30 minute read 10 Jul 2023
Street artist with dreadlocks

How banking on Gen Z talent will make or break the future of banking

Jan Bellens

EY Global Banking & Capital Markets Sector Leader

Passionate leader on innovation in financial services, especially in emerging markets. Global citizen. Keen traveler.

Stefanie Coleman

Principal, People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Workforce transformation leader advising the world’s leading banks on strategic people issues. Australian in New York, mother of girls, fitness and food enthusiast.

Katherine Savage

Partner, People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP; EY EMEIA Reward Sustainability Advisor

Passionate reward and talent leader. Helps drive sustainable remuneration and effectively navigate the future of work. Enjoys time in Cornwall with her husband and son, fresh air, seafood, surfing.

Soumee De

Partner, People Consulting, Financial Services, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte Ltd

A transformation agent for mindsets, cultures, and businesses. Advocate of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) and next generation of leaders. Proud parent of two. Odissi classical dance teacher.

30 minute read 10 Jul 2023

To attract talent with tomorrow’s skills, banks will need to win over a Gen Z workforce.

In brief

  • Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025.
  • Banks need to attract this vital demographic — but that could require some radical change.
  • From modernizing banking jobs to transforming the learning experience, there are six key ways banks can increase their appeal to potential employees.

As more and more Baby Boomers leave the workforce, the need for future talent in the global banking sector is clearer than ever – but how many Gen Zers dream of working in a bank? 

Attracting this generation of workers is both a challenge and an opportunity. Members of the Gen Z cohort (via EY.com US) – everyone born between 1997 and 2012 – have much to gain from a career in banking, and much to offer too. They offer fresh perspectives that align with an increasingly diverse customer base in banks. They also bring valuable technology and data skills that banks need to thrive in an age of digital disruption.

Yet some young people have a skeptical view of the banking sector, regarding it with disinterest or even distrust. For various reasons, a career in banking might not be as appealing as it once was – and if this attitude shift is not addressed, this generation of skilled and critical talent may seek employment elsewhere. This would drain the supply of inbound talent to the sector and pose business continuity and financial risks to banks around the world.

Banks must be thinking about how they can appeal and attract talent to fill a wide range of roles. Banking modernization is under way through the use of digital platforms and automated solutions. Banks play a part in addressing societal issues, such as social inequality through financial-inclusion programs or the climate crisis through sustainable financing. Yet, these compelling features of a banking career might be getting lost in the noise or overshadowed by headlines on bank failures or financial crime scandals. In order to position banking as a sector of choice for future generations, work must be done to shift the narrative and focus on the role of banks as a force for good in society. 

“You can’t put tomorrow’s talent in yesterday’s jobs,” says Stefanie Coleman, Principal, People Advisory Services, Ernst &Young LLP, United States. “The next generation of workers expect to be digitally enabled in their roles and to do work that they find rewarding – creative, strategic and interesting. They want to experiment and try out a range of different roles, which will help them build as many skills as possible.”

A cultural shift

Gen Z is the future of banking talent. This demographic will account for 27% of the workforce by 2025.1 So, what sets Gen Z apart? They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet,2 digitally native and globally conscious, and unlike any generation that has come before them. 

A key difference is that Gen Z has had access to digital devices since early childhood. Most can’t remember a life without smartphones, the ability to search for information in real time or having social media accounts that embed their identities in the digital world. They grew up during a recession and a climate crisis, and came of age in a polarized political landscape. 

The pandemic was also a formative experience for this generation, and many emerged from isolation with a strong focus on health and wellbeing, and an expectation of flexible or remote work. 

The recent capital and liquidity crises across the global banking sector highlight the importance of a resilient financial system. This resilience relies on a strong supply of early-career talent – and there is a range of opportunities for banks that are attuned to Gen Z. 

Given the significant generational shifts in the workforce that are upon us, it is important to start a conversation about the appeal of the banking sector to the next generation of workers. This article reflects our vision for how banks can bolster that appeal to Gen Z. Our hypotheses were developed through dialogue among EY teams and industry leaders, and represent the six areas banks need to prioritize to attract Gen Z talent:

  1. Make radical progress with diversity, equity and inclusion.
  2. Modernize antiquated jobs and notions of career opportunities.
  3. Transform the learning experience.
  4. Become a tech and data magnet.
  5. Build authentic purpose and drive social impact.
  6. Energize the culture with wellness, flexibility and transparency.


