Remaining employable in the digital world of financial services

Author: Carl Piesse, Associte Director, Financial Services

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming, and if you think by keeping your head down and doing what you have been doing for years, no one will notice, you need to think again. This sea change will require the existing workforce to adapt to the ongoing and upcoming changes brought on by innovative technology or risk becoming irrelevant. So, what new skills do you need to survive and thrive in the financial sector in the years ahead?

The urgent need to ‘upskill’
Digitisation of the financial services industry is in full swing, and the impact on the retail side is there for all to see with the demise of high street banking, the rise of fintech and consumers’ mass adoption of mobile technologies for ‘a-la-carte’ personal finance management. However, investment banking and asset management are not immune to the upheaval either.
 
A September 2017 survey by FINTECH Circle Institute highlighted how difficult it will be for the workforce to keep up. Ninety-four percent of financial services professionals suspect colleagues of using buzzwords such as ‘blockchain’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ despite not understanding their meaning, with over half (60%) claiming that such bluffing is a common occurrence. Sixty-nine percent of the workers surveyed blamed lack of training within financial services firms as the biggest factor preventing them from honing their digital and fintech skills. Yet it pays to be tech-savvy says Susanne Chishti, CEO and founder of the FINTECH Circle Institute: “As the study shows, in today’s financial services industry, there is a direct link between genuine digital knowledge and promotion prospects”.
 
Hot skills: cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is key to surviving this steep change. In light of the increasing level of online criminal activity, it has become the top priority across every industry. And none more so than in financial services, which is one of the sectors most affected by security breaches and hacks of all kinds. A survey by Thales Security revealed that, in 2017, 86% of firms in the sector were feeling ‘vulnerable’ with 42% of financial services firms encountering a data breach, up from 24% in 2016.
 
“As financial institutions become more data-driven, digital businesses and more financial services are delivered online and cyber risks are increasing,” says Kevin Nixon, Global & Asia-Pacific Leader, Centre for Regulatory Strategy, at Deloitte. “We believe that this means only those financial institutions with robust cyber security and cyber risk management will be able to maintain trust and enhance their competitive edge to retain customers.”
 
However, the acute shortage of dedicated IT security specialists and cyber professionals makes it difficult to keep up to date with the pace of change in the cyber landscape, Deloitte argues. Security analysts, engineers, ICT risk consultants, IT security officers and incident responders are now much sought after. Back in 2014, Cisco had already estimated that there were more than 1 million unfilled security jobs worldwide.
 
Hot skills: combining to create wide-ranging solutions
In the new digital order, data is a precious commodity that provides key insights on customers, can offer them more personalised services and helps refine investment strategies. The data universe is exploding amidst the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), with (IDC) predicting that we will create 163 zettabytes – one trillion gigabytes –  of data a year by 2025.
 
As a result, demand for data experts of all sorts – data architects, analysts, scientists and forensics specialists – will be unprecedented. DevOps (development and operations) specialists who can create wide-ranging solutions by combining programming skills (Python, Java, JavaScript, Perl, Ruby on Rails etc.) with other tech disciplines (hardware, security, engineering, analytics etc.) will also be in high demand in the future.
 
Crypto-currencies are on the march
And, as if the above isn’t enough to contend with, you might have to start trading in a new currency too! For decades, you have traded equities, commodities or complex products, but how comfortable do you feel about trading digital assets? With the inexorable rise of crypto-currencies, it is only a matter of years – not decades – before they are commonplace in the sector. Note to self: get to grips with distributed ledger technology (that’s blockchain by the way…).
 

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