Off the scale workloads and out-of-touch senior management identified as key causes of financial services staff stress and mental ill health, says CISI survey ​

By Lora Benson | Dec 21, 2018


Only 46% of those working in financial services would feel confident about speaking to their manager about mental ill health, according to the latest CISI survey.191218CISIMentalhealthsurveyIMAGE

The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) is the professional, not-for-profit body for those working in wealth management and capital markets, with a global membership of 45,000. Respondents were asked how confident they would be talking to their manager at work if they felt they were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, with 3,686 respondents reflecting a survey of both CISI’s online community supported by a survey of its members*.

Of those, 23% said they were “unsure” and 31% said they were “not confident” talking to their manager.

It is the largest response obtained in the shortest amount of time compared to any other survey ever run by CISI before, showing the strength of feeling on this issue in the finance profession.

Many respondents to the CISI survey chose to leave anonymous comments, some indicating the financial services sector they worked in. We believe some of the comments are disturbing and touch on topics which may resonate across the world of work: 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 pace of activity during the working day is a theme which is continually reported by respondents. But while ONS data shows that we in the UK work the longest hours in Europe, on average we produce 16% less than our EU counterparts.

A 2017 Adviserplus survey indicated that a third of absences in the financial services sector were due to mental ill health.

Some employers in finance and professional services have been alert to the importance of work and its relationship to mental health for some time. Some firms were singled out by respondents as being particularly supportive to their staff on the issue of mental ill health, including Hargreaves Lansdown and PwC.

Paul Feeney, CEO of wealth management firm, Quilter, says:

“I’m not surprised by CISI’s findings, talking about mental health has been stigmatised and we need to change that. These findings clearly set out the link between a company’s culture and the mental health of its employees and show it is vitally important that business leaders create supportive working cultures in which people can thrive. 

“People often have a perception that everyone else’s life is more perfect than their own, which is not the case.  Like many people I’ve had my own mental health issues in the past and I’ve learnt that it is okay to talk about them.

“It’s important to me that we build environments where it’s okay to not be okay, because the more we talk about problems, the easier it will be to share experiences, pool ideas and help each other. At Quilter, we have an initiative called Thrive, which aims to put these issues out in the open and we’ve signed the Time to Change pledge which is working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems.”

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “These figures echo similar findings by Mind, and show that too many people still feel unable to come forward to talk about their mental health at work. We have started to see progress being made by many organisations regarding workplace wellbeing, but there is clearly a long way to go. Employers and managers must take urgent action to create workplace cultures where staff feel able to discuss their mental health and be met with support and understanding if they do.”

Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of the City of London which is running the This Is Me mental health campaign said: "Research shows that attitudes, knowledge and behaviour towards people with mental health problems are more likely to improve if people are given the opportunity to learn from someone who has personal experience of mental illness - and that storytelling prevails as the most powerful tool for culture change. 

"Important evidence such as that contained in this report opens up these conversations, highlighting the need for organisations to actively create workplace cultures which reduce the stigma around mental health."

Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI and CISI CEO said: “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.

“The feedback in particular has shown that workload and working hours are root causes in respondent’s experiences. These factors are controlled largely by the culture within a firm, which is in itself determined by the leadership. 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, such as the Lord Mayor’s Trust’s This Is Me campaign. 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.

“We don’t pretend to have all the answers but these findings in particular show that our profession needs to change how it manages its people as a resource, which we will explore and look at over the coming months to support our 45,000 members globally.  We have a professional refresher online module on mindfulness in the pipeline and we will be dedicating further online resources to signposting to charities working in this space, plus regular events focusing on mental health.”  


*The website CISI survey of its online community was undertaken May – September 2018, asked the question: “How confident would you be talking to your manager at work if you felt you were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression?”. There were 1,166 respondents.

The CISI member survey took place during Spring 2018 asking the same question, with 2,520 respondents.


Corporate Finance

  • I would be worried that this would affect advancement and/or be logged on a HR file.


  • It might be taken against me for my future career aspirations.