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Chapter 1

Make radical progress with diversity, equity and inclusion

To meet Gen Z standards of diversity and inclusion, banks must do more to dismantle old stereotypes.

As the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet,3 it is perhaps little surprise that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a critical consideration for Gen Z, who want their working environment to reflect their own identities.

It’s an old issue for financial services and, although significant strides have been made to remove stereotypes from the banking sector, there is still much to do. Underrepresentation of women is particularly acute in banking leadership roles, capital markets and private banking, where earning potential can be the greatest. For example, women occupy only 30% of top management seats at major US banks, and this figure is even lower at top European banks (25%),4 versus 42% in Asia.5

The inequality feeds into the sector’s gender pay gap, which has already been exacerbated by a range of possible factors. These include tougher negotiations on compensation by men at hiring stages, and unconscious bias in the performance management system, which has the potential to impact women’s ratings, bonuses and promotions.

Racial representation and ethnic diversity in global banking are even more problematic. For example, in the US only 16% of management, business and financial operations roles were held by people of color in 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.6

A damning 2021 review7 from the Bank of England Court, which governs the UK’s central bank, echoes this finding. Despite concerted efforts to recruit and nurture talent from more diverse backgrounds, it noted “material disparities between the collective lived experiences, career opportunities and outcomes of minority ethnic and white colleagues.”

For roles requiring more experience, the share of new hires with a minority background in 2019-20 was much lower than its share of applications, the review showed. These staff were also more likely to believe that opportunities to progress were not allocated fairly.

It is well documented that a lack of diversity in senior leadership and front-office functions leads to “group think,” hampers innovation and has significant implications for profitability. A report by Bank of America Global Research8 lends credence to this idea and suggests a lack of diversity within US companies is costing them trillions.

  • What can be done?

    • Beyond the financial implications of lagging on DE&I, slow progress also comes with significant brand and reputational risk, and is likely to drive away a bank’s existing and prospective employees — and their customers. In other words, a holistic DE&I strategy that is plugged into the operating ecosystem is business-critical for those that want to create meaningful talent advantage.
    • Establish what diversity means to the organization. There is a myriad of diversity categories that banks could focus on and, if they try to tackle all of them, it will be hard to move the needle in a material way on any single one. Prioritizing diversity dimensions (e.g., gender, ethnicity) for primary investments is a critical starting point – noting that, in global firms, diversity priorities may vary by region or country based on the political climate, cultural norms and legislative requirements.
    • Build robust infrastructure for capturing DE&I data and performing analytics in order to identify patterns across the diversity of the workforce and enact strategies in accordance. In doing so, deploy strong data governance practices to preserve the integrity of DE&I data, taking into account data privacy considerations such as those directed by EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
    • Deploy tech-enabled real-time listening methods to gauge the degree of cultural inclusivity across the bank. Different channels such as engagement surveys and exit interviews can help organizations gather rich feedback on the employment experiences of diverse populations; analyze this feedback to understand the issues and deploy a targeted response.
    • Build a cohort of diverse and inclusive leaders, including allies who sponsor and advocate for high-potential, diverse talent. To obtain these leadership attributes, provide coaching to leaders on empathetic leadership and unconscious bias, and hold executives accountable for inclusive leadership in performance management, and even compensation programs.
    • Embed diversity controls across the portfolio of talent programs. For example, introduce a diverse panel of interviewers and decision-makers to curb unconscious bias in the hiring process. Additionally, source talent from a broader range of pools, where diverse candidates might be more common. Invest in pay-equity analysis to monitor the pay gap between the majority and minority groups, and introduce a diversity review in the performance-management process to moderate and correct diversity bias.

Questions for banks to consider:

  • How do we define diversity in our bank?
  • Do we have good-quality diversity data?
  • Are we reading the room on cultural inclusivity?
  • Can we mine talent from new sources to increase our diversity levels?
  • Do we have diversity controls in key talent programs?
Top view of street artist painting street art
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Chapter 2

Modernize antiquated jobs and notions of career opportunities

Banks need to modernize jobs and also support “episodic” careers with diverse options for progression.

