Flee From Finance is a campaign created for Wind Of Change Now and designed to encourage those who are suffering hardship, stress, depression or general unhappiness as a result of working in the finance industry, to identify that a positive change has really become a necessity. Having worked in the finance industry myself for 14 years, there have been so many aspects about that industry that have sadly had a major negative impact on my life and I know that many who are in the industry are suffering the same issues, but will not take control of the situation in fear of change. All jobs have their positives and negatives, there's no disputing that, however when a job gets to the stage where you would rather die in your sleep, than have to wake up and face your job the next morning, there must be something wrong about the working environment that has caused that feeling. A job/career should make you feel positive, fulfilled, happy and something you don't mind jumping out of bed each morning to get to.
So what has been so drastically wrong with this industry that has led me to this? Firstly, let's start with the hours. My set hours were 8.30am through until 5.00pm, which I'm sure several professionals in other industries would laugh at and say "yeah, so what, I do double those hours". To them, I also ask, "why do you continue to remain in the industry you work in then if you are working so many hours?". Let's put things into perspective here, you're basically up around 6am, time enough for shower, breakfast, etc and then leaving to work by 7.30am. At the other end of the day, you finish up at 5pm and probably don't get home until 6pm. So in getting ready and commuting to and from work, there is 12 hours of your day spent committed to work. Throw in 8 hours of sleep as a minimum, that leaves you with 4 hours each day to spend time with family, to exercise, watch some tv, etc. That's all well and good if you actually got to leave work at 5pm, which for me, very rarely happened. Due to ever increasing workload, business expectations and meeting customers' needs effectively, the only way I found I could complete my work to meet all of the above was to remain back after 5pm. It was made worse when management required you to assist other staff with their various tasks also, so that everyone else could get out on time, whilst you waved them goodbye at 5.30pm, the time you finally had the chance to sit down and get your own work done. 6pm would be the average time I would leave each night, however there were several times I remember staying back until 7.30pm-8pm. Going back to the time schedule, getting home at say 7pm would decrease another hour from personal time, leaving a whole 3 hours out of 24 to spend time with family. You may ask, "why didn't you just leave on time?" I can't answer for anyone else, but my reason is integrity. There were customers who I was assisting that were expecting me to have things done for them and efficiently and I needed to honor that. It was never going to be a reflection of the business if something wasn't done on time, it was always going to go back to the individual that the customer was dealing with, that's the way things work. The worst part to this is every minute I worked after 5pm, I didn't get paid a cent for, it was all unpaid overtime, the business does not grant overtime unless you are asked to do it, nor does it offer time in lieu, so basically if you are a person of integrity, it doesn't count for much. Family time is integral. Life is too short to be missing out on the things that matter most in life, such as watching your kids grow up, spending some romantic time with your partner, etc. No more than 8 hours a day should be spent dedicated to work, otherwise it becomes unhealthy.
I think this is something that happens a lot across the corporate world, no matter where you work, but it made working in finance worse. Pretty obvious, to run a successful business, you need the required staff levels to ensure customers' needs are being met and efficiently, so why was it that whenever a staff member was off sick or away, they were never replaced? To save on wages, a company would avoid replacing that staff member for the day and expect the staff working, would work harder and pick up the slack. They knew that the job would get done still, even if it meant customers may wait an extra few minutes, they still had some staff there, at least, to serve them as normal and maybe they could put in a few minutes unpaid overtime to get everything done by the end of the day. Teamwork was never the issue, the integrity and the comradery was always there to get the job done, but at what cost? None to the business anyway, bar a couple of customers who have complained about waiting for a while. Even after a public holiday weekend, there was never extra staff placed on board for the Tuesday after, it was just base Tuesday staff that had to handle the extra workload from having the Monday off. All this wasn't a once every few months thing, it was a regular occurrence, week after week. Ongoing stress, that this can cause, from maybe getting behind in work, or suffering from work overload and customer complaints can have major effects on our health. Irritability, insomnia, depression and anxiety are some of the effects, but can also lead to alcohol and/or drug abuse and over or under-eating habits. The constant rise in blood pressure can increase our risk of heart attack or stroke. The further impact it has on us is it also effects our immune system, weakening it and exposing us to colds and flu's, which then leads to that horrible circle of you calling in sick and letting your fellow staff have to deal with the stress of running short at work.
It's really not worth it. Not to forget when the manager is away at a conference each month for a couple of days, they are not replaced. Perhaps that was because their day consisted of micro-managing their staff and observing their every word to ensure that the customer was being informed of every product and service on offer under the sun, to meet the business daily sales expectations.
Being dictated to about when I can and can't take annual leave was not something that sat well wit me.
Family is paramount to me and it's times like Christmas & Easter I cherish the time I get to spend with them. Even just having some time off where there was a flight special on for a particular holiday destination, that I wanted to travel to with my partner/family, was gold. Being told I couldn't take time off then because someone was already on leave at the time, or because it didn't suit the business, really angered me. Life is too short to be denied these opportunities to take leave and these opportunities are normally the ones where your greatest memories in life are made.
