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Leaving your banking job? Don't be seduced by the counteroffer

You want to leave your banking job for something better? There's a strong chance you'll get counter-offered. If you do: don't accept. 

I'm a banking recruiter and I see counteroffers all the time. They're insidiously targeted at my female candidates - and my female candidates are particularly prone to accepting them.

Banking counteroffers tend to work in the same way. Firstly, you'll be put in front of senior management. There will be a whole day of meetings, with each person you talk to becoming progressively more senior. The intention is to convince you that you're valued by the firm, that senior people actually know who you are and that you aren't overlooked. Women tend to fall for this: they're more loyal to the firm and team from the outset.

Secondly, you'll usually be offered some kind of promotion. You'll be told that this was on its way anyway and that they were on the verge of telling you about the big changes to your role which will alleviate all your reasons for leaving. This is typically an untruth: they know you've been frustrated for a while, but are only making changes now that you're forcing them to.

Next you'll be offered a handsome pay rise. Again, this is often especially generous for women - many of whom have been underpaid for years compared to the rest of the team. Expect an increase of 50% or more to reflect the fact that you've been paid below the market forever and that it will cost a fortune to replace you.

Finally, expect to be offered "lifestyle" changes: flexible work, a new location, different hours. These are all things you may have asked for before, but weren't given. Again, they're particularly successful when it comes to retaining women who tend to be the primary carers for children.

So, why shouldn't you accept all these treats? Mostly because they're ephemeral. That promotion? It's just a temporary thing until they find someone to replace you. - Once you agree to stay, the company will set about finding someone else - we are often contacted about conducting a search to replace someone identified as a "flight risk," and that person has invariably accepted a counter offer.  That big pay rise? You'll just be punished in future pay rounds, when your compensation will be increased more slowly than colleagues'. That flexible work? It may hinder your chances of promotion, particularly as it was extracted under duress. - You're better off working for a new employer who's ready to take you on under flexible conditions and who's really committed to you in that role.

For women, counteroffers are particularly career limiting. In banking, women's compensation is often lower than men's because they move around less often. In our experience, women's tenure in a particular role or firm is typically double that of their male counterparts.  Women suffer for their loyalty. Taken for granted, they are often overlooked when it comes to promotions and pay rises. When a woman accepts a counter offer she is therefore accepting ongoing underpayment and career stasis at an existing employer.

The situation is made worse by the fact that banks know women are more likely to respond to counteroffers. Banks are therefore more likely to use them to retain their top women - and simply to bump up their pay in line with male colleagues. Remember this next time you're offered one, and walk away. You won't regret it.

Remi Rogers is the pseudonym of a finance recruiter in London

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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AUTHORRemi Rogers Insider Comment
  • Da
    David Laidig
    15 June 2021

    When Bush 43 ordered the saleried non exempt in the US to be paid overtime, the women in the front office of the company I worked for had a fit. Even though it meant way more money for them, they did not want to be considered "hourly". They considered themselves management even though they were low level clerks. Talk about weird ideas of class. So yes women are easily swayed on the job.

  • Mi
    Minnow
    14 June 2021

    "They're insidiously targeted at my female candidates". Oh, cry me a river. Once again it's the poor defenceless females who are being "targeted", no doubt by evil white men. The poor things can't think for themselves, you see.

  • Ke
    Kevin Tennant
    17 January 2020

    I think this advice would have been relevant 20 years ago but the world has changed. Sometimes one has to get an external offer so they have leverage to get what they want from their employer. My advice would be to use the meetings with the senior brass to establish a relationship. Get all of their promises in writing (email is fine... just forward a copy to your personal address) and lock it down before you reject the other offer. As a Recruiter, I often send individuals back to negotiate changes before I send them to my clients. Counteroffers are inconvenient but I won't black list someone who genuinely negotiates a better deal for themselves.

  • St
    StCreed
    16 May 2018

    The advice about the counter offers is pretty good. Never, ever, accept a counter offer. The one time I did, I regretted it sorely afterwards. And yes, recruiters have a vested interest in you not accepting a counter offer. That doesn't mean the advice is incorrect.

  • La
    Laurence Brown
    14 May 2018

    surely this guy being a recruiter has a vested interest in people taking the offers they are given

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