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Career in financial services? Polish up on Policy.

The last 10 years has seen a real maturing in the role of Public Affairs within financial services. The onset of the banking crisis has led to increased regulatory scrutiny and seen a new type of Public Affairs professional emerge.

The public affairs function prior to the global crash was seen as a soft communications function with politicians engaging largely on a number of benign political risks associated with national and European Governments. That is not to say there were not regulatory inputs that required engagement, but much of this went through risk, compliance, and finance functions. The landscape was becalmed; profits healthy; regulators light-touch; politicians keen to engage; and the internal conversations surrounded growing revenue or outsourcing to South East Asia. One could caricature that many banks only engaged with politicians when shiny offices were opened, or when they needed a speaker for the graduate intake events.

The financial crisis changed the landscape entirely.

It was significant that with the onset of the downturn many large institutional banks had little or no Public Affairs function, and quickly became swamped with the pace of the crash. Asset Managers and Investment Banks suddenly became aware that the speed of regulatory change was such, and the material impacts so significant, that they needed to build credibility with policy-formers. As banks were shedding staff across many back office functions; Public Affairs boomed.

The subsequent recovery and onslaught from an angry public was met with calls for increased regulatory scrutiny and this to a large extent remains today. Firms have discovered that relationships with officials from Brussels became significantly more valuable. The focus within institutional banks and asset managers shifted away from Investor Relations and Corporate Responsibility towards Brussels policy engagement. Hiring focused on those who had prior engagement with complex policy issues.

So how do candidates make themselves more marketable to a financial services employer?

It is critical that you demonstrate a knowledge of either financial services policy positions, or of that associated with another highly regulated industry. Ensure your CV demonstrates internal and external stakeholder relationship management including with trade associations, regulators and policy makers. Where you have engaged on policy areas make sure you list them. For investment banking and asset management ensure there is some form of Brussels policy exposure. In retail banking and insurance ensure there is a consumer financial services angle.

Many financial services organisations will also be looking at candidates with financial services experience. If you do not it will be difficult, so it is critical to explain why a financial services career is attractive and your transferability of skills.

One thing rings true. A good financial services candidate will always come with a policy angle. Make sure you have one. 

Tristan Osborne
Consultant - Ellwood Atfield

Ellwood Atfield is a firm of recruitment consultants specialising in the public affairs and communications sector. In short, our role is to recruit the people who talk for you. With offices in both London and Brussels and a hand-picked team of talented consultants, we attract excellent candidates and recruit for the most exciting jobs in the public affairs industry today. Our pioneering spirit is brought to life in the purpose built Communications Gallery, the first gallery dedicated to the art of communication.

To view all of our vacancies in London and Brussels, our thought leadership reports and a calendar of forthcoming events please visit

Click through to find out more about our latest exhibition Assassins: when political cartoonists hit their mark hosted at the ellwood atfield gallery.