United Kingdom

Redefining reward in financial services

By its very nature, the financial services sector is used to volatility and is often at the forefront of economic uncertainty. Even during times of relative stability, the sector is still characterised by highly pressured, stressful working environments resulting in long hours and burnout risk. This can have serious consequences for both the organisation and its workforce’s resilience.

Resilience starts with a healthy workforce. From an attraction and retention perspective, this matters. High attrition rates and poor workforce wellbeing can have significant effects on business performance.

In the past, businesses relied on generous pay and bonuses to both attract the right talent and persuade people to stay. While good pay will always be a big draw for potential candidates, employees are now motivated by many other things and what they value has changed. They now expect a much broader sphere of rewards which go above and beyond salary: rewards which support, signpost and empower in every aspect of an employee’s life from work to their personal lives.

With increasing numbers of employees struggling with poor mental health, there’s a growing need to focus on wellbeing and employers are under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to this.

“The risk of employee burnout from the pressure to perform and the pace of work is a reality with serious consequences for both individual wellbeing and organisational resilience,” says Andrew Cunningham, Chief Commercial Officer, EMEA Health Solutions, Aon. “Without tackling these issues, burnout and mental health issues pose significant risk from an organisational, health and professional development perspective.”

Employers are now starting to recognise the significant role wellbeing needs to play in reward strategies – and why it matters. Indeed, Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey identified that stress, burnout and anxiety were the top three wellbeing risks impacting company performance. The same study found that just 28 per cent of financial services organisations feel positive about the ability of managers to address employees’ mental health needs. Clearly, there’s more work to be done in this area and the survey also identifies 74 per cent of financial services employers are keen to do more.

A holistic approach

Reward must now have health and wellbeing at its heart, encompassing the five pillars of wellbeing: physical, emotional, social, professional and financial. In a post-covid world fraught with uncertainty, it’s about futureproofing through a holistic wellbeing approach to boost resilience.

A proportion of financial services firms already know this: 30 per cent1 are reshaping their business in response to the pandemic, while the rest are still in recovery stage.

A holistic approach to any wellbeing strategy is essential. All of the wellbeing pillars are interlinked and as such, cannot be viewed in isolation. Studies and institutions such as the Money and Mental Health institute have pointed to the link between financial worries and poor mental health while it’s long been acknowledged that the physical affects the mental and vice versa.

Employers wanting to adopt a holistic approach, incorporating all five pillars of wellbeing in their strategy might want to include:


  • Providing comfortable, ergonomic workstation set-ups to reduce risk of musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Access to physiotherapists.
  • Health screening.
  • Specialist womens’ and mens’ health services.
  • Access to fitness and nutrition services.


  • Collaborative digital spaces to enable employees to feel connected.
  • Offering flexible or hybrid working policies to support work/life balance.
  • Days off for volunteering.
  • Access to hobby and interest groups.


  • Offering meditation and mindfulness sessions.
  • Access to counsellors and therapists.
  • Capturing employee data on employee emotional wellbeing to identify support gaps.
  • Offering flexible working hours.


  • Offering training and development sessions
  • Promotion opportunities at every level.
  • Funding courses.


  • Paying for electricity bills to reflect working from home.
  • Offering retail discounts.
  • Providing financial education sessions.
  • Providing pensions and savings advice workshops.
  • Offering childcare vouchers.

Responding to changing needs and pressures

It’s clear that reward needs to be redefined in light of all of this. Financial services firms that have traditionally relied on generous pay and bonus schemes to attract future talent need to move beyond this thinking in light of commercial, economic and regulatory pressures. They need to be agile in their thinking and begin to adapt to the changing demands and needs of their workforce.

Find out more about long hours and burnout in financial institutions and why they must address mental health to manage risk and build resilience by reading our whitepaper.

1 Aon Global HR Pulse Survey: Preparing for the Future, May 2021



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