Leadership skills in the new world - how do financial services firms rise to the challenge?

The last 18 months has seen global business and industry face an unprecedented period of upheaval - recovery from the pandemic coupled with environmental threats, societal shifts and incessant technological advances. But this period of uncertainty brings a newfound opportunity for many financial services organisations to ask what skills do successful leaders need and how do we continue to ensure our board and workforce are equipped with the talent and expertise to prosper?

Technology is transforming every aspect of operations; our workforce is becoming less centralised and more diverse; and new challenges such as Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) are reshaping business priorities. Today industry must ensure that the leaders of today and tomorrow have the required range and depth of skills, experience, training and development that will enable them to face whatever the future holds.

To begin to tackle these multiple challenges, organisations must look within to pinpoint exactly where their skills gaps are. This is no easy task and to help executives navigate this skills development journey we have today published a report: ?Staying ahead in a changing world: the skills leaders in financial services need?. The report encompasses interview analysis taken from senior leaders (executive committee members, non-executive directors and emerging leaders) across banks, insurers, building societies, fintechs, financial market infrastructure and payments outfits from January to July 2021.

The findings clearly show leadership skills gaps are most prevalent in data and technology; communication; and environmental, social and governance (ESG) areas. Executive committee members are increasingly signalling a critical need for leaders with strong AI, cyber, and data analytics expertise, with many senior leaders acknowledging the emergence of a new style of leadership centred on empathy and inclusivity. This, they believe, is essential for talent retention and commercial success, and sits in opposition to a directional approach. In order for organisations to close their leadership skills gaps, our report outlines three critical recommendations for boards and executive teams. These include: prioritising strategic skills planning; upskilling existing talent; and the development and implementation of inclusive talent attraction strategies.

The financial services sector is already making great strides in tackling skills gaps, but future success depends on the talent and skills of our people and most of all on our industry leaders. The responsibility for this challenge falls not just to individuals or even companies - though they must play their part - it is a collective responsibility for our entire industry.