As the saying goes, normally staff resign from a company not because of the company, but the manager they work for. Working in the finance industry, and no doubt this same thing happens in a lot of other organizations, I quickly learnt that there were too many staff that were not truly participating in an environment of teamwork and camaraderie, instead were working within their own boundaries of achieving personal success and results and wouldn't care who they had to trample on to reach a promotion. Sadly, these people then become the ones that did achieve the glory courtesy of management who are just as arrogant. I endured some very poor leadership and management, coming from a couple of individuals who did not wish to take the time to invest in me, continue to coach me, encourage me, support me, develop me and lead by example. They had their "favorites" within the business and it was those whom they took the time out to communicate with, invest time in and promote them accordingly. I worked damn hard and input so much time, effort, passion & overtime into to prove my potential, only to be told that I should look elsewhere for other jobs. As a leader, you are someone that leads by example and coaches & encourages your team to continue improving until they achieve the required goal. That didn't seem to be the case with my line manager nor their line manager. I saw my line manager once every few months, if I was lucky and there was never any coaching involved. Any other delegate that was sent out to check in with me, never really invested any concrete coaching with me either, but they were very quick to download some negative comments back to my line manager. When it came to performance review time, it was always that I needed improvement, which was all based on 3rd party comments and the occasional manager visit, where there was no observation on me anyway. With this on my file, I was straight away black marked higher up the ranks and was never an option for a promotion. I eventually was very subtly demoted, basically given the choice to step down from a management role or was continually hinted to find another job. Is this sour grapes? Not at all, because I am extremely happy that it was a trigger to leave that poor excuse of a leadership team and I can now be my own boss and show my true potential as a leader. I still cannot believe the number of quality staff that resigned from the company I worked for, purely because of poor leadership, yet the organization failed to recognize this and act on it and still hasn't. During the period I was suffering depression, and required some leave from the company, I was also told by a manager again that if I didn't return within a couple of days, that I should look for another job or be required to step down. He offered to pay me out a month's wages if I resigned from the company. I have to question how people like this can achieve a prominent position in a company. Honestly, if you are suffering at work as a result of poor management or leadership, consider the option of becoming your own boss, it's well worth it.
Sales meetings- basically the finance industry's version of dancing around a campfire singing Kumbaya 😏 Rocking up to work on a Monday morning, you're required to sit or stand in front of a whiteboard, to which the manager expects you to have nothing short of a billion stats recorded on there by the end of the week, so they can gloat to every other manager on their weekly teleconference to make themselves look good for all the hard work you have actually done. You then suffer through 30 minutes of listening to how various staff members achieved great results for the business, for the previous week, only to find that the area manager and the company are not content with that and need you to double that, plus achieve better results on a different product lines. The only thing worse than this, is to then be expected to return to that same whiteboard 30 minutes after your contracted finishing time, to do more standing around listening to how Joe Bloggs made an old lady smile today, followed by every other staff member's "feel good" moment for the day, because we would all rather do that than be heading home to our families 😒 Each year, the sales targets would increase, but funnily enough, the staff numbers continued to decrease. You had to achieve a certain amount of revenue for the company from product sales to customers, using language invented by the company's strategists that would influence a customer to agree to a product. If you weren't communicating in this way, the manager would even sit in and observe the conversations you were having with customers until you did. The focus from "product sales" soon switched to "customer service" in an attempt to make it sound like you were doing the customer the favor having a credit card or a personal loan, when realistically all you were doing was contributing to the company's profit. The customers that actually needed these products were declined most of the time anyway, so I can't see how that is true customer service. You were required to achieve either a 9 or 10 out of 10 when being surveyed by a customer, otherwise this was seen to be a fail. I don't know about you, but if I got declined for a loan or credit card because I didn't meet the bank's lending criteria, I sure wouldn't be rating the service very highly. This result however is reflected upon the individual staff member who served the client, irrespective that it was a bank decision, meaning there's another fail on your way to losing your bonus. In this day and age of banking, you are now also measured on the number of people you can convince to use the ATM or internet banking or other self service methods, as the banks don't want to see customer traffic in the form of transacting, as this doesn't contribute to their profits. Unless you are in there to open an account, get a loan or some form of product, then you become a liability to them and so you are then required to wait for an eternity to be served. These institutions don't want to invest any more money into staffing, especially not for transactions. So, as an employee, you are measured on product sales, customer satisfaction results and self service education referrals, to which the company will continue increasing the targets each year to minimize the potential you can achieve a bonus. The financial institutions should look more to treating their staff like a true leader of a successful corporation such as Richard Branson of Virgin. I admire his motto that a company's focus should be on looking after their staff first and foremost rather than the customers, as if you look after your staff accordingly, they will look after the customers.