge that makes the work of a HR department in a financial firm unique is that of industry culture change. As the financial industry fashions a fresh outlook on its culture which contributed to the credit crunch a few years ago, and begins to assimilate with new industry regulations, it’s up to HR in each company to help put these changes in place.

It’s not an easy job! It’s up to them to spread the message and get it to seep into every corner of the business so that everyone understands the type of organisation they work in and how they are expected to conduct themselves as an employee of that business. They make sure the leaders (the managers) are well prepared in order to provide the most appropriate guidance to their staff, and that they have the best people in place with the right mind set.

Recruitment wise, HR has to work to make their career options as well tailored and appealing to the new young talent pool and experienced professionals as possible, whilst still making sure that they are getting the top people for the jobs in their company.

‘Diversity and inclusiveness’…

A large proportion of school leaver and graduate HR jobs in finance are in huge financial organisations and banks with offices all over the world. HR departments are charged with the challenge of implementing diversity policies, recruitment policies and regulation and compliance standards both in their own offices, and on a national and global level! These departments are actively working to break stereotypes in the finance industry, encourage social responsibility and push for a more transparent industry as a whole.

Diversity and inclusiveness is one core focus of the HR remit. For example, the finance industry needs to focus on drawing in more bright young females with the potential to reach senior levels in the company. There are more and more initiatives in place now to make this happen; for example, the Big Four (PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte) run a number of events to encourage and promote diversity. The bank BNP Paribas has started up its own ‘Diversity Week’.

These diversity events mean that HR professionals in a bank or financial firm are often in charge of organising webcast events, presentations and discussions with ‘role models’ from the firm. They have to think creatively about how they can reach out to target diversity groups, encourage them to apply for the company, and aspire to more senior roles there. Then they must ensure there are the provisions in place to help them to achieve that.