How has being a reward professional in the city changed?
In lots of ways. When I started in HR, the reward team was seen as a bit of a peaceful backwater. Reward people did complicated things with spreadsheets, investigated arcane mysteries of trusts and came to life for 3 months a year to implement the annual compensation review. Now, it’s busy full time – no sooner is the review over than disclosures, audits, policy statements take over and the ever changing regulations generate anxiety and work all year round.
The analytical and organisational skills are still essential, but the ability to articulate complicated and uncertain things in a clear way, and to influence, manage and anticipate the anxieties of a wide range of stakeholders are perhaps even more so.
What does this mean for recruitment?
I think we have to take a degree of systems literacy and analytical ability as a given. What I really look for when meeting potential team members is an understanding of how they have dealt with uncertainty, demanding stakeholders and evidence of what they have actually done (rather than “contributed to”, “participated in” or “been in a team that ...”). This is because I really want to have confidence that a new team member will not be afraid to make positive recommendations or decisions. How they think through issues in an uncertain world - we don’t know how the regulator will react to interpretations we make, market data is less and less helpful as business performance is more and more volatile, roles are evolving faster and faster – is critical.
Do you think that reward in the city is a good place to work?
Generally, yes although I am lucky with my current employer! I really enjoy the variety of Macquarie – it has an interesting mix of businesses (basically everything except retail banking) and an open entrepreneurial feeling. The interaction of the range of businesses, the range of regulations, and the inherent complexity of some of Macquarie’s global remuneration arrangements means that the left side of my brain is constantly stretched. To some extent at least I think that is common of most reward jobs in the city. There is a lot about Macquarie’s culture which resonates with my own values which is of course a big plus.
Do you think that the regulatory changes will have a lasting effect on behaviours in the city?
Tricky one. I don’t think it’s clear that the changes around the structure of pay (more deferral, bonus caps etc) will really contribute to the reduction in the risk taking behaviours that the regulators and politicians are hoping for. However, the changes that are more specifically targeted at behaviours, such as the reversal of the burden of proof inherent in the Senior Managers’ Regime will I think generate more lasting change to the way the city works.
I think it’s inevitable that there will be a long term move to a much higher fixed pay, lower bonus culture. This will mean, particularly for many non-EU headquartered firms, that having a globally consistent compensation philosophy will be more and more difficult.