Kristel Cabuling isn’t your typical central bank auditor. She climbs mountains, sings for a choir and studies pole-dancing in her off hours.

“My friends wonder where I get time to do a lot of other things,” Cabuling, 29, Philippine central bank compliance specialist said while taking a break during choir practice. “Some of them, those working in other companies, even sleep in the office just to meet deadlines.”

Kristel Cabuling

Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

The Philippines is home to one of the world’s youngest populations and labor forces and that presents special challenges to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the nation’s central bank. Some 44 percent of its staff belong to the Millennial generation, broadly defined as age 37 or lower.

It’s a generation that seeks a better work-life balance and is perfectly willing to jump ship to global and local commercial banks also vying for talent. “We need to adapt to changing attitudes of a younger generation,” Deputy Governor Cyd Amador said in an interview. “It’s a generation not just fixated on monetary benefits but is also concerned about their wellness, hobbies, skills development and personal growth.”

The Philippine’s youthful population — almost half the workforce is below 34, the statistics authority estimates — is a huge economic advantage. The demographic dividend from a rising supply of young workers and their spending power is one reason why companies such as Unilever NV and Toyota Motor Corp. are expanding in the Philippines, helping drive an economic boom this decade. That’s in contrast to countries like Japan and South Korea where the workforce is declining.

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Manila’s working-age population, at about 8.5 million, will increase by as much as 2.5 million by 2030 — equivalent to Rome’s total workers today, according to McKinsey & Co. Consumption by those of working age in the Philippine capital will grow by $74 billion during the period, it estimated in a report last year.

The median age at the Philippine central bank has dropped to 38 from 48 in the decade to 2016, and may go lower with the upcoming retirement of Governor Amando Tetangco, 64, in July. His successor Nestor Espenilla is 58.

Yet for employers there are trade offs and challenges: recruiting and retaining top talent is more difficult with younger workers who demand benefits and enjoy employment opportunities across the financial industry in Asia.

Art Club

From art and fishing clubs to gym classes, the Philippine central bank is trying new ways to keep workers happy. A decade ago, it started offering free group exercises including yoga, hiphop and zumba while trainers stand ready for one-on-one coaching on weight training. 

The central bank has a 400 square-meter gym complete with a running track on the roof where employees can be seen after work. Policy makers are also studying flexible hours, work-from-home options and sleeping pods for the staff.

It’s also paying competitive salaries to keep their loyalty, said Amador, who’s in charge of human resource management. A new college graduate working in financial services can earn as much as $5,300 a year, higher than wages in sales and almost as much as what a masters degree holder would earn in human resources, according to advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.

Millennials prioritize well-being programs and career development, said Iris Anne Hamada, a senior consultant at management firm Aon Hewitt in Manila. Only one in three Filipino millennials plan to stay with their company for more than five years, according to a 2017 study by Deloitte LLP.

Biggest Loser

Kiel Cortez, 26, was working long hours at the graveyard shift reconciling cash and stock transactions at JPMorgan Chase & Co. for four months before he got tired and quit in 2011. Now a financial market research officer at the central bank’s treasury department, where he studies the lender’s asset allocation and investment policies, he’s using his free time to exercise and lost 26 pounds in the bank’s “Biggest Loser” contest.

Kiel Cortez

Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

“I definitely see myself staying here,” he said. “With JP Morgan, I normally miss Friday nights out because I have to work. But here, as long as I finish my job, I can go and do basketball, gym, or go out with friends.”

Businesses with fewer turnover among millennials communicate career development plans better, offer customized learning and personal development opportunities and engage workers regularly, according to Aon. About 5 percent of workers in finance leave their company, the second highest ratio among 17 industries, according to the statistics agency.

“One important workplace differentiator for millennials is communication,” Aon’s Hamada said.

Cabuling, a soprano, is already preparing for her next mountain ascent in the Cordillera range north of Manila in July. The journey to reach the peak at over 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) will take two days and will be one of the toughest she’s done.

“Frankly, I don’t know where life will take me, but it’s safe to say that I’m very, very happy where I’m at now,” Cabuling said.

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