The notion that Gen Z workers would sign up for one career for life, perhaps like their parents did, has been debunked. Instead, they are pursuing “episodic” careers that are rich and varied. Their job preferences and expectations have shifted dramatically since the pandemic – and they are not afraid to buck some norms to get what they want.

The next generation of workers want to experiment and try out a range of different roles, which will help them build as many skills as possible.
Stefanie Coleman
Principal, People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Millennials have a reputation for job-hopping,9 and it appears that their younger counterparts do too. About 80% of Gen Z workers in the UK are planning to move jobs in 2023,10 according to a LinkedIn survey, and research predicts that, on average, Gen Z will hold 18 jobs across six careers in their lifetimes.11

The views of Mika, 21, from Hungary, one of many people in this cohort we had conversations with, chimed in with this description: “I don’t want to work in a bank because that kind of work is monotonous to me – kind of boring. Sitting in one place almost all day and looking at a computer screen is not how I imagine myself,” she says.

Career mobility for Gen Z


Average number of jobs held by Gen Z in their lifetime

Meanwhile, Jack, 20, from the US, says, “I would work at a bank to make a lot of money and use the experience to go elsewhere.”

In January 2022, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics12 painted a similar picture of a restless generation, with the median number of years that employees stay with their company dropping to 2.8 among workers aged 25‒34 and 1.2 for workers aged 20‒24, from 9.8 years among 55-64 year-olds.

Job longevity for employees under 30


median number of years that employees aged 20-24 stay with their company

Job longevity for employees over 50


median number of years that employees aged 55-64 stay with their company

Having the ability to provide an episodic career experience for talent is going to be an imperative for Gen Z, but some banks struggle to facilitate this type of mobile career experience outside of the intern ranks.

  • What can be done?

    Several banks are focused on strengthening their job architectures. In doing so, they can establish the hardwiring needed to support episodic careers, as well as enable more diverse career pathways and nimble workforce management practices. What the COVID-19 pandemic, recessionary threats and the capital liquidity crises have highlighted is that, in banking, it is paramount to establish a resilient workforce — one elastic enough to stretch and contract in line with the needs of the business. To do this, four conditions are required:

    • An understanding of the jobs that exist in the bank, the work that they perform and the skills required to perform the work
    • An ability to sort jobs into career paths – vertically, laterally and diagonally on the basis of overlapping or common skills between one job and another, or skills adjacencies (different but closely related skills that are reasonably transferrable from one job to another with minimal upskilling)
    • An understanding of skills bench strength — in other words, the skills profile of the workforce — so that individuals can be placed in the right jobs on the basis of their skill sets
    • The systems for helping employees navigate their careers — including a self-driven learning environment and the existence of a job marketplace where talent can identify and pursue new assignments across the bank

    It is important to note that some banks’ operating models have been built around pre-pandemic assumptions, such as full-time co-location of employees, physical interactions with customers, legacy and mainframe technologies, and manual processes and operations. As the world changes, these operating models will need to modernize, as will the roles that occupy these models. A new and attractive breed of banking jobs is coming into view, such as wellness officers, universal bankers, CX/UX designers, product engineers, behavioral scientists, ethical hackers, holistic wealth managers, environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability specialists and more.

    The emergence of these jobs can be attributed, in part, to deals activity observed in large banks in 2020-21, where a number of FinTech firms were acquired by traditional banks. As part of these acquisitions, large banks ingested a range of exciting new jobs, with the potential to spice up the menu of jobs offered to Gen Z and their career experiments.  

Questions for banks to consider:

  • Can we provide an episodic career experience to our people?
  • Do we incorporate career mobility into real-time development conversations?
  • Do we have a clear job architecture in our bank?
  • Do we know which skills we need to power the bank both today and tomorrow?
  • Does our operating model reflect modern features and assumptions?
  • Can we offer an exciting range of new-age jobs to Gen Z talent?
  • Are we making the most of FinTech acquisitions in our broader talent strategy?
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Chapter 3

Transform the learning experience

Gen Z expect modern learning models that are digitized, on-demand and snackable.

As the first cohort to have access to the Internet through their smartphones from an early age, Gen Z has had a profound learning advantage. The tools they use, the way they learn and how they interact at work are vastly different from that of their parents. In order to resonate with them in an increasingly cluttered digital landscape, banks need to offer a modern learning experience that cuts through the noise.

