Sector Spotlight: Financial Services

28 April 2017

Financial Services: The search for agility and innovation

Financial services is evolving rapidly. Technological development has fundamentally transformed the industry and continues to disrupt established players and new entrants alike. But, as artificial intelligence and machine learning make their mark and political instability lingers, do financial institutions have the personnel to survive and make a success of such enormous change?

Ominous reports of a talent exodus from the City to Europe, following the EU Referendum, would have you believe that the industry will struggle. I would argue that, while there is certainly reason to be cautious, the stark warnings are a little premature.

London is a thriving, global city. The sheer scale of the metropolitan area and its long-established reputation as the world’s leading financial centre will continue to attract talent from across the world. It is a magnet for skilled professionals ─ with or without Brexit.

However, while financial institutions have been well-served by a plentiful and deep pool of labour, the rapid digitisation of the sector is perhaps exposing a relatively narrow skills base. There is a particular shortage in back-end expertise that can help businesses understand and apply technology.

Artificial intelligence is taking much of the plaudits for pushing the boundaries of finance. But for me, and for many others I speak to across the sector, the advent of open banking is a more tangible and immediate development for management teams to navigate.

Open banking is a concept that leverages technology to securely share customer data with multiple financial institutions to better tailor products to those customers. The concept is set to dramatically shift the competitive dynamic within the industry.

But to respond to such a transition, the financial services sector must go through a significant staffing transformation. It is unlikely that all the required skills to capitalise on the trend can be found in-house. Increasingly, businesses are looking beyond their own employees and industry for answers.

The shift is creating multiple opportunities for interim managers – not only in overseeing the HR element itself, but also for tech specialists.

There are a number of banks, and other similar organisations, that are proactively searching for a more diverse pool of candidates. Scouring the market for individuals with digital skills is at the top of the agenda. They’re looking for more flexible and agile professionals to lead digital transformation projects and to bridge skills gaps within their existing workforce.

The industry is now emerging from its long period of strengthening balance sheets, cutting headcounts and building more efficient operations. Now, as optimism gains momentum and with the economy moving in the right direction, growth is back on the cards.

While new hires are being considered, I expect interims will be the first port of call for many. It is essential that financial institutions respond to change, but many will want seasoned-professionals to lead the way.

Interims can offer that valuable, hands-on industry experience and provide the leadership necessary to deliver. So, while it can be argued financial services has some challenges in resourcing, we should not forget the wealth of talent in the interim world that can help smooth the way into the industry’s new future.

Paul Smith is Head of the Financial and Professional Services practice at Odgers Interim


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