Building skills for the digital banking age

An opinion piece by Fiona McBride, Managing Director of Kaplan Middle East

The rise of digital transformation has presented a new wave of opportunities across all industries. The future of work will be powered by technological automation and augmentation in the labour market. According to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs’ Survey 2020, the top job roles that are expected to be in high demand include data analysts, AI and big data specialists. With the introduction of more digitised services, the banking sector is witnessing the impact of digital transformation the most. Due to the industry becoming more technology-driven, financial services experts will require new sets of skills to keep up with the competitive global market.

A global study by Gartner reveals that 80% of banking CEOs consider emerging skill shortages as the biggest threat to the effective use of digital innovation. To be in tune with the changing times, banks are modernising their systems through a more innovative and technology-based approach towards better systems and customer service. However, investment in digitalisation or new technologies is not sufficient to fully attain new productivity goals if the workforce is stuck in the analogue.

To ensure the banking workforce is equipped for the digital age, latest skills in digitalization are a priority and continuous professional development has become more essential than ever. Professionals need to enhance their existing expertise (reskilling) as well as develop new skills (upskilling). There is a clear need to be proficient with skills, more particularly with a technical skillset, such as data analytics and reporting, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain.

Data Analytics: With the advent of high-powered computing capabilities in fintech, banks are now able to harness the potential of customer data and analyse it to optimise service delivery and for competitor advantage. Data analytics can empower banks and give them a stronger position in the marketplace. However, according to McKinsey, only 7% of banks are fully leveraging key analytics. This gives more opportunity for professionals to develop analytical skills to accurately track the bank’s performance, quality of the portfolio, staff productivity and other categories necessary to drive the business.

Cybersecurity: According to a survey by the World Economic Forum, encryption and cybersecurity are considered as key emerging technologies that are going to be widely adopted by 2025. As more transactions take place through mobile apps and as virtual banks that compete with brick-and-mortar businesses gain traction, security has become crucial for business. With cyber-attacks getting more advanced and sophisticated, the requirement for the workforce to have cybersecurity skills continues to be in high demand.

Blockchain: The exponential increase in digital currencies like Bitcoin have disrupted the banking industry. According to a study by LinkedIn, the demand for blockchain developers is increasing by 30% year on year. The need for blockchain skills will keep growing in the future alongside the rise of cryptocurrencies. The industry can expect more intensified rates of adoption and the introduction of new blockchain solutions for financial institutions.

Artificial Intelligence: More banks are now taking a comprehensive approach to deploy advanced AI and embed it across the full lifecycle to improve customer experience and efficiency in the back office. Business Insider reports front- and middle-office AI applications offer the greatest cost savings within digital banking, with 56% of banks claiming that the technology generates higher revenue through new products and services. With the rising demand for AI, professionals need to be equipped with skills and capabilities to thrive in the new age of AI-first banking environment.

To be fully equipped with these digital skills, finance professionals can take part in technical development programs delivered by globally recognised institutions such as Kaplan. Through tailored training, financial professionals will have the opportunity to explore the latest technologies, application of key financial technologies, such as blockchain and AI, and learn how to leverage digital, social, and mobile marketing tools to drive innovation and spur growth.

Training programs are much more than just instilling knowledge. Financial professionals also need to acquire well-founded behavioural skills. These are fundamental requisites that have always been proven vitally relevant to supplement technical knowledge and drive stronger individual and team performance. The right skills development support will enable employees to effectively lead change through the adoption of new skills and methods now required to excel within your organisation and the industry.

Upskilling amidst the digital era must be a core business priority for banks. Not only does this contribute to workforce retention, but it also creates a culture of learning that is beneficial for both the development of employees and innovation within the industry. Given the high-speed pace of the market, upskilling is imperative with certifications and accreditations as a foundation for faster career progression. With banking as a key sector of every economy, professionals must recognise the value of building skills and embrace the digitalisation that continues to disrupt the sector more profoundly day by day.