Professional development is high on the agenda for Gen Z, and many expect their employer to help them obtain industry-recognized certifications to bolster their employability elsewhere. Among all generational cohorts, the youngest workers (aged 18‒34) are most likely to value opportunities for career growth, learning and skill building, according to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report.13

Digital training and development came to the fore during the pandemic and are more important than ever for banks that want to stay competitive and appeal to Gen Z talent. Giving Gen Z the opportunity to upskill and reskill will help them leverage technological advantages, as well as prepare them to engage in episodic careers and career experiments that rely upon employees’ having an expansive range of skills. Additionally, establishing a growth mindset and continuous learning environment will help to build an elastic workforce across the bank that can flex with the ebbs and flows of the business.

As children, Gen Z were taught through a combination of in-person experiences and digital platforms, such as podcasts, online classes and social media. Banks’ learning models should reflect this multi-modality experience. Short and sharp “learning moments” are another element of a modern learning environment and can help banks create a culture of continuous learning. Among other things, this can mean integrating learning in employees’ day-to-day activities, so that learning is “all around,” as opposed to boxing learning into structured programs and time slots. What this means, in practice, is that learning should be consumable to employees on demand – from the commute into work to waiting in line for a morning coffee.

  • What can be done?

    Banks should co-design their learning experience by first asking Gen Z how they want to learn. Questions like, “Are you a ‘practice-by-doing’ person or a visual learner?” can be informative. Armed with these answers, banks can invest in multi-modality learning that satisfies a variety of different learning styles and preferences. This could include peer-to-peer coaching, reverse mentoring, online and artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR)-enabled content, and snackable and on-demand content, like podcasts, videos, news articles and more.

Questions for banks to consider:

  • Do we consider our learning experience modern?
  • Have we understood the learning styles of Gen Z?
  • Have we asked Gen Z how they want to learn?
  • Do we integrate multi-modality learning in our environment?
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Chapter 4

Become a tech and data magnet

Firms should make long-term investments in the employee experience to lure top tech and data talent.

Banks, for many years, have tried to reposition part of their businesses as tech firms as they transform the digital banking experience for customers. But competition for tech and data talent is fierce, and the sector has traditionally struggled to compete. Some Millennials who cut their teeth in the finance sector are being drawn to tech companies by the opportunity to work on groundbreaking and innovative projects, experience a dynamic corporate culture and, in some cases, receive significant equity packages.

Some transformation efforts are already stalling due to a dearth of job-ready digital talent. In a 2021 Gartner survey, IT executives cited talent shortages as the biggest barrier to the adoption of emerging technologies. Availability has tightened further since then, as firms scramble to keep up with evolving digital technologies.14

Big Tech and FinTech have bitten at the heels of the banks for the talent they have. Although recent labor events like technology sector layoffs provide some opportunity for financial services to pick up the slack, this will soon dissipate as market conditions change, unless the industry acts swiftly.

Furthermore, a significant percentage of workforce cuts in the global technology arena have been in supporting functions such as sales and recruitment, as opposed to core tech talent, where competition is greater. Those working in this space will have their pick of roles, despite the economic headwinds.

But it’s not all bad news. Gen Z, who are digital natives, present an emerging pool of tech talent for banks. The question, however, is: do they want to work at banks? Some of the individuals we spoke with certainly do. “I definitely want to work in a bank when I graduate. It is an appealing career because it is so relevant to current society – it’s constantly changing with the market and new technologies,” says Sarah, a US college senior.

It is impossible to speak for an entire generation without succumbing to stereotypes. However, the mixed responses we receive indicate the appeal of the banking sector to this kind of talent could be in question. There is time to respond, as some Gen Z talent are still in high school and have yet to make their entry-level career decisions. Now is the time to sharpen the banking narrative for this demographic, which has some natural potential to fill the bank technology roles of today and tomorrow, when paired with the right educational and on-the-job experiences.

  • What can be done?

    • Legacy technologies and systems could be modernized so that tech talent in banks has the opportunity to work with market-leading technologies. While there are always exceptions, few ambitious young employees are going to focus on yesterday’s technologies when they could seek out projects in generative AI, VR, cloud platforms and other disruptive areas.
    • Banks can establish tailored strategies and compelling value propositions for critical technology and data talent, such as engineers, developers, coders and cyber specialists, factoring in defined career paths, diverse assignments and experiences, immersive development programs and premium compensation, such as equity vehicles. 

