Marios Siathas is the General Manager of the European Institute of Management and Finance (EIMF), an education and training institute, specialising in catering towards the needs of the Financial Services Sector. In the following interview he explains the current human resources situation for the industry at one of its most important hubs – Cyprus headquartered EIMF.
How is the labour market for brokers in Cyprus?
There has been no discernible change in the overall labour market in Cyprus in the past year, as employment figures remain more or less the same. However, the only two sectors that had a positive increase in recruitment numbers were the financial services sector and the professional services sector. In the former case, compared to the same period of 2014, for the first quarter of 2015 there has been an increase of 300% in recruitment and in the latter a comparative increase of around 250%.
These vacancies were mainly relating to the Forex and binary options market but also to some new opportunities in the banking sector and other investment firms. In addition, there has been a slight increase in absorption figures.
Based on the increasing numbers of international investment firms seeking to set up shop in Cyprus, we expect a continued increase in the employment numbers in the sector, especially with firms applying for a licence either to operate in the Forex and binary sectors or in Alternative Investment and UCITS funds.
Has the glut in ex-bankers led to lowering employees’ bargaining power?
I would argue that this is not really the case now, even though that was true about a year ago. A large number of bankers had indeed flooded the market following the banking crisis in the island, increasing unemployment rates in the sector. However, we are talking about highly skilled, well qualified, and sought after individuals, many of whom have found opportunities in related jobs in Cyprus and abroad.
Others have actually opted to set up their own businesses in the region, offering consulting and support, injecting investment into the market and creating job opportunities themselves. We at EIMF actually work closely with a number of experts coming from the banking sector, offering specialised training that only professionals with substantial experience would offer.
The sector is known to suffer from high employee turnover rates, can that be fixed?
High employee turnover has always been an issue within this sector, and this boils down to the difficult working hours, the intense and stressful environment, and the high expectations for employees manning the front line. I feel that many employees enter this market without really being aware of what will be expected from them. This however is changing, and new employees that are entering the sector are much more aware of what the work entails and the intensity of the job and are much more prepared and willing to stay longer with their new firms.
Employers should also be able to provide the proper induction and orientation programmes to new employees. As most of the people entering the sector had no previous experience in this line of work, appropriate training must be offered to assure that people are well equipped to perform well. Along specific and specialised on-the-job training, the European Institute of Management and Finance has provided a large number of in-house training for companies within the sector for this reason; introducing newcomers to the sector, providing them the knowledge to succeed.
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Companies within the sector must also build better cultures as growing organizations that are here to stay and develop further. The Retail Forex and binary options sector are relatively new fields in the Financial Services Market, and employees must feel confident that their jobs are secure and this is not a bubble that will ultimately burst. Employees need to know that they are part of something greater and that they are doing something important. The management needs to have clear vision and mission that includes the satisfaction and prosperity of their employees.
How would you compare the workforce of Cyprus to that of competing financial hubs?
I will say that the workforce in Cyprus is as well qualified as if not more than the workforce in other financial hubs. Cyprus has a high percentage of university graduates that are well equipped to work in the sector. In addition, especially for the Forex and binary options sector, due to the fact that Cyprus was one of the early adopters of these products and has a large number of firms operating from the island, it has a large number of professionals that have several years of experience in the sector.
In the past few years a lot of people have been trained to work in the sector and several specialised schools offer learning programmes targeted towards people who want to work in the field or are currently working and want to broaden their horizons. In addition, CySEC requires a number of Continuous Professional Development training hours per year, and individuals working in the front line and are members of the Public Registry of Certified Persons of CySEC (a legal requirement) need to be updated on the current regulatory framework.
What are the new training and examination requirements for executives?
CySEC has introduced the requirement for Compliance Officers working in the field to also become members of the Public Registry of Certified Persons, by passing the Advanced Examination offered by CySEC in collaboration with the CISI. Furthermore, in the near future, a new examination will be introduced for Anti-Money Laundering Compliance officers, increasing the requirements for persons wishing to be employed in these positions.
As for members of the BoD of Investment Firms, part of the new CRD IV requirements is for Directors of IFs to receive adequate training in terms of the Governance issues included in the Directive and the Risk Management matters in terms of Capital Adequacy Requirements.
What we have further noticed is that CySEC is becoming stricter in the appointments of Directors of IFs, either in an executive capacity or as non-executive members of the board, requesting proof of knowledge of how to adequately perform their duties and responsibilities. The EIMF organises workshops aimed at directors on a regular basis, with the closest one being a Director’s Workshop on CRD IV with renowned specialist Mr. George Lekatis, where directors will be trained on all provisions of said Directive on issues of Governance and Risk Management.
What other training needs are there for firms to offer services across the European market?
I feel that a company that wants to succeed in the global market must have a clear strategy that is well known by its employees. They must respect their organization, their job and they should feel proud working in that company. Proper training is required for all staff in the organization, not just for their immediate duties, but on a holistic approach on what the sector is, what the importance of their job is, and how everything works. Having a well-trained workforce, besides being a regulatory requirement, will also reduce costs, employee turnover, increase both employee and customer satisfaction, and create a better work environment.
The management teams must also be well trained on Managerial Techniques in order to properly manage the organisation and the people and not simply perform their previously appointed duties. The EIMF offers a plethora of training courses for the whole Financial Services Sector, ranging from foundation courses to specialised workshops, providing firms within the sector with the chance of ensuring their success, and to individuals to better themselves and their chances of a successful career.