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City must reskill to fight the talent drought

Wealth Management
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New technology and automation will affect every role in the financial services sector over the next decade, says a report calling for City firms to work together on skills development.

The City faces severe talent shortages in managerial, technical and customer service roles unless a large proportion of the UK’s 1.1 million financial services employees either reskill or move into new roles, according to the Financial Services Skills Taskforce report.

What needs to happen?

The taskforce, set up by the Treasury in 2018 to make sure the financial services sector has the skills to stay competitive at a world-class level, says the City needs to help employees remain “relevant” through lifelong learning – as the skills they learned at school and university are “no longer enough” to keep them up to speed throughout their careers.

While globalisation has helped to increase diversity in the financial services industry and enabled companies to set up teams around the world to tap into new markets, the report warns that the speed of tech development means teams need to be more agile, or their solutions could become obsolete before they’re implemented.

Although globalisation has helped increase diversity in the sector and allowed companies to deploy teams around the world to serve new markets, it says teams need to become more agile to prevent their solutions from becoming obsolete before they are implemented.

This means managers need to upskill to manage remote staff, and employees need to develop “niche” abilities and language skills to support growth.

Taskforce chair Mark Hoban said: “While there are many examples of good practice, the industry lacks the overarching vision, coordination and focus needed to weather the megatrends transforming global business.

“It is only by re-skilling our people that we will bring about the necessary system-wide changes. We need to improve diversity and inclusion in our recruitment and retention practices, but this is not enough to transform the workforce.

“While there are firms who are already starting to re-skill their workforce, the sector as a whole lacks an overarching vision of what its skills needs will look like over the next decade. To bring about transformational change, it needs a skills framework to promote the acquisition of new skills at scale and cost effectively.”

The report recommends that the sector should:

  • Set up a “Financial Services Skills Commission” to act as an independent, single voice to communicate the sector’s needs to policymakers and educators, and to drive collective action on non-competitive areas that could benefit organisations 
  • Create a “future skills framework” to act as a basis for industry-wide collaboration on skills development 
  • Upskill and reskill employees and work with them to create a culture of continuous learning 
  • Boost awareness of the career opportunities it offers and open up access to jobs to attract more diverse talent 
  • Prioritise diversity, inclusion and progression.

Pauline Hawkes-Bunyan, director for business: risk, culture and resilience at the Investment Association, said of the report: “Attracting and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce is key to the future success of financial services. We support its focus on the needs of financial services and the proposal to establish a permanent skills commission. This will need to be joined up with other existing initiatives within the industry in order to achieve greatest results.”

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