    By forming partnerships with technical universities and colleges, and relevant community groups (for example, Moms First, Girls Who Code), banks can tap into a deeper pool of candidates, which will help to fill vacant positions and also support greater workforce diversity. Along similar lines, banks could consider lowering the barriers to entry for some technology roles, such as the typical four-year college requirement in the US, in order to open the door to more candidates. Particularly when we know that college enrollment levels are trending down,15 identifying a range of tech, data and other roles that can be performed with reasonable on-the-job training in the absence of a college education could help to boost the Gen Z pipeline.

    Finally, banks can broaden their range of candidates by taking geographic factors into account as part of the sourcing strategy. For example, targeting recruitment efforts in locations recognized as being emerging hubs for tech and data talent or in cities that are known for being popular destinations for younger residents.

Questions for banks to consider:

  • Are we thinking creatively about how to source tech and data talent?
  • Are we exploring a broad range of talent pools to identify candidates? (e.g., community groups, hub locations, diversity platforms)   
  • Can we offer innovative technology projects to our Gen Z technologists?
  • Have we created a digital-talent experience for our technologists?
  • How does our employment experience compare to those of Big Tech or FinTech firms?
Street artists spray painting on building wall
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Chapter 5

Build authentic purpose and drive social impact

Banks are a positive force for global change, but there is opportunity to sharpen this narrative.

Social media is amplifying the issues Gen Z care about and bringing activism into the mainstream and up the corporate agenda. They’re highly engaged and well informed about the issues that matter to them, particularly social justice and sustainability, and they want – and expect – an employer that shares their values. In fact, 93% of Gen Z say their decision to accept a job is affected by the company’s overall impact on society.16

Trust in the banking system has fallen considerably since the financial crisis of 2008, and recent economic turmoil, bank failures and market consolidation have reinforced public skepticism in the sector among this cohort. Dana, 20, from the US stating, “We are the ‘we’ and not ‘me’ generation — banking does not feel like that.”

The importance of driving social impact


of Gen Z say their decision to accept a job is is affected by the company’s societal impact

Members of Gen Z came of age in the aftermath of this financial crisis and, more than 10 years on, many are still wary of the financial sector. Young people trust FinTech firms with their money more than they trust traditional banks (37% versus 33%)17 and in Asia-Pacific, more than half of consumers now trust big tech firms to fulfill banking services more than a traditional bank.18

This battle for trust has created opportunities for FinTech firms, which are formidable competitors for both business and talent. Nevertheless, banks remain a powerful force for good across a range of global issues, such as the climate crisis and social inequality. This narrative could be better understood in the talent market.

Take, for example, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the US, which helped to provide economic stability to local communities in the most uncertain periods of COVID-19. This is just one example among other important work going on across the sector that is making a meaningful social impact. However, these headlines may attract less attention than the negative ones — the bank failures, the regulatory issues and so on.

Banks play a critical role in helping to improve the wealth of underprivileged communities and increasing economic mobility via financial inclusion programs, for example. This includes providing financing to unbanked countries, communities and individuals, as well as expanding access to financial services to customers who identify as under-represented minorities, such as women and some ethnic groups.

Addressing climate change could be another strong talking point for banks when engaging Gen Z. Banks are creating some positive momentum around this issue via their climate risk and sustainable-financing programs.

Sharpening the narrative around purpose and social impact is particularly important for banks appealing to Gen Z talent, as this cohort typically gravitates toward organizations they view as authentic or trustworthy. Our own research tells us that almost two-thirds (63%) of Gen Z feel it is very or extremely important to work for an employer that shares their values.19

As important as it is for banks to be a positive force in a range of global topics, such as addressing the climate crisis or aiding social equality, it is equally as important that this narrative is articulated and well-understood in the talent market.

  • What can be done?

    Banks need to take a stand on social issues that matter to their organizations. Whether these are matters of human rights, geopolitics, social injustice or climate change, it is important to acknowledge and amplify the message around these issues to customers, employees, candidates and shareholders.

    Likewise, it is important not only to extend the narrative beyond those social issues the bank cares about but also to explain how the bank is playing an active role to advance related outcomes. This includes describing the investments being made by the bank to address these issues and their associated success metrics, as well as providing transparent progress reporting over time.

