Careers

What Are The Core Skills Gaps Facing the Financial Industry?Industries worldwide are experiencing unprecedented change as digital transformation and new economic realities shake up the world of work.

For sectors like financial services and technology, which rely on skilled employees, finding the right people is a growing challenge – and likely to become even more difficult in the future. To understand this challenge, we must explore pressing questions such as what are the core skills gaps facing the financial industry? What impact has the pandemic had on corporate learning? And how are financial services firms broadening their talent pools during these uncertain times?

In a recent intuition webinar, Intuition spoke to Claire Tunley (Chief Executive of the Financial Services Skills Commission) and Tanuj Kapilashrami (Group Head of HR at Standard Chartered Bank) where these questions (and more) took center stage in what was an eye-opening discussion.

In this part of the Q&A, Tanuj and Claire discuss the skills gaps facing the financial industry and how they can be addressed.

We hear so much about the struggle for talent and skills shortages and problems that employers are experiencing in real terms. What are some of the core skills gap that the financial industry is facing?

Claire

The sector is influenced hugely by megatrends such as an increase in technological digitization, but also demographic change, people in the workforce and globalization, which has shifted somewhat in the last two months. These changes are driving skills needs in tech and digital, which won’t be a surprise to anybody. These skill needs are most evident in areas such as cyber machine learning, A.I. automation and user experience but there is also a need for softer skills. Employers are clear that their plans around skill development are not just focused on technical knowledge. They want to develop skills such as critical thinking, creativity and innovation and also resilience and agility. We’re also seeing clear needs for leadership and management skills and the Open University actually put out a report today on business needs, which was very strong on the leadership and management skills such as teamwork, decision making, leading in the new environment where we’re now all working. One of the key areas, I think, that has come out of the work we’ve done at the commission, and the previous work we did at the Skills Task Force for Financial Services, is around the conversation between industry and education and training providers. We need a better conversation about what the skills needs are so we can design solutions and products to meet those skills needs.

Tanuj, would you like to weigh in?

Tanuj

I would start off by saying that rather than describing the current situation as a struggle for talent, I actually see it as a big opportunity because I think what’s happened is there is a growing realization now that continuing to buy the skills that are needed for the future externally is a strategy that’s not going to work. That talent pool just doesn’t exist. I think, especially in my sector, and I would say it’s true for other sectors as well, it’s taken us a few years to get to that point, but having had that realization now and thanks to the great work Clare and the commission are doing, I see it as a real opportunity to build some of those talent pools for the future internally and externally. Like Claire, we have a mix of technical and what we call human skills. We picked out 10 skills needed for the future of banking, which is a mix of technical and human. By focusing on that reskilling agenda I genuinely believe it’s good for our people, it’s good for the overall diversity and inclusion space, it’s good for the business and frankly, it’s good for society.

“rather than describing the current situation as a struggle for talent, I actually see it as a big opportunity”

It’s interesting that we’re making the distinction here between these technical and human skills, or technical and soft skills, and those require different things from employers and from the education system. They’re not taught in the same way. They’re not developed or nurtured in the same way. How are companies, educators, perhaps even government approaching both of these very different types of skills in constructive ways?

Claire

I think you’re absolutely right and some of the work we did last year with the financial services sector identified this blended skill set that’s needed for the future. Experience, expertize and understanding of financial services, but also an understanding and expertise around digital and technological solutions because they are moving closer together, and we’re very clearly told that in 10 years we won’t have an I.T. department, it will just be in part of the business. We need to move toward that and every single role is going to be affected by this. I don’t think we’re quite there yet in what the structures are, so there is still very much an approach of ‘you’re financial services, or you’re digital and tech’. The government’s doing a lot in this area, but I think we’ve got a lot more to do around bringing these together so that it’s a layering on and not a separate sector. It’s what everyone does now. Digital is a utility we all need to know – it’s a bit like reading, writing, arithmetic….and digital. There’s more to do and I think things are moving fast and I agree with your points about how it’s harder to measure some of those human skills and it’s harder to see what the return on investment is, but we do need to move towards that and I think as the tech and digital sectors professionalize further, that will be really strong in allowing us to have that read across between sectors such as professional services and financial services and we can see that read-across between the two and then really add value to the skills our people have.

Tanuj, from the industry perspective, how are you balancing these different but complementary skills, demands and needs?

Tanuj

I’ll highlight all of the upskilling and reskilling work that we are doing within Standard Chartered Bank which is underpinned by a huge amount of focus on building a strong learning culture in the company. I’ll echo the point that Clare makes, technology is changing very quickly, digital skills are changing very quickly. It’s become very clear that learning how to learn has become a skill that is going to be needed if we are going to be able to deal with the world which is changing so rapidly. The way we have dealt with it is, we started off with a very clear point of view on distant future skills. It is a combination of digital data, but also problem-solving, creativity, innovation, what we call managing ambiguity. We’ve also worked quite hard to democratize access to learning to everyone. As opposed to the traditional approach of companies choosing what kind of learning you get and when you get to it, how do you use technology and A.I. to democratize that access and actually build that culture where people are encouraged to consume learning? We’ve had some great success. By the middle of this year our consumption of digital learning was 125% more than the whole of last year. We rolled out a new platform three and a half months ago, which is a digital platform, but it’s A.I. enabled – a little bit like Netflix. The more you consume, it directs content to you – both our internal content, but it also curates the best of external content. We’ve got forty thousand users on the platform within three months of launch and 76% of them are repeat users. Now, why do I give this statistic? Because it’s an investment. In my role, you do need to go to the board and justify that investment but what’s made it very clear to me is that appetite is huge. The more you democratize it, the more you make people take ownership for it, people respond or their colleagues respond to that very, very positively. Where we are taking our work is toward the development of more learning pathways. Aligning the learning agenda with the strategic workforce planning agenda. Forming a view on the kind of roles that will not be needed in the future and roles which will be and actually directing learning pathways to colleagues who are in roles that are not going to be needed in the future. Once you create that culture supported by technology, once you build that appetite, there is some really cool stuff that you can do using this technology. I think that’s the path that we are on now.

Claire

Just on Tanuj’s point, I think it’s absolutely right – building the appetite for learning is essential, but also directing that energy and appetite into where the business needs are. I think there are some really good examples. One of the big insurers, for example, is looking at automating custom processes around claims and rather than recruit automation specialists from outside the business who don’t understand the customer journey or the compliance or the regulations around claims, they’ve trained up claim handlers on this because they can see that in the future those jobs may not exist, and actually they’re using their expertize that they’ve got to build the automation to train them in automation – they sent them on a 12 week immersive course in automation, and the results have been incredible because these individuals have been able to say ‘that process doesn’t work – this is how the customer interacts here’ and the business benefit has been huge, and we’re seeing more and more of those examples in firms as they get more specific and targeted with where those skills and those training interventions should be.

By Ruairi O'Donnellan of • Intuition