Managers must use automation to attract the right top talent

Investment banks in the city must fight fire with fire and make banking more interesting, engaging and meaningful

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 10:16pm

Many of the keenest minds in finance are quitting an industry that is not as profitable (and therefore remunerative) while struggling to rebuild its public reputation, and facing tightening regulatory restrictions. For many, working in smaller, private investment partnerships and other companies in high-tech and fintech industries seem to be a better alternative.

Indeed, in 2013, 12 per cent of US graduates said banking and capital markets were top industry choices for work. This has dropped to 7 per cent in 2016, according to recent Accenture research.

How can Hong Kong investment banks win the competition for talent when other companies seem to offer more interesting, engaging and meaningful work? By fighting fire with fire and making banking more interesting, engaging and meaningful work.

At a time when some industries are using machines to replace workers, investment banks might use machines to lure them back by leveraging analytics and robotics to enrich the data at hand for decision-making and reduce the repetitive work. As machines assume more and more banking tasks, inherently human skills such as innovation, empathy, judgement and complex problem solving will become more valuable – and these are the skills that investment banks should value in staff if they intend on recruiting and retaining top talent.

Automation could clear the way for new or expanded jobs in areas such as service integration, cloud and relationship management, and risk management. It will also free up and arm staff to focus on developing bespoke products that satisfy their clients’ individual needs. But it also requires a culture of trust. Managers need to trust the data that machines provide and collaborate with machines to execute work. Be transparent in communications and involve people at all levels in the organisation to co-create change so that when you refer to automation as a reason to work for your financial services company your pitch is genuine.

4 key hiring habits for recruiters in the digital age

According to our report Top Ten Challenges Facing Investment Banks in 2017, the fifth challenge of ‘Getting it Right with Digital Talent’ says managers should:

Map out a course of action: As machines take over certain tasks, consider which human capabilities can be augmented, where human capabilities are needed most, and how people can be reskilled to perform more valuable work.

Beef up continuous education programmes: One of the reasons digital natives are seeking work outside of banking is because they want work that more reflects their ethos: digital, collaborative and interesting, all of which requires they maintain their skills.

We refer to companies that cater to this as “always-learning” organisations which:

Review and revise individual performance criteria, to reflect principles of collaboration and continuous learning and walk that talk.

Use performance management as a development tool. Incorporate coaching and feedback – not only from managers, but also from other employees and even smart machines – to help people learn, experiment and constantly improve.

Outspoken lecturers fear they will be silenced by HKU hiring reforms

Machines – in the form of big data and analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing – could not only offer direct business benefits but also the chance to create more interesting and meaningful employee experiences that lure back to the industry the best and brightest.

Beat Monnerat is senior managing director and head of Accenture’s financial services business in Asia-Pacific