Mental wellbeing "overlooked" by asset management firms, finds report

mental health

Asset management firms have been accused of overlooking the wellbeing of their employees as a recent survey from Howden reveals that most firms have no strategy in place for addressing issues including mental health and work/life balance.

Howden surveyed over 160 asset management firms on their employee benefits, wellbeing, and reward programmes. 

The survey found that while most asset managers offered generous benefits to employees, including private medical insurance, life insurance, and income protection, many were lagging behind on mental wellbeing.

Only 12 per cent of asset managers were found to have a standalone strategy in place for employee wellbeing. However, more than a third, 35 per cent, said they plan to address this and create a wellbeing strategy in the next twelve months. 

This is much lower than the average across industries. According research by CIPD, a professional body for HR managers, 44 per cent of employers have a standalone wellbeing strategy.

“Employee wellbeing has tended to be overlooked by many asset management firms in favour of high value insurance benefits, but as we move beyond the Covid-19 it must become a priority,” says Robbie Weston, executive director of Asset Management and Workplace Savings at Howden.

Howden’s survey found that employee mental health and building resilience were asset managers’ key priorities as they plan to return to the workplace post-pandemic. 

“The pandemic has exacerbated wellbeing issues and there is now growing concern around people’s mental health, especially when it comes to stress and anxiety brought on by remote working, managing work/life balance, financial worries and fears over job security,” says Weston. 

The mental wellbeing of workers has come under greater scrutiny over the past year, as the coronavirus pandemic forced many to work from home. 

According to a survey by CIPD, 47 per cent of employers cited mental wellbeing as the main challenge of homeworking. Reports of issues including burn-out, fatigue, and the pressure to stay constantly connected have been on the rise.

Poor mental health is estimated to cost employers in the UK up to GBP45 billion a year, according to consultants at Deloitte. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive has also highlighted that over half, 51 per cent of all work-related sick days taken in 2019/20 were due to stress, depression or anxiety. 

According to Howden, most of the programmes that asset management firms currently have in place to address mental health are “reactive” measures such as confidential support services like employee assistance programmes. 

These programmes are not widely used by employees, with only 3-5 per cent of the workforce taking advantage of the schemes, as many are unaware these services exist. 

Howden also found that half of the asset managers surveyed do not collect feedback from employees on how satisfied they are with their benefits, and do not plan to start in the next year. This is an important way to ensure that benefits on offer are meeting employees’ needs.

According to Howden, asset managers should to take a more proactive approach to wellbeing.

Weston says: “We urge asset management firms to take a proactive approach and consider creating a dedicated wellbeing strategy. This can focus on specific measures to support mental wellbeing such as providing mental health training for employees and managers and creating a mental health programme that is clearly communicated to all employees, so they know what support is available and where to go for it.” 

In addition to having dedicated programmes and strategies, Howden says that company culture can play an important role in employee wellbeing.

“Running awareness campaigns and tying up with weeks such as Mental Health Awareness week and creating a calendar of events around mental wellbeing can also be highly beneficial,” says Weston. 

He notes that these measures can help create a “culture of support around mental wellbeing and break the stigma that often surrounds mental health”.