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CISI survey shows mental health conversations an issue for financial services

16 January 2019

Less than half of employees working in financial services would feel comfortable opening up to their manager about mental health, new data from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment has shown. 

In a survey of 3,686 respondents, 23% said they were “unsure” how confident they would be talking to their manager at work if they felt they were suffering from depression, anxiety or stress, while 31% said they were “not confident” raising the issue with their manager. Only 46% said they would feel confident discussing any mental health issues with their manager.

Of the comments received in the survey, CISI said respondents raised various issues including lack of trust in HR departments and managers, work-life balance, underfunding of the NHS for mental health support, challenges faced by women in the workplace and bullying. Long working hours and the fast pace of work was continually cited, the industry body added.

Yet, despite the UK working the longest hours in Europe, its productivity languishes some 16% below its European counterparts.

Simon Culhane, chartered FCSI and CISI CEO (pictured), said of the results: “This is the first time we have sought to find out how those in our profession feel about mental health. We are overwhelmed and moved by the strength of feeling on this issue amongst our members.”

Culhane said the feedback showed that workload and working hours were root causes in respondent’s experiences, both of which are largely controlled by the culture and management within a firm.

He added: “If leaders have an enlightened approach to their own well being as it relates to work stress, then this is an important example to set staff to show the importance of self-care as it relates to mental health. There are firms who are leading the way with their approaches to reducing the stigma about mental ill health; there is also lots of work underway by large charities and initiatives. The profession as a whole can learn from both, while sharing individual stories from staff who have experience in this area, actively demonstrating that mental ill health should be treated as any other illness without a stigma attached. Admitting to mental ill health is not a weakness.”

Culhane said that the survey highlighted the need for the financial services profession to change how it manages its people as a resource and CISI will explore ways to support its members over the coming months.

Paul Feeney, CEO of wealth management firm Quilter, said he was not surprised by the findings of the survey, which “clearly set out the link between the company’s culture and the mental health of its employees.” According to Feeney, business leaders have a duty to create supportive working cultures in which people can thrive.

He commented: “People often have a perception that everyone else’s life is more perfect than their own, which is not the case. It’s important to me that we build environments where it’s okay to not be okay, because the more we talk about our problems, the easier it will be to share experiences, pool ideas and help each other.”

Quilter has its own initiative called Thrive, which aims to put these issues out in the open and the firm has also signed the Time to Change pledge which is calling for a change in the way employers think and act about mental health in the workplace.