  • I tried talking to my manager about the difficulties in coping with stress and I even tried to resign because the work stress was taking a toll on my health. But my manager argued that there was not stress and somehow convinced me to stay. I had no other job at hand so I had to stay back but after that incident I never speak to my manager about work related stress or if there is too much workload. He has an answer for everything so there’s no point in discussing!

  • We had a "burn-out"-case last year. To be honest, everybody talked about this case and senior management said that this fellow colleague should have been protected. All in all, there was a lot of talking, but day-to-day actions were totally different. More and more tasks, meetings, projects etc. for less people. Personally, I think that the financial industry and employers in this sector treat people often very bad. Indeed, this is a question of culture, awareness and "leading by example" of managers and senior management. There has to be a change. Therefore - and that is very sad - I would not talk to my manager. I guess, she/he will use this talk about stress, anxiety or depression against me. Very sad, but day-to-day truth and reality.

  • I have tried and it is very difficult. There was a lack of understanding and judgemental behaviour, even though on the surface there was a willingness to be supportive. I believe that more training and awareness needs to be done so that people who suffer from mental health can feel supported and continue to be productive (even if not productive at the level they were used to). Mental ill health can kill.

  • I have found employers unsympathetic about family issues let alone mental health and would not discuss at work in any circumstances, as any weaknesses are exploited in the banking sector by superiors.

  • I wouldn’t be confident that discussing my issues with my manager wouldn’t affect my career development.

  • I am senior in the business and have a very good relationship with my management ream. I have been open about situational stress/anxiety and have no issues talking about this. The business is not good at helping me reduce my stress however. My stress and anxiety stem from workload/pressure at work. I have taken time off sick/come in late or left early

    When I am feeling poorly with my mental health. As the business doesn’t help with my workload it means I come back to work and have to pick all the stress and anxiety up again as no one covers for me. Businesses need to be more responsive to workload issues and instead of expecting people to sacrifice their home lives to suit the needs of the business, to work more towards achieving work/life balance for all staff, particularly senior staff who feel more pressure which can impact on mental health.

  • The role is inherently stressful (FCA used to be helpful to compliance. Now they are not approachable and seem adversarial) and companies do

    not want to over resource it. Therefore implying one cannot cope with stress is an admission that you are not up to the job.

  • These are all seen as weakness. Whilst mental health is not really well understood in business, in busy environments individuals are simply expected to manage in circumstances that can be very stressful and challenging. 'Folding under pressure' is viewed in most firms as an individual not being strong enough rather than poor business resource/structure environment when the latter is often a material factor for robust professionals experiencing challenges leading to mental health issues. It’s a difficult one to resolve in a competitive environment where cost often drives the business decisions that lead to such situations.


  • I would be fairly happy talking to my manager, but I would not want other people in the firm to know. Mental health problems have a very bad reputation and people who suffer with them are often regarded as 'being lazy' or 'pulling sickies'. My partner suffers badly with anxiety and, on bad days, he is not always able to get on the tube. This makes getting into work impossible. After a lot of difficulty on my partners side, his work place are beginning to try and be understanding. However, there is a massive lack of understanding of his condition. Training is needed and is needed soon. HR departments should understand that although they may have boxes to tick and processes to follow, someone's health and home life is being seriously affected and that should always be the most important thing.

  • I had a conversation like this with my previous employer (PwC) and they put me at ease immediately. What I have noticed in the past year or so is that many firms put mental health as a part of their culture and that they are doing more around awareness and making people comfortable to talk about it. Having suffered from mental illness personally, I am happy to talk about it and it is something I raise in interviews now to make people aware that it happens to the best of us but if we all talk about it, it can really help the person struggling.

Capital Markets

  • Poor corporate culture and philosophy does not encourage free and frank discussion about such health issues which are primarily arising out of the work environment

  • Sadly, as soon as you mention mental illness you are deemed unfit to carry on a controlled function, why would a company take such a risk? Another fear is that management will use this revelation at some future date against you. Declaring mental illness has no benefits only lots of downsides.

  • It shows a sign of weakness and your ability to cope with market stress.


  • Currently suffering from depression.


Asset Management

  • In an industry where winner takes all…people forget that we are human first and professionals second…while others just pretend to be both…when they are neither…it happens too often.