    Social matters can be polarizing – particularly where they are perceived as politicized topics. Therefore, it is important to balance the narrative around these topics so as not to alienate opposing viewpoints across the workforce. While it is appropriate to express corporate support for specific social issues, it is equally appropriate to acknowledge that every worker’s opinion is their own, as is their right to that opinion. An appropriate message could be that the bank strives for an inclusive environment where all perspectives on a given topic are accepted, assuming that they are respectful and congruous with the law and the bank’s code of conduct.

    It’s not an option to lean out on the debate around these issues. But banks must beware of virtue signaling; the communication around these topics must be authentic, and part of a consistent ESG strategy.

Questions for banks to consider:

  • Do we engage in the dialogue around social issues?
  • Do we create an inclusive environment where people feel safe to share their views?
  • Is our position on social issues consistent with our brand, values and culture?
  • Is it clear to customers, employees and candidates how we are a force for good?
(Chapter breaker)

Chapter 6

Energize the culture with wellness, flexibility and transparency

The employee experience should mirror Gen Z’s expectations – flexible and data-driven.

The world of work has transformed over the last three years and employee flexibility has been one seismic change. Like many workers, Gen Z have enjoyed the time and money saved on commuting, the ability to work more flexible hours, and the health benefits that hybrid work has yielded. They are not returning to pre-pandemic practices in a hurry. 

The Great Resignation — a pattern of people quitting their jobs to find new roles — emerged as the economy improved in 2022, but, a year on, the balance has tipped again. Employees have seen a wave of mass layoffs globally across a variety of sectors20 and multiple recession warnings,21 while inflationary pressures are rocking employers’ recruitment and retention strategies. 

That being said, flexible work arrangements are non-negotiable for today’s workers,22 and many would forego pay and other benefits in favor of flexibility. This can include features like hybrid working models, out-of-country work models, flexible hours, leave policies, family and wellness benefits and sabbatical programs. Some banks have reported that they find it hard to get a second interview without offering some commitment to flexibility. 

Although flexible working arrangements have improved work-life balance for many employees, for some it has increased the intensity of their day. Research on home-working patterns23 describes the rise of a “third productivity peak,” where work hours are extending beyond the pre-pandemic 9-5, and sending emails is the most frequent activity during after-hours work. 

This is reflected in rising anxiety and depression levels, which were 25% higher globally in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research by the World Health Organization (WHO).24

Extended working days, health anxieties and economic turmoil have all contributed to the growing trend of “quiet quitting” in 2022 — a term to describe employees putting in the minimal effort possible to get through the working day. 

Although the idea of “coasting” or “checking out” of a job is nothing new, the term has resonated with younger workers such as Gen Z who are (in some cases) prioritizing wellness over their careers. 

This cohort is also considerably more open to discussing their mental health concerns than were prior generations, according to the American Psychological Association.25 This represents an opportunity for banks, which can help employees manage stress through wellness programs across a number of categories. An example is financial wellness; people need to be financially comfortable in order to be productive at work. If they are worried about where their next paycheck will come from or how they're going to pay off their student debt, there’s risk of distraction from their role. 

  • What can be done?

    Banks need to understand what Gen Z wants from an employment culture and consider how flavors of this can be introduced within their existing cultural framework. Risk culture and customer-centricity will always be guiding tenets of bank culture, but infusing values of flexibilty, wellness and transparency in organizational culture could go a long way toward boosting the appeal of banking among Gen Z. As John, 20, from the US, says in our informal poll, “I am personally okay with 9-5 at a bank, but I know other Gen Z might not be excited at the prospect of a desk job.”  

    The topic of mental health needs to be destigmatized by banks too, with leaders role-modeling healthy work-life behaviors. This issue was raised by another person we spoke with, Rebecca, 19, also from the US. “I would not like to work in a bank because of the stressful environment and low job security,” she says. 

    A unique feature of this generation is that they have grown up in a period of radical transparency, with information at their fingertips from a very young age, and real-time updates in their day-to-day transactions. From ordering a car service to obtaining their medical results, they are kept informed via their digital devices of how their transaction is progressing. For example, real-time updates are sent to their devices to clarify their driver’s name, the estimated service charge or when lab tests were run. 

