Talent development: closing the skill gap in banking and insurance

22 January 2020

Financial services are surfing the wave of digital transformation that has been engulfing the business world for several years now. Operating in a time when technological evolution is speeding up exponentially, most financial organizations are quick to seize the many great opportunities for innovation that come along. But they also find themselves facing numerous organizational and human challenges. The adaptability of employees only increasing at a linear rate, there is a growing skill gap that must be reckoned with.

What missing skills (or knowledge) are we talking about specifically? And how can teams master them as quickly as possible? AE experts Leen Van Wambeke and Danielle Glassée share their vision.

All channels on deck!

The way banks and insurance companies communicate with their customers has changed considerably in recent years. Financial players want to serve their clientele via digital channels and adjust their strategy accordingly, says Leen Van Wambeke, Financial Services Expert at AE: “Most banks have already adopted a multichannel approach some time ago, offering their customers various ways to communicate with them. But those channels exist side by side and therefore not always offer a seamless customer experience. For that reason, more and more organizations are now evolving towards omnichannel instead.”

Skill gap in banking & insurance: omnichannel

In omnichannel communication, all channels are perfectly in tune with each other. As a result, for example, a customer who after long and careful consideration has just purchased version A of a product online will not be receiving mailings that try to convince him to purchase version B. Calling this evolution a major impact on organizations and the people they employ is certainly not an understatement, says Leen: “Getting all those new channels and technologies to respond to each other requires employees, be it in business or IT, taking on other roles. They must somehow meet the future needs of their organization, and that implies mastering new skills, not to mention completely different competencies in many cases.”

An eye for data

To offer their customers a seamless digital experience, companies in all industries must focus on personalization. The customer and his needs take centre stage, in terms of channels and interactions as well as product range. “Take a financial player, for instance, who wants to predict as accurately as possible at what moment a customer will want to purchase a certain service or product,” explains Leen. “To succeed, this player should surround himself with data scientists, who make smart use of internal and external data to meet the needs of that customer at the right time, in the right place and via the right channel. Ideally, they can even beat the competition to the punch by anticipating the customer’s wishes.”

Looking at the broader picture

In addition, instead of simply sticking to their existing product range, financial players are constantly looking for ways to extend their service offer based on their customers’ growing needs and expectations. Leen: “More and more insurance companies and banks are establishing partnerships to set up platforms and ecosystems together. It enables them to offer completely new products and services that available data tell them they will certainly appeal to their customers.”

Skill gap in banking & insurance: platforms & ecosystems

Next to data scientists, the financial sector therefore relies on experts who can see the forest for the trees. “Employees taking on this important role analyze the impact such partnerships will have on the company in terms of organization, integration, management and growth opportunities. It is only by means of thorough analysis and successful implementation that ambitious financial players can (continue to) guarantee a seamless customer experience across their entire product and service offer,” Leen explains.

‘Flex it till you make it’                      

Moreover, Leen warns, the traditional infrastructure and architecture of financial organizations are under growing pressure, making it more and more difficult to cling to 'what has always worked': “The current, rapidly changing VUCA world calls for flexibility, while most (large) financial companies today are focused on stability. To cope with that increasing tension, employees who combine a dynamic mindset with diverse competencies and fields of expertise are indispensable.”

The pressure to deliver products and services faster each day is also blurring the line between business and IT. Leen: “A closer collaboration is needed. Many financial institutions therefore adopt a more agile way of working. Or that’s what they’re trying to do, at least. In practice, they don’t always succeed. Such a transition, after all, naturally entails the kind of role changes that require well thought out change management.”

Talent development starts by knowing yourself

The financial sector certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of awareness. “Most companies do recognize their need for additional training and talent development, especially in recent years. But adequately dealing with it often turns out to be a different story,” Leen continues. “Successfully setting up this kind of process simply doesn’t happen overnight. If major financial players want to become more agile, they must first answer some critical questions:

  • What roles and expertise do we need to achieve our ambitions?
  • Where are we today? And how does that fit into our vision for the future?
  • Where are our skill gaps located?
  • Which employees require retraining? And what’s the best way for us to approach that?

Fortunately, these challenges, while considerable, are far from insurmountable. Both in the short and long term, there is plenty financial players can do to get all the roles in their organization to (better) anticipate their future needs.”

Reskilling and upskilling

Closing existing skill gaps and preventing new ones from emerging is the number one priority, according to Danielle Glassée, Learning & Talent Development Expert at AE. “They can do so mainly by investing in reskilling and upskilling,” she says. “You start from a specific need, make an analysis of the skills and competences currently missing to meet that need, and then look for the best ways to help the relevant people acquire the necessary new skills. To achieve excellent results with a lasting impact, I always advise clients to adopt a hybrid learning approach. Such an approach involves a mix of classroom teaching and online and on-the-job learning, combined with active follow-up and support by the company.”

Talent development in banking & insurance

The learning organisation

Danielle also emphasizes that closing the skill gap is, or should be, a structural effort. “A one-off promotion or project is not enough. In a world that is changing so rapidly, organizations that want to remain relevant must become more maturein terms of their learning and talent development.” Setting up and organizing learning activities from time to time – although useful and necessary – therefore no longer cuts it. So, what does?

“Companies who take the smart route are evolving into a learning organization where learning is ingrained at all levels, both individually, in team and at the organizational level.  It’s exactly the kind of organization-wide approach we favor at AE,” explains Danielle. “How do you incorporate knowledge-sharing into the heart of the organization? How do you ensure people can learn from each other on the job? How do you create an authentic feedback culture? How can learning be included in onboarding and performance management? Responsibilities like these lie not only with HR or Learning & Development, but with all branches of the company,” she concludes.

Join us in the matrix!

To help our customers close their skill gaps, AE not only maps their current and desired situation but also supports them in developing and implementing personalized learning trajectories. By means of a competence matrix and heat map, we determine what skills the customer already has and what is still missing to meet future needs. In a next step, we put together a learning programme– sometimes aided by our own training offer– through which all employees can acquire the new skills they need.

Need a hand with Talent Development?    

Regardless of the industry you’re in, AE is happy to support your organization in Learning & Talent Development. Would you like to know more? Be sure to browse our offer and please don’t hesitate to contact our experts for a free, inspiring conversation.

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