Bankers are worried about losing their jobs because of technological advancement. Credit risk managers know that artificial intelligence (AI) will analyse financial statements much faster than they can in the near future. Marketing staff know they should quickly learn digital marketing to build their banks’ online brands.
If you want to be prepared for the future of work in the banking sector, here are seven areas which you may want to develop.
1. Don’t just wine and dine – sell on social
The average amount of time adults in Singapore spend on mobile phones is 3 hours 12 minutes a day, according to EY. This means your clients – whether they are corporate CFOs or affluent individuals – are spending more and more time on their phones…and on social media. Bankers are increasingly engaging clients on social media, not to sell products online but to build trust and relationships.
I now sometimes see ECM bankers congratulating their clients on social media after the successful pricing of an IPO. Some clients do the same. An ex-client (now a good friend) recently posted his company's successful USD bond issuance with the comments, “Good timing, good size, good price!”. Bankers who know social selling will have an advantage over those who don’t. Wining and dining clients is still necessary, but no longer sufficient.
Instead of worrying about AI and fintech replacing humans, we should figure out how to work with technology and data. For example, consumer banks in Asia often reward their premium clients on their birthday month with birthday cakes. I don’t think banks track whether these cakes are collected or not. But when the cost of analysing this data becomes low enough, they will start doing this. They will also know, from clients’ credit card spending behavior, that some are buying books online. So instead of offering cakes, banks may offer those clients a book voucher instead. If you are in back-office IT, can you adapt, reinvent yourself, and be ready to move into marketing IT?
Financial institutions know that they need to be more creative and innovative to stay ahead – and jobs that require creativity will not be easily replaced by machines. How can we be more creative? One way is to combine two areas to create new ideas and products. In the 1990s, banks in Asia started hiring engineers and mathematicians into their sales and trading departments to become structurers and traders. I was one of the first few engineers at DBS back then. I combined my quantitative training and newly acquired derivative knowledge to come up with creative structured products. In the coming years, I expect banks to hire staff who know banking and data analysis, and can come up with creative ideas to service client better.
4. Build social capital
Social capital is the ability to get people to have coffee with you and help you when you need it – or simply the depth and size of your network. As banking problems become more complex, banks need employees who can collaborate well to come up with solutions. They should be able to reach out to experts within and outside their banks to gather information and solicit ideas. Those with strong social capital will perform better in these vital tasks.
5. Persuasion skills
As our external environment changes, our work will change with it. We need to figure out new ways of doing things. It is human nature to prefer the status quo. Banks need employees with good persuasion skills to get others to change their mind and see the benefits of new solutions. Persuasion is a skill that can be developed over time.
6. Cultural awareness
Banking is a global business and will become increasingly so. In international banks, people of different nationalities come together and work as a team. We are also now seeing more Singaporean bankers servicing clients from China and Indonesia, and Hong Kong bankers covering Thai and Filipino clients. The ability to work with people from different countries and cultures will continue to be a key skill. Bankers should aim to have at least one overseas stint in their career. Citi, for example, is good at grooming its staff internationally. I worked in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong during my eight years with Citi.
7. Learn new skills
We already know that what we learned in school is not sufficient to prepare us for the future of work. But from now on, what we learn on the job will also be insufficient. What we need is a conscious effort to learn beyond our job scope. Bankers should consider picking up digital skills and cybersecurity, for example. I am learning new skills myself – how to teach a million people online.
With 2.5m followers on Linkedin, Eric Sim is one of the most followed finance professionals globally on social media. He is the founder of Institute of Life which trains young professionals to be successful at work and in life. A former managing director at UBS Investment Bank, Eric is also Adjunct Associate Professor at HKUST.
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