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By Alexia Pedersen, UK Country Manager, O’Reilly

There’s no doubt that banks have undergone a rapid digital transformation in the last year. The pandemic has seen financial institutions achieve seven years’ worth of digitisation in mere months. However, what good is all this shiny, new technology if employees haven’t been trained to use it effectively?

Banks, and indeed other industries and organisations, are struggling with this very conundrum. In many instances, it’s not through a lack of trying. Training courses might have been provided to help people use new and updated technology, but in many instances they might not be proving effective. This is limiting the return on investment for these new technologies and truncating the digital capabilities of banks.

In line with new ways of working, banks need to modernise their employee training programmes, both for new joiners coming to terms with different technologies and existing employees who want to use the technology more effectively. This means doing away with rigid, compulsory training in favour of something more flexible and intuitive. The question for banks is: how? To reap the benefits of their newfound digital capabilities, they’ll need an answer to this question.

Doubling down on technology

The pace of technological change won’t slow any time soon. In fact, it’s more likely to accelerate as key stakeholders see the benefits of tech adoption first-hand and push to take them even further. During the pandemic, digitisation efforts were focused on enabling work and services to continue despite the challenges and restrictions. The next step will be to leverage technology that makes these even more competitive and efficient.

As a result, the great cloud migration is certain to continue. When data is centralised and accessible in the cloud, it becomes easier to manage and apply sophisticated analytics to. The output will be more immediate, personalised customer experiences, key at a time when customer interactions will remain digital-first or digital only.

There’s also a growing regulatory imperative behind cloud adoption. Stricter regulations and changing technology require financial services organisations to make major changes in how they handle sensitive data. A cloud-based architecture gives them the speed and agility required for continual delivery and faster time to market, with the peace of mind knowing customer data is secure.

Financial institutions will similarly double down on their investment in artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. AI leaders in financial services are already achieving a fifth (19%) of all companywide revenue growth thanks to their AI initiatives. By combining deep thinking and machine learning with powerful supercomputing, institutions can automate complex tasks and decision-making processes at every segment. More powerful virtual assistants are on the horizon for both staff and customers, boosting efficiency and serving a more satisfying user experience.

It’s also important not to overlook the potential of blockchain. While not a new technology, it will become more prevalent outside of fintechs as traditional banks seek new ways to grow their profit-to-cost ratios. Blockchain transactions are transparent, highly secure and millions of times cheaper than traditional transaction costs. As more financial institutions realise how blockchain can improve security, save money, and improve customer satisfaction, more will move adopt the technology.

Alexia Pedersen,

Alexia Pedersen,

Learning something new every day

The power of the cloud, AI and blockchain can be transformative for a business in terms of output and efficiency. But it will sit inert unless a company possesses the skills and knowledge to leverage it. This is a widespread concern – almost three-quarters (72%) of banking executives believe there is a moderate or significant skills gap threat to their goals.

Competition for talent is ferocious, meaning institutions can’t hope to plug the skills gap with new employees alone. As the tech stack evolves at record pace, organisations must find new ways to quickly and efficiently upskill their current workforce so they can better leverage the technologies they are investing in.

This will require taking a novel approach to learning and development. An estimated $130bn is spent on training programmes each year, with only 25% of it judged to be actually effective. Often, the problem is the poor quality of the set materials and their delivery, making it more difficult for employees to engage with.

A shift from designated, ad-hoc learning to active and organic development will yield better results. Learning and development leaders have to stop thinking about learning as a peripheral requirement for their employees. With the pandemic already straining people both personally and professionally, asking employees to stay engaged with ‘required’ learning is an outdated approach that just adds additional requirements on top of already heightened workloads.

By contrast, the best training programmes recognise that learning is an ongoing exercise. The objective is to enable employees to learn on the job and apply that learning directly to their work. Give them access to the new tools and technologies and then let them get their hands dirty. Allow staff to learn and grow in their daily routines by applying today’s technologies to grow and perform in their everyday roles. Strive to create learning environments, rather than learning requirements.

In today’s world, training is often perceived as a chore or a distraction from ‘real’ work. This perception needs to change. With online learning, organisations can empower their employees to learn in the moment and apply this knowledge to real tasks, turning training into a productivity tool. When it comes to training, the old adage rings true: the best way to learn is by doing. Banks must act on this advice if they’re going to see a full return on investment for their new and improved technology.

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