Unlocking Real Value Blog

AK In The News: Firms Prefer To Keep Staff ‘Lean’

I was asked to comment on an article in today’s Ignites (A Financial TImes Service) which summarized a recent poll on staffing levels within the financial services industry. 38% or respondents said that their firms current staffing levels were “lean,” while 34% said that the firms were too lean and staff overworked. 16% of respondents felt that staffing levels are just right, and 12% that staffing levels were a little bloated but all employees were necessary.

So what are the take aways?

First, our industry has historically been known for hiring too many people in good times, then letting them go when things get rough – then hiring them right back. This time seems different, however. Perhaps it is because the economic recovery has been so shallow, or perhaps it is because so many financial services firms have been hit extremely hard, but I think this time we may have learned our lesson. To quote from the article:

“Since the financial crisis and typical of downturns in the industry, firms cut back on staff and services. While usually hiring picks up when things get better, that has not really happened this time,” says Andrew Klausner, founder of AK Advisory Partners, a strategic consultancy. “The reality is, staffing levels in the industry are down and they are going to remain down. I don’t see a hiring wave coming.””

Second, not only do the firms seem to be realizing this, but so do employees – those who presumably answered the survey. I would have expected more complaining that firms were understaffed. Again, to quote from the article:

“But Klausner sees a bright side. “It’s positive that more people said lean as opposed to overworked,” he says. “This implies a certain understanding perhaps that we do live in a resource-limited world and that as business goes, so goes the level of support.””

The other explanation for this seeming understanding of resource allocation may be the fact that more advisors have gone independent, and they, because they are running their own businesses, understand the need to run efficient operations. This is in contrast to those who work for larger companies and don’t have to worry about such things. Its hard to say without knowing the make-up of respondents if this is indeed the case.

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