On day one of the Innovate Finance Global Summit 2019, a leading global FinTech conference, I attended a panel discussion on reimagining work, the workforce and the workplace. Here’s my take on what went down.

Work is changing and this is creating huge uncertainty 

The financial services industry is experiencing huge shifts in work. The nature of work is changing, where we work is adapting to new generations with new expectations and, most importantly, the types of skills and experience required of people is tilting towards technological skills.

Established processes are broken 

Many established processes are broken. Many of the conventional and well established processes that govern our experience of work, such as the annual appraisal process, have not, in the views of the panel, changed as quickly as employees’ expectations and this is creating dissatisfaction, sub optimal outcomes and friction. Added to this, there can be a big disconnect between managers and employees in their conception of the future of work.  

How to approach this uncertainty?

One approach to making sense of this uncertain future is ‘zoom in, zoom out’. First you need to zoom out, which means forming a view of what’s going to happen in future. Then you need to zoom in, which means deriving the implications of your future vision for today’s priorities.

HSBC thinks about the future of its work in three categories. In the first, about a third of work will disappear and the bank seeks to drive this out of the system proactively. To be clear this is work with a relatively low value add like sending out paper bank statements. In the second, work will be improved. These are things like account opening. In the final category, work will be profoundly different and, of the three categories, there’s least certainty about how this one will develop. This includes things like robotic process automation and chat bots.

What’s most important?

Priorities vary by organisation, but one thing all can agree on is the paramount importance of talent. For both incumbents and FinTechs, one of the most important challenges is sourcing people who are expert in both technology and financial services. In particular, people with the right software skills can be hard to find, attract and retain.

Agility is key 

A way forward is becoming clearer: agility is a big draw for top talent. People with highly sought after skills and experience want to apply themselves in roles and companies where they will have the greatest impact and this points to working for a fast-moving company that is willing and able to pivot. Often this means that working in FinTech, a sector characterised by small and nimble companies, is more appealing than working for a slower-moving incumbent.

Priorities for the future 

To finish, the panel provided their main recommendations for how incumbents should consider navigating the future of work. These were:  

  • Own the narrative – don’t let the press scaremonger with stories of robots taking jobs (automation is actually a force for job creation)
  • Demand more from your workers - in what they give to the future of your organisations (and give more to them in return)
  • Learn from your customers – learn from what your customers are telling you to serve them better and, in turn, safeguard your firm’s position in the future of work
  • Listen to your employees – they are key stakeholders and have views that must be heeded in the design of future jobs, processes, practices and working environments