Ideal blend: the shape of financial services skills to come

01 Jul 2019

Ideal blend: the shape of financial services skills to come

As financial and professional services undergo an ever-accelerating digital revolution, the skills required need fundamental remodelling, as a recent report illustrates.

Right now, unprecedented technological, cultural and regulatory change, driven by digital technologies is transforming how financial services organisations interact with customers, how work gets done, and how decisions are made.

The rapid rate of change is causing a worrying disparity between what organisations are looking for, and the skills and capabilities of those seeking a career in financial services. Significantly, this new environment also requires the blending of skills that were traditionally found separately, along with a larger requirement for soft skills.

In our analysis, there is a new model of talent required, blending skills and capabilities in a different way to before.

This is just one major conclusion drawn from an original research report, jointly undertaken by Odgers Berndtson executive search and TheCityUK   The report drew on in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 60 leading figures across banking, insurance, investment, professional consultancy and regulation.

A new blend of skills

Technology is enabling new ways of working. It’s clearly creating new roles and transforming existing ones too. These include areas like digital customer interfaces in banking, big data in insurance or AI and machine learning in legal services.  

What’s required from individual candidates for these roles is also new: a blend of skills that were previously undefined. For instance, a detailed understanding of regulation combined with technology know-how. Or a mix of numeracy and communication skills.

A more varied set of soft skills, centred on change and innovation, is essential too.

Respondents were very clear on this.

“Technical skills per se are not enough. Communication skills, commercial/business understanding, and humanity are vital.”

This chimes with the findings of a recent Deloitte report, Power Up, which underlined the need for human skills in industries facing automation.

Agile and flexible

Furthermore, future leaders in financial services need to balance the requirements of operating in an increasingly regulated and cost-constrained environment with the need to drive innovation, adopt new technologies and ways of working.

As agile working becomes more prevalent, people need to be comfortable working in multidisciplinary teams and identify ways to deliver more with less resource. Flexibility and adaptability were mentioned by interviewees as key skills for the future.

Problem solvers

In the search for people who can work in an agile and flexible way, the subject that graduates have studied at university was thought to be less important than how they studied.

Essay-based, problem-solving courses were seen to produce graduates with the skills to think through and help solve an issue before quickly moving on to something else. If companies can attract graduates with this core skill set, they can take time to train and develop the necessary business and technical knowledge. Ideally, candidates should have well-developed communications skills and bring work experience too.

Educating the ExCo

Finally, if organisations are to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving environment, senior leadership needs to set out a coherent vision to embrace technology. Yet at present, in the boardrooms of many firms, technical knowledge is still considered a matter of personal preference.

This must change.

In future, understanding how technological innovations can be applied within the business will be a key requirement for senior roles.

To that end, structured education for senior people on the vocabulary and scope of technology is vital. Immersing the ExCo in this way will help them in devising a coherent vision and understanding the application of things like API analytics and cloud services.

“Senior management has a massive duty to understand emerging technologies,” concluded one respondent, whose organisation has hired thought leaders tasked with providing navigation assistance to top-tier executives. As ever, change has to be fully embraced at the top for it to be successful right throughout the organisation.

To get the full report, download it below.

Download report now

‘Fuelling Fintech: attracting the UK’s future tech talent into financial services’ was produced jointly by CityUK, Odgers Berndtson and Santander UK.

Odgers Berndtson’s Financial and Professional Services Practices advise boards and executive committees and help them find, attract and develop diverse senior executives and non-executives.