How can financial services firms attract the skills they need?

Feb 6th '20

A report released last week suggests that the UK financial services industry is facing a skills and talent crisis.


How true is this, and what impact could this crisis have on financial services’ ability to deliver compliantly?


Mapping the skills challenge in financial services

The report detailing the skills challenges faced by UK financial services was published by the Financial Services Skills Taskforce.


The Taskforce was convened ‘to ensure the sector has the skills it needs to remain globally competitive’. It is chaired by former City Minister Mark Hoban, and was set up by TheCityUK, with support from EY and The City of London Corporation. You can read more about its background and aims here.


Publishing its final report, the Taskforce noted that:


  • The financial services sector is ‘one of the great success of the United Kingdom’s economy over the decades’ – success due in large part to its ability to transform and adapt to meet evolving challenges
  • This ability has been dependent on its success in attracting skilled individuals
  • Today, the sector faces new challenges. Three megatrends drive these challenges:
    • technology and data
    • globalisation
    • demographic change


These megatrends are ‘driving dramatic shifts in ways of working and the skills that underpin them’. Firms that become the most successful, the report believes, will be ‘those that combine technical and functional knowledge with digital fluency and strong inter-personal skills’.


What will change?

So, if this is the case, what will change and what do firms need to do to ensure they embrace and benefit from the changing landscape?


  • A shift from administrative roles to more highly-skilled ones

The report says that ‘automation, changing customer behaviour and new ways of working indicate that there will be a shift away from administrative and clerical roles and an increase in higher skilled roles’.


  • A need for diversification

The sector needs to diversify the talent it attracts – according to the report it needs to attract, motivate and retain ‘the widest and deepest pool of talent’.


  • An increase in the training they provide

The report notes that the amount the financial services sector spends per head on training is among the lowest in the economy. It should prioritise the ‘reskilling, upskilling and re-training of staff’.


  • A required focus on purpose and culture

Echoing a topic we have often covered, the report says that the sector needs to strengthen its ‘purpose and culture’ to ensure it remains an attractive employer to future generations.


  • The need for a collaborative approach

Creating ‘impactful change at scale’ on all these issues will require the collaboration of different players in the sector.


What actions should firms take to address the talent challenges they face?

Calling the challenges outlined in the report a ‘growing skills and talent crisis’, the Fintech Times says that ‘urgent action is needed’ to change the future direction of the industry.


The report identifies some next steps firms should take to tackle the challenges it faces:


  • Put ‘continuous learning, reskilling and upskilling at the heart’ of its work. Technology and digital skills are increasingly in demand to tackle a growth in innovation. Automation and technology will change the nature of work in the sector, with some roles appearing and others decreasing in importance. Existing employees will need opportunities to acquire the new skills they need.
  • Identify new skills required. Creating a framework that sets out the skills needed will enable firms to understand their gaps and put in place strategies to fill them. Emerging trends and their impact on the people needed in the industry should be a particular focus.
  • Develop a ‘value proposition’ for the sector that helps to make it more accessible and diverse, particularly at the highest levels. The Fintech Times article notes that although 44% of the financial services workforce are women, only a third of senior managers are – there is much more work to be done to make roles accessible and attractive to a diverse range of people.
  • Establish an employer-led Financial Services Skills Commission to drive change and improvement collectively.


What impact does this have on corporate compliance?

So, what does all of this mean for Compliance professionals?


Firstly, of course, the Compliance team forms a key part of every financial services firm. The findings around evolving skills requirements due to increased automation and innovation are therefore as relevant to Compliance teams as to any other.


You need to adapt to keep pace with the changing face of financial promotions, delivered digitally and in real time. Automation is increasingly being adopted by Compliance teams to make their review and approvals processes more robust. Regtech is increasingly being used to deliver regulatory compliance and reporting.


Does your team have the skills to make the most of the opportunities these technologies bring?


Secondly, you need to be confident that your business has the right people and a robust-enough business model to approach the market in a compliant way. This will be jeopardised by a lack of skills in your existing workforce or problems in recruiting and retaining the new people you need.


As we’ve noted in previous blogs, creating the right culture throughout your organisation is a vital step in embedding good governance, to ensure compliance with FCA and other regulations. It’s something the financial regulator has been keen to encourage for some time, but with the Authority issuing record fines in 2019, it seems to be something many firms continue to struggle with.


Adapt to a constantly-changing business landscape

The financial services sector clearly has work to do to ensure it’s equipped to handle the future challenges it faces. Building teams with the requisite skills to drive innovation, respond to customer demand, adapt to changing responsibilities and roles as the result of new technologies – this will be the challenge for tomorrow’s financial services firms.


If you’re a Compliance professional, this is just one aspect of the continuous change you face in your role. Ever-increasing regulatory demands compete with the broader shifts in your landscape for your attention.


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