  • The answer all depends on the business in which people work.Some are more receptive to such issues and are therefore willing to provide support.Others can be less tolerant of mental health issues as it can be seen as a weakness in a macho environment. Being a sufferer myself, it was very difficult to talk about mental health with my manager.The usual concerns came to the fore.If I tell them, how will I be treated?Will I become isolated within the business, seen as a unwanted problem?What happens to when it comes to my annual review?Will I be held back, not get a pay rise/bonus etc?Personally I have taken great comfort from opening up about my mental health issues and was surprised at the level of understanding and support that is offered by my company.This kind of support is a massive positive in my on-going treatment, one less thing to worry about. It must be remembered that those with mental health issues aren't any different to anyone else, but occasionally we need people to be tolerant to our needs.

  • Attitudes would not be supportive.

  • I have had time off before and I don’t feel he understands exactly why I couldn’t come into work – so now I work reduced hours so I can leave and I won’t be judged for leaving early.

    Wealth management

  • As a female the industry is hard enough to succeed in, by admitting to stress it is another reason for them to say we are “not cut out for the job”.

  • Happy to discuss physical illness but mental health would appear weaker, which may impact opinion.

  • London is a highly competitive city. Such disclosures could easily end one’s career, although they shouldn’t.

  • I believe there is still a stigma attached to mental health which can make it uncomfortable to be open and honest about how you feel. I find that in wealth management showing a sign of mental health is like showing a sign of weakness.

  • My current boss is great but I’ve worked for bullies before who enjoyed making people miserable.


  • Sadly too much of the senior management in the larger wealth managers are still old school and still perceive these type of issues as a weakness, you should be at your desk from dawn to dusk and man up !!They talk a good game but rarely live up to the billing they give themselves.

  • Mental Health just isn't an acceptable subject for most managers. There is no training and the subject is seen as a career finisher. The irony, of course, is that many people in financial services suffer from acute anxiety about their jobs and once the holders of any say/power, most managers appear to be happy to reapply threatening and divisive methods. Senior management expect managers to behave this way.

  • I suffer from epilepsy and when I started to have regular seizures caused by stress my manager chose to ignore them.

  • Recently retired, I would not have trusted my employer an inch with such information, a sure fire way of weakening my positioning in the firm if I had been ill.

  • I have suffered such terrible stress and anxiety at work I developed shingles. My manager was totally unsupportive and I felt bullied for being ill. It was a total inconvenience to my manager that I was ill and I was made to feel a failure.

  • Having suffered a number of breakdowns brought on by a wholly excessive workload, covering 3 people’s jobs, I felt this was totally ignored. Until I collapsed in the office in front of a colleague and in pools of sweat having an anxiety attack, everyone seemed happy that the work was being done whilst I suffered.


  • I don’t think comments are ever taken seriously enough, it’s just an attitude of “get on with it”, “don’t like it, leave”.

  • Best way to get yourself dismissed or moved to a location forcing resignation. My firm dismissed someone suffering from this on Mental Health Day.

  • Despite what HR might suggest I sadly believe most managers will suggest its a performance issue rather than a health one.

  • I don’t trust my manager enough to discuss something so personal.

  • HR departments and Managers have no idea how to deal with staff who have mental health problems. There is little or no understanding of the illness and their priorities lie with ticking boxes to satisfy the company’s legal obligations not helping the employee back to health

  • Wellness” is a trendy buzzword right now, but people don’t want free gym membership if the business does nothing to help them find time to go to the gym! Same with mindfulness etc – people want to have work/life balance and businesses are a long way away from this.

  • This week I requested that my contract be ended due to my manager's poor attitude to depression and one VPs hostility - i.e. screaming at staff. Several months into my contract I required a total of one sick day due to depression. While I had disclosed a diagnosis of bipolar in remission during my post-offer background check, the hostility in the department from one VP meant that I had started to have quite severe depressive symptoms during a brief relapse. My manager called me multiple times throughout the sick day, including leaving voicemails and whatsapp messages so I had to return the following day. When I explained that I had taken the day off due to depression he heavily recommended that I resign on the basis that 'if you get depressed you'll probably need more days off and that wouldn't work for us.' He added that VP behaviour cannot be criticised in any way. I did resign. At no point was I asked about reasonable adjustments. The irony is that I joined the company back in May when the SAMH ran a campaign through the bank.

