Burnout risk for wealth professionals is at a new peak

The pressure of the past year is a rising concern in financial services firms

Burnout risk for wealth professionals is at a new peak
Steve Randall

It would be wrong to say that the past year has created a high-pressure environment of overworking in the financial services industry; but it has certainly intensified it.

The demands placed on wealth professionals means a risk of burnout, but the extra burden of working from home – not ideal for many – while trying to make sense of the unique circumstances of the pandemic for themselves and their clients, is taking its toll.

Goldman Sachs was recently called out for the working practices of its junior bankers, with leaders praising them for raising the issues and the concern about staff burnout is so great that two of Canada’s big six banks have announced extra time off for staff.

RBC and TD staff will have an extra paid day off this year with the aim that employees use the time when they feel they need it most.

Dave McKay, RBC’s chief executive officer, told staff in a memo Thursday that the bank wants to eliminate the “stigma associated with asking for time to focus, concentrate, and in some cases, log off and recharge.”

TD’s CEO Bharat Masrani acknowledged in his communication to staff that this year has “not been easy. Everyone is tired.”

Last month, the deputy chair of Wall Street investment bank BNY Mellon shared a handwritten note with 48,500 staff in which she talked about her own vulnerabilities.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” Susan Revell told Reuters. “If I’m not in good shape then I can’t support either my family or my colleagues.”

Revell has been supporting elderly relatives while also dealing with family members’ ill-health and redundancy.

Burnout is not ‘just stress’

While most of us get stressed from time to time, burnout is something far more serious.

Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) defines burnout as: “a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”

The organization adds that burnout can affect productivity and motivation at work but also seeps into other areas of life.

It says that the signs of burnout can include headaches, sleep issues, lack of appetite, and a lack of confidence including imposter syndrome, a topic addressed at a recent WP event.

While the tendency of those suffering may be to withdraw, CAMH says that it’s important to speak to others. The pandemic has made those informal work chats harder, adding to the stress load.

Exercise is also cited as a great way to boost your mood and help reduce the risk of burnout and healthy eating choices are important.

And, as RBC’s chief acknowledged in his staff memo, work-life balance must be considered.

“I encourage all of you to prioritize your personal time and continue to be mindful about work-life boundaries wherever possible,” Dave McKay urged his team.