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Three reasons why financial services need to rethink people | VMware

Matthew O’Neill, Industry Managing Director, VMware EMEA

The financial services industry used to be the place to work. Today, it’s facing an “overwhelming skills crisis”. Why? It has an image problem that is not simpatico with attracting fresh, new talent.

But that could change if financial services firms embrace the opportunity to adopt new, distributed working practices the pandemic has presented them with, and rethink how they attract, develop and support their people. They need to feel like they are an investment being made by the company and not just a resource to be used. 

For an industry steeped in tradition, and one with security and compliance at its very core, it’s not going to be easy. But if organisations want to create a working environment that attracts and retains the very best talent, they have little choice. Change now, or face losing out to competitors, FinTech’s and even other industries.

Still not convinced? Let’s see if you’ll feel differently after reading my three reasons why presenteeism is out, productivity through experience is in, and the power in embracing difference.

Put presenteeism in the past

Before 2020, regular remote working outside of the occasional snow day or plumbing emergency was inconceivable. Presenteeism largely equaled work. It has taken a global pandemic to force the financial services industry into changing this perception.  You can read the press stories of FSI firms that have tried to implement ‘remote eyes’ on their staff, measuring keyboard and screen time as a proxy for presenteeism rather than measuring outcomes and results.

Executives now need to look at how they can rethink the office environment to support hybrid working models and the growing commitment in the industry towards environmental, social and governance (ESG), as well as rethink culture through different ways of measuring success.

This is crucial to attracting the next generation of talent. Société Générale recently announced a new global policy to allow all French staff to work from home three days a week – a recruitment advantage with “young talents” who “don’t see the world in the same way they did just two years ago”. And HSBC has scrapped the entire executive floor of its London HQ. Both companies realise the importance placed on flexibility and an inclusive culture by the younger generations and are looking at how they can introduce changes to make themselves more attractive to that talent.

Rethink productivity from the experience angle

While the industry may no longer be known for the ‘sexier’, future-thinking technology, that doesn’t mean the capabilities to rethink working models aren’t there, with special thanks to the pandemic.

Financial services have done the work to provide the hygienic level of capability enabling people to do their jobs. Now they need to take it a step further and approach technology from the angle of what makes people the most productive. That means considering the employee experience as a productivity measurement; focus on what they have created or driven rather than how many hours they spent on the phone or in meetings.

They should also consider how individuals can improve their productivity through new ways of working and the development of digital skills. By showing new talent that they assess the output and performance of their employees to offer them better development opportunities or the ability to work in a way that suits them, they are going to appear much more on the pulse.

Embrace difference

There are large financial firms with hundreds of thousands of employees, or as many firms view them, ‘hundreds of thousands of rows on a spreadsheet’. They are seen as a commodity or resource, a human resource, that is encouraged to reach a certain level of conformity.

This is the industry’s opportunity to truly embrace difference. To start thinking of employees as individuals with talent, and how they can give them the right set of tools to do the job, in a way that they are exceptional at.  For example, some employees will want the latest version of Windows and some will want Mac OS, with the modern app technologies being used today, the app shouldn’t care. Organisations can make it the individual’s choice and give them a level of flexibility that makes them feel valued for their uniqueness rather than just a line on a spreadsheet. They should be seen as an investment, not a cost, playing to their differences and strengths (or as René Carayol calls them, their Spikes) rather than trying to transform them to fit into a bell curve.

When competing for the best talent, personal choice, flexibility and celebrating difference is what financial services firms will have to deliver.

Accept the challenge

Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) chief executive Claire Tunley recently said, ‘Financial services relies on highly-skilled talent to innovate, adapt and succeed. This reliance is only growing at a time when the sector is facing increased disruption from megatrends such as new technology, reliance on data, globalisation and changing workforce demographics’.

There has never been a better and more crucial time to take the opportunities that new working practices offer and rethink people and their experiences differently.  

For more information about how we can help you embrace the Anywhere Workspace, visit our solutions page.


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