  • No way can you discuss this at work. If you do you are offered no further opportunities or advancement.

  • The employers don’t really care!

  • The company I work for has mental health officers but I am unsure what options are open to you except being managed out of your role.

  • I have a very high workload with strict deadlines. My team once consisted of 4 members of staff now there is only myself and my senior. When I raise this issue with my senior it is brushed off with the “she’ll cope” attitude. There has been no concern over my mental wellbeing and I feel ignored and that I have to “put up” with the stress. There is currently no further vacancies within my team to help with the workload.

  • You’re told to get on with it in operations, I cannot speak for client facing as I have never worked on that side, but for operations there isn't much time for this issue, which I think is a real and ever increasing issue. The death of a family member is different and they are incredibly supportive over this, but as far as stress and anxiety there is 0 patience. your told not to make yourself ill but sometimes it cannot be helped. I don't really know what the answer is, there always is an issue of lack of time in operations with a lack of bodies on the work (workload too much) and so not much in the way of time to allow people off with stress - cant cope get another job attitude, wrong but that's the way it is and has been since I started work (2008).



  • I would feel judged or that I would not be taken seriously. I would also be concerned about any future detrimental affect it would have on career progression, remuneration, bonus etc.

  • In my experience it is not treated as an illness, but somewhere between a weakness and skiving.

  • Working in operational risk we often come across discussions between senior members of staff about individuals within their teams being off sick. There is a stigma and it created a paranoia for any operational risk employee if they need to go sick for anything.

  • Women who are working mums are never expressive of mental issues. Most of us put on a brave face and only ask for work/life balance or shorter working days to suit our children’s school/nursery times.

Financial Planning

  • Afraid of losing my job if I admit to anxiety or any stress related conditions.

  • I would feel more comfortable talking to a female than a male colleague.

  • Difficult subject. Seen as a sign of weakness. Modern lifestyle / internet / email / social media all having a part to play I believe in the rise of mental health issues

    · What I witnessed the following in various roles: "You never want to show weaknesses or inability to handle stress. If there are major deals or business in the pipeline you feel you need to make it to the finish line before you can review and discuss your well being. You don't want to be the one who took the foot off the gas when the pressure on the whole business is on. A sick day is often an easy less confrontational way to take a breather and step back, but of course this is not a cure." I challenge senior managers to consider whether this culture or perceived culture exists in their business and how they actively encourage their staff to talk about stress, anxiety or depression.


  • I have in the past spoken to a manager about my mental health, but where this was NOT work related.If it were work related I might be less inclined to talk to my manager about it...

  • It's probably easier to talk about someone else that may be going through a mental illness than to tell someone about yourself..

  • I did take time off for mental health when I worked for Hargreaves Lansdown, it was the hardest thing I've ever had to talk about with anyone. They were extremely supportive and signposted me to to paid for counselling. I'm at a smaller firm now, I don't feel they would be as supportive, so I would unlikely bring this up.


  • Health is wealth. Health is more important than the job. If i am healthy than I will be beneficial for organization. My health is organization health. Where as, organization success is my Success. I follow the Fayol's point the i am committed toward organization.

OTHER: Fintech

  • In fintech there is a lack of diversity and therefore as a women who is already not accepted within the male dominated community there is no way you would expose vulnerability to a gender imbalanced group.

  • Talking to my managers has been difficult, but the biggest difficulty has arisen when asking for time off to attend weekly therapy sessions. Because of the state of mental health services in the UK at present, it can take months to get to the top of the NHS waiting list and then you are at the mercy of the availability of the therapist/ counselor in terms of times. If I could choose appointments that fell outside of the traditional 9-5 I would. But unfortunately this isn't a possibility. So I often have to miss work. I am lucky that my current manager is sympathetic and allows me flexible hours (I can work longer or take shorter lunches to make up the time), but previous employers haven't been so understanding and I have been forced to take the missed hours out of my annual holiday allowance in order not to forfeit my appointment.