Financial firms race to keep up with skills of the future

Financial firms race to keep up with skills of the future

Leaders in the financial services sector have a busy couple of years ahead. Open banking and PSD2 legislation have now become enforceable, and having previously focused on compliance, banks are racing against the clock to find talent which can turn these changes into tangible benefits for customers.

The UK is now leading the way in the field of open banking across Europe, and the major transformation in both operations and mentality is changing the skillsets banks need in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Open banking may prove a regulatory headache for firms, but it is also part of a pipeline of developments grabbing the headlines, including blockchain and bitcoin, set to revolutionise the future talent agenda in finance.

In practice, the changes mean that customers will ultimately have more power in the market and find it easier to switch their account or mortgage to another provider.

It will however, also mean that customer data is accessible to different vendors, so banks must secure the full data supply chain to prevent breaches. This transition is already fuelling demand for interim and permanent professionals that have the necessary cyber security expertise.

We’re seeing an increasing number of executive level interim hires across the functional c-suite, in particular CISO and Head of Digital interims roles have been of interest, as banks turn to the interim resource to plug internal knowledge gaps or “scale up”. This drive to digital is already imperative for firms, and even more so due to the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation in May this year.

To leverage the full opportunities that open banking presents, banks must also invest in product development and customer engagement. Communicating the benefits of these changes will be vital and I’ve seen an uplift in firms searching for sales and marketing professionals to introduce new consumer-focused initiatives.

As banks grapple with the opportunity of open banking, where are they when it comes to blockchain, and the rise of cryptocurrencies? Unfortunately, probably on the back foot.

Blockchain fintechs are growing in volume but the blockchain market in financial services is largely undeveloped, however progress is good. The financial services industry is having to ‘learn’ and invest in start-ups to see how best blockchain can add value to the organisation and the wider industry infrastructure. There is no doubt there will be developments here but ‘baby step’ progression will be more likely, probably ‘Back office functions’ first, then the regulatory overhaul will happen without it stifling innovation to allow for more progression.   

It’s difficult to predict the role interims will play as financial institutions begin to heavily invest in blockchain development but from past experience change and transformation directors will be in high demand. Most likely, risk and technology functions will become ever more closely aligned in their priorities – and as financial leaders embrace this technology and its possibilities, interims will be a valuable resource to ‘hold the fort’ and oversee these fundamental operational transformations.

Cryptocurrencies in themselves are a different ball game, unregulated and as we’ve seen over the last few months, a highly volatile asset and 1000s of them. Banks and financial institutions are justifiably sceptical of the future role digital currencies will play in the sector but there is certainly a market place it’s just which ones will shine and under what parameters, the next few years will see a radical change in this landscape and a very large electricity bill to show for it.

If so, previously unheard of roles will no doubt enter the market, and the worth of technical expertise will rise at an unprecedented rate. Both interim and permanent professionals will have to keep investing in their digital capabilities in order to keep up.

As the financial sector evolves, we’re seeing the fight beginning for future skills and it will only intensify as the race to innovate heats up.

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