How to ask for a pay rise when you work in finance – the ultimate guide

You work in finance – asking for a raise should be a doddle, right? Well it will be once you’ve read this guide. 

Be honest with yourself

While skills shortages in accounting and finance are well documented, this doesn’t automatically qualify you for a pay rise – says Adrian O’Connor, the Founding Director at the Global Accounting Network. Instead, begin by asking yourself: what have I done to increase my value since my last pay review? “Think about whether your skills have increased in certain areas, adding more benefit to your employer,” says Adrian. “Have you taken on more responsibility or identified a new revenue stream? Are there measurable benefits to your input?”

Research the market

Once you’re clear on what you can offer, evaluate the wider market by looking at industry reports and job adverts. “Consult recruiters, and colleagues to find out the pay range for your job,” suggests the careers expert and author of How to Get a Job You Love, John Lees. “Then pin down the skills you need to claim the top 10% of that pay range. Remember that it’s probably more expensive for your employer to replace you than to give you a small pay rise.”

Don’t look for sympathy

As cringe making as it sounds, when asking for a raise, people often fall into the trap of looking for sympathy and making things personal. “One tactic that people often use is to try and make their line manager free sorry for their additional responsibilities – don’t do this,” says Nadim Choudhury, Head of Careers at The London Institute of Banking & Finance. “If there’s a culture of little pay rises in your department, are you sure that your line manager isn’t suffering from the same issue? Stick to the facts – this will make it easier for you to negotiate.”

Do be aware of the gender bias if you’re female

According to Nadim, research shows that women in financial services often face a negative reaction when asking for a pay rise. So much so, their male colleagues are 25% more likely to get a raise when asking for one. If you’re female and feel like this applies to you, Nadim recommends speaking to your HR department immediately. “The big banks are well known for addressing such issues and usually have good checks and balances in place.”

Don’t forget to negotiate

“Don’t believe that the first offer, particularly if it’s made quickly, is the last word,” says John Lees. Instead, remember that phrases like ‘budgets are tight’ is just a negotiating strategy. “Relate your proposed total salary in monthly terms to the annual bottom line contribution of the job, and be aware of how much it will cost to replace you. Stand up for yourself. Demonstrate exactly the same robustness and negotiation skills your employer expects you to use in the job.”

Don’t go over your line manager’s head

Be careful not to tread on anyone’s toes by booking a meeting with someone more senior than your line manager – warns Adrian O’Connor. “Once you’ve done your research and built something of a business case, book a meeting with your line manager or the person who holds the purse strings. Bare in mind that going above your manager’s head may be poorly received, follow the chain of command where possible.”

Do time it properly

Timing is very important too, believes Adrian. So if you’ve just celebrated a success, either individually or as a business, then strike while the iron’s hot!

Don’t be shrugged off

Once you’ve asked, there’s no going back, and it could be a while before you feel like you can ask again – so don’t waste the opportunity. Nadim Choudhury recommends formalising your request in writing: “It is important to insist on an answer and ask for something in writing. By formalising the request, it will give your request for a pay rise additional clout.”

Don’t start with money

So you’ve secured the meeting, now it’s time to make your pitch. “Your opening should be about your contribution, and not about money,” says John Lees. “Talk about what you’ve added to the role and how you’ve made a difference. Working strictly to your job description or only just achieving your objectives is not grounds for a pay increase. Be careful to show how much you still enjoy the job and how committed to it you are.”

Do dress the part

Whilst you’re there, make sure you look, act and sound like a person already holding down a job paying the kind of salary you want, says John. In other words, don’t negotiate a pay rise in an old suit!

Don’t make the first offer

As with all good negotiating, hold back and don’t show your cards. John says: “Find out what your employer is prepared to put on the table. Even if your employer asks ‘What did you have in mind?’ it’s worth at least one attempt to find out what might be possible.”

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