    This expectation of real-time transparency may translate into employment expectations as well. This means that banks will need to harness real-time performance and workforce data to provide Gen Z with the insights that they expect. Banks should consider how able they are to respond to the following questions, which may become commonplace as Gen Z enter the workplace: What will my next promotion be? How long will it take me to get promoted and what do I need to do to get there? How does my compensation compare with that of others and what is my earning potential here? In many banks, providing this kind of radical transparency will be challenging, given cultural barriers, a lack of systems and data, and an unclear job architecture that is required to systematize career paths and compensation market pricing.

    It is important to remember that the workforce will never comprise just a single generation. While Gen Z are growing in representation, they will co-exist in the workforce with the generations that precede and succeed them. It is not realistic to expect constituents of the Millennial, Generation X and Baby Boomer populations to simply abandon their notions of work and culture and adopt the preferences of Gen Z. Instead, banks will need to balance the expectations of these groups in order to appeal to a diverse and multi-generational mix of workers. 

    This means that Gen Z will need to learn how to interact in ways that resonate with a more mature workforce, including the adoption of some customs and norms that may not be intuitive to them. Therefore, it is incumbent on today’s leaders to help this emerging population of workers thrive as some traditional features of the banking environment live on, despite the rapid evolution of the world around us.

Questions for banks to consider:

  • Do we have our own definition of flexibility?
  • Do we prioritize wellness across all domains: physical, mental and financial?
  • Can we describe our culture – does it need a reboot?
  • Can we provide radical transparency to our people about their careers?
  • How clear is our job architecture?
  • Do we help Gen Z talent connect with the existing workforce?

A defining moment for banking

Banking could be the sector of choice for Gen Z with the right innovations to its talent experience. Tying all the concepts discussed in this report together as part of an integrated strategy with a holistic talent outcome in mind will have a meaningful impact. While many banks are implementing distinct recommendations of this discussion, addressing these concepts in silos will only limit their impact. 

While the discussion in this report highlights key opportunities for boosting the appeal of the banking sector to Gen Z, we must acknowledge that talent is not homogeneous. The global banking workforce comprises millions of unique individuals, all with their own wants and needs from their employers. 

It is true that, in some front-office roles in particular, the prestige of Wall Street will stand the test of time, and bright young business graduates will vie for investment banking jobs, even when bonuses are down and workloads are up. Yet, a bank relies on an entire ecosystem of other workers to operate — many of whom do not work in the glamorous roles of the front office. And the truth is that many of these workers, like technologists, risk managers, customer service staff and more, have skills transferrable into other industries. 

It may also be true that Gen Z talent holds a set of employment expectations today that may be unrealistic — and that will soften once the realities of a pending recession or time in the workforce set in. However, without a robust pipeline of Gen Z talent choosing to take up banking roles at entry or early-career level, the sustainability of the global banking system could be at risk.

The story is not bleak. Exciting disruption abounds across the sector, including the emergence of next-generation jobs and opportunities to make a powerful social impact. By seizing these and other opportunities as an integral element of the banking talent proposition, banking could be a global sector of choice for the next generation of workers.  This is crucial to the ongoing innovation and resilience of banking, and to the prosperity of our local communities and global economy.


With the right innovations to its talent experience, the banking sector is poised to become the industry of choice for Gen Z. This could be a defining moment for banks: a chance to reshape the employee value proposition and guarantee the talent pipeline for years to come. It’s also an exciting opportunity for Gen Z, who have much to gain from this rapidly evolving sector as it undergoes a digital transformation. It’s time for leaders to rise to the challenge, shift the narrative and show Gen Z just how compelling a career in banking can be.

About this article

Jan Bellens

EY Global Banking & Capital Markets Sector Leader

Passionate leader on innovation in financial services, especially in emerging markets. Global citizen. Keen traveler.

Stefanie Coleman

Principal, People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Workforce transformation leader advising the world’s leading banks on strategic people issues. Australian in New York, mother of girls, fitness and food enthusiast.

Katherine Savage

Partner, People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP; EY EMEIA Reward Sustainability Advisor

Passionate reward and talent leader. Helps drive sustainable remuneration and effectively navigate the future of work. Enjoys time in Cornwall with her husband and son, fresh air, seafood, surfing.

Soumee De

Partner, People Consulting, Financial Services, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte Ltd

A transformation agent for mindsets, cultures, and businesses. Advocate of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) and next generation of leaders. Proud parent of two. Odissi classical dance teacher.