Leadership to shape financial services industry, says survey

After undergoing decades of rapid transformation, never before has the financial services industry experienced dramatic changes in technology, regulatory, political and demographic changes sweeping across the global economy as today.

Emerging markets and new alliances are demanding innovative and efficient approaches to traditional business models. Customer sophistication is at an all-time high, only out-shadowed by their high expectations and diminishing loyalty.

To pinpoint significant trends being faced by financial institutions, an interview survey of 20 Senior Executives from seven banks and financial service firms in three countries was conducted.

This spanned the leadership teams of retail, loans, securities, credit risk, hedge fund, and other finance industry leaders. Their candid responses shaped an analysis of the trends and critical leadership actions that would play a vital role in the financial services industry of the future.

Globalisation, increased security and regulatory control, changing marketplace, dynamic competition and rapid change and innovation were some of the key trends the industry is facing today as per the interview survey. The trends identified are real and important factors which have already begun reshaping the financial services industry.

The critical question that was posed to the senior leadership panel was how will the successful firms respond to these trends? What do leaders need to do now and in the future to ensure prosperity? The response was clear. In order to be a player in the financial services of the future, these trends must be faced and addressed head on.

Firms that ignore these challenges or react too slowly will be acquired or will simply cease to exist. Their discussions highlighted five central themes or critical areas of focus for taking action to successfully meet these emerging challenges. These formed the Leadership Imperatives for the financial services industry.

At the top of this list of imperatives emerged the ‘Management of Talent and Human Capital!’

Interviewees most frequently identified Human Capital as the most important leadership imperative. The universal key to responding successfully to the trends is having the right people in the right places in the organisation. Having the newest and best technology systems in place will only go so far if the people are not of equally high caliber and well trained.

Good employees must be attracted, developed and retained in order to keep a positive momentum going. High turnover and low morale will signal serious problems that could prove fatal to a firm in the new environment.

•“Human capital is what it’s all about. How do we get people to want to work here? Have we positioned ourselves appropriately to transfer knowledge from baby boomers to the newer generation? We would lose so much knowledge if everyone suddenly retired. We must look for high performers that can drive success wherever they are. Get them to feel passionate about their opportunities.”

•“Effective people can be moved around, they are the backbone and can ensure continuity of the culture across various roles. If you don’t, people burn out and then it becomes very difficult to change them.”

Attracting, selecting and retaining talent to address staffing shortages, developing leadership bench strength to meet future leadership challenges, managing a diverse workforce (ie. age, culture, etc), creating opportunities for growth and development and becoming the financial services employer of choice are amongst the top action requirements of the financial institutions today.

It’s a sentiment echoed by more and more financial firms and their leaders in India every year and a challenge that talent managers in financial institutions are rising up to face across the country.

(The writer is Senior Consultant with Development Dimensions International India)

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