Pro-people but not anti-tech: the state of play for banking services in 2021

Pro-people but not anti-tech: the state of play for banking services in 2021

14/05/2021


As we gear up for the CefPro conferences I’ve been mulling over the events of the past year. What does it mean for banking services*?

Above all, I see that the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of people in fostering organizational resilience. It’s the human ability to adapt at a grand scale that has kept the lights on for banks, markets and economies.

I’m looking forward to learning about the new and disruptive technologies that are changing the banking landscape at the conference. After all, alongside our banking services practice, mthree provide technical training and career pathways for developers via our hire, train, deploy and convert-to-perm model. 

But, more than that, and especially after the year we’ve all had, I can’t wait to reconnect with people again.

The people who design and deliver innovative solutions through tech, the people who ensure the operational resilience of these institutions, the people who manage the client journey, the people who drive change…

 

The strengths and weaknesses of technology 

My point is, banking is a people business. Why? Because banking is a complex industry, and complexity requires problem-solving that goes beyond the basics. 

Although artificial intelligence is now a part of everyday life, artificial general intelligence is still a very, very long way away. We’re talking a decade or more, according to this briefing for the European Parliament. 

For instance, when it comes to KYC and AML processes, it’s easy to get caught up in chasing efficiencies and forget that an algorithm doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. OK, this is true for humans too, but – unlike a human – an algorithm can’t parse the richness, scope and scale of a situation’s broader context to spot the really jagged edged cases. Yet. 

This means that a bank’s people remain its single greatest asset in today’s knowledge-driven world. 

In a 2019 report on banking and capital markets trends by PwC, 60 percent of banking CEOs said they believe it’s getting harder and harder to hire workers in their industry. This is concerning given their workers are not only an organization's greatest asset, but also their most significant investment – you simply cannot afford to get it wrong. So it’s surprising that many such institutions still rely on the same old methods of finding, assessing and developing the people they need.

As we emerge from the latest global crisis to strike the banking industry into the “next normal”, now is the time to be bold in your hiring strategy as you look to build a strong workforce for the future.

 

Rethinking what makes a “good graduate” 

When it comes to hiring emerging talent, the talent that forms the workforce of the present and the leadership of the future, the default – understandably – is to look for people who bear the traditional hallmarks of academic success. But for modern banking services roles, is an “elite” graduate a better bet than a smart graduate with the right attitude? Especially one who’s been trained up in the skills you need before they join your team? 

Times are changing, and employee performance stems from potential, not prestige. We see these results again and again from the graduates who go through our mthree Academy, many of whom go on to become VPs in banking services within a few years at our client organizations.

 

Reskilling your employees

Is there untapped potential in your existing teams? You always have the option to recruit experts who have the capabilities already, but what if the solution is right in front of you? Could it be cheaper, quicker and easier to solve the problem internally by using targeted training on demand instead?

This is true for everything from software development to marketing, but it’s especially relevant for banking services. For instance, a common brief we get from our clients at mthree is to provide training to help customer service agents transition into KYC roles. Often, you’ll find people with amazing transferable skills – not to mention valuable organizational knowledge that you don’t want to lose.
 

Diversity as a running theme

There’s a side effect that plays out when you shake up your hiring strategy. As we all know, boosting diversity is important but difficult. Fishing in the same pond as everyone else is tough at the best of times. 

By transitioning employees into growing divisions, or reevaluating your entry criteria for graduates, you open up a whole other range of demographics. Quotas and moral imperatives aside... it makes good business sense.

And of course, diversity equals new styles of thinking to help solve business problems. A powerful tool indeed when you look at the shifting shape of banking operations.

 

The rise and rise of ops roles in banking

Coronavirus may have served as a timely reminder about the importance of people in banking, but the writing was on the wall years ago.

Regulatory scrutiny has intensified over the past decade. This has driven the evolution of operations from invisible administrative functions to crucial, strategic, frontline divisions. When regulatory fines and reputational damage from mistakes is on the cards, the stakes are high. It has never been more crucial for banks to get banking services right. 

Operations now underpins every stage of the trade lifecycle and the overall client journey. Business analysis. Trade support operations. Risk, regulation and compliance. Client support services. Data operations. Project management office. To name but a few. 

These are no longer just support roles or process roles. They are the sharp tip of a bank’s competitive edge, solving non-automatable problems across the organization, creating value for customers and capturing value for shareholders.

As a result, the roles are increasingly challenging, and increasingly rewarding. You need a keen sense of risk, an awareness of the regulatory nuances of the jurisdiction, and – it’d be remiss of me not to say it – an understanding of new technologies to exploit for efficiency gains.

Recognition within these divisions is on an upward trajectory, reflecting the impact they have on a bank’s overall strength. Opportunities for progression. Personal fulfilment. Working with multiple business lines. 

For me, 2021 looks like the year that people are coming back into focus in banking services, hand in hand with the technologies we’re building. And I’m excited about where we’ll go from here. 


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Looking to invest in your organization’s banking services capabilities?

*At mthree, Banking Services encompasses all those critical functions performed in Banking that do not require coding or software development. Business Analysis, PMO, Data Operations functions, Regulatory as well as traditional Operations and so much more across the demands of modern Banking.

Whether you want to bring in graduates or reskill your teams, we can help. You can reach Emily directly by email at emily.shanks@mthree.com or by phone on +44 (0) 7423 664507.