How L&D can support the financial industry in 2021 – and beyond
The rise of digital in 2021After adapting so effectively, the industry isn’t coasting. Just look at the 69% of directors at financial firms say COVID-19 is accelerating their digital initiatives to do better business. 
But where are we headed? CFOs, controllers, and heads of financial planning and analysis are investing in advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and machine learning for faster and more efficient workflows.
While automation poses a threat to some jobs, there’s also a huge opportunity to up- and re-skill your employees. Analysts will be needed to interpret financial data and make informed decisions. And while chatbots are good for FAQs, it’s people who build customer relationships.
But learning new skills must happen soon. In banking alone, 65% of firms cite availability of a skilled workforce as a major hurdle to growth. 
Soft skills 2.0Gartner research reveals five key digital competencies for all financial services staff: technological literacy, language translation, digital learning and development, AI bias management, and digital ambition. 
These competencies show that learning goes beyond technical skills. And our new research report reveals that developing skills such as problem-solving, communication and creativity is the best way to mitigate the effects of mass automation. What’s more, these “soft skills” ground technical skills. Analysts, for example, must be able to communicate and share their ideas.
In fact, Deloitte is calling for L&D teams in banking to focus on “learning how to learn” with curated learning experiences to retain talent and boost performance. That’s because the very act of learning is a big pull for employees. 
Rebooting the way we learnDigital isn’t just the end result, either. It’s the way we learn. Since 2010, our research shows that the use of digital tools has trebled. And during the pandemic, use of virtual classrooms has jumped from 43% to 72%.
But top-performing organizations have been using digital tools long before COVID-19. That’s because employees can practice and apply skills in the flow of work – and pick up knowledge better, faster and more frequently.
Attracting and retaining talent in 2021 and beyondThe modern workplace is about more than Zoom calls. Now, many organizations offer flexible and hybrid working arrangements to attract, hold onto, and make the best use of talent.
In the UK, for example, employees now enjoy greater flexibility in the locations, hours, and way they work. Financial employees are more agile, they collaborate better, innovate more, and built better customer relationships. 
There’s a shift in the tasks people are working on, too. Teams are coming together to work on in-demand projects, and empowered to cut through red tape to make decisions. All enabled by working arrangements that put roles, tasks and projects above 9-5 thinking.
To continue boosting productivity, creativity and collaboration, Deloitte recommends that organizations flatten out-of-date hierarchies and tie team structures to how work actually gets done. 
And tech must empower a globally distributed workforce. Traders will need high-speed internet, analysts sufficient computing power, and bank staff the right software to serve customers from anywhere. For Forbes, this new work environment will combine “immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware – to support in-person and remote workers.” 
And it’s not just data scientists, cyber risk staff, and coders calling for greater flexibility in their work lives. We all are!
Investing in wellbeingFinance, banking and insurance is the second biggest of the 20 plus industries that take part in our Learning Performance Benchmark (LPB). The LPB forms the basis for our research, and our latest report reveals that since the pandemic, nine out 10 L&D teams offer well-being resources. That’s a 5% jump from pre-pandemic levels – and the only content area to increase since 2020.
As Sandy Kumar, Global Head of Financial Services and Business Risk Services and Partner at Grant Thornton UK, says, “Nobody is likely to be rushing back into the office, so having a clear strategy and policy to support people to work from home is vital, especially putting a bigger focus on people's wellbeing – looking after your people's health, their mindset, and how they are operating is key.” 
Deloitte also reports that 80% of financial services companies are increasing their focus on employee safety and well-being.  And 52% of banking firms expect to spend more on mental health and well-being support. 
Like Citigroup, which trains managers to offer employees physical and emotional support – from home or in the office. They’re helping employees respond to Zoom fatigue and the need for social contact. To do the same, Deloitte recommends that managers:
- Maintain their team’s motivation and productivity levels without micromanaging.
- Ensure employees feel a sense of belonging at work.
- Show how individuals’ work fits with the bigger picture and makes an impact at their organizations. 
These tips show that banking and financial services workers share many of the challenges that most employees do right now. And as people need to build digital skills and use digital tools to do it, learning soft skills and having well-being support will be crucial in 2021 and beyond.
Discover how Mind Tools for Business offers on-demand digital resources to support well-being, learn soft skills, and develop leaders and managers.
  Gartner, (2021). ‘Top Priorities for Finance Leaders in 2021 — Gartner.’ Available here.
    Deloitte, (2021). ‘Back Button.’ Available here.
  Grant Thornton, (2021). ‘Playing field or battlefield: what does the future look like for financial services? Available here.
 Forbes, (2021). ‘6 Trends That Will Shape The Financial Services Industry In 2021.’ Available here.
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