Why banking and finance firms should treat the talent pool as a portfolio

By Raed S. Haddad

Over a decade ago, factors such as globalisation, deepening of financial product usage, and demographic change led the banking and financial sector on a dynamic trajectory. Essentially, the financial services industry (FSI) built its growth and returns model around these drivers.

The sector has been undergoing significant changes following market developments most notably the recent global financial crisis, which prompted a major rethink. Consequently, the financial services landscape experienced stronger regulatory intervention from structural reforms to consumer protection, greater regional divergence among other factors.

With heightened regulatory activity, banking and financial services companies across Asia are investing heavily in compliance, upgrading technologies, enhancing risk management, and implementing better governance.

Workforce obstacles
The Asian banking and financial industry is already feeling the pressure of talent shortages resulting from scarcities in critical skills, accelerating retirements, generational differences, and demographic trends. With banks and financial services companies venturing into newer markets and the rapidly evolving competitive environment, the overall strategic impact of the talent gaps is likely to deepen.

The current transforming nature of the FSI landscape requires meticulous planning and execution of each activity on an enterprise-wide scale, which can be effectively carried out by strong project management skillsets.

Role of project management
Today, banks and financial services companies in Asia are creating new financial systems, launching innovative financial products, and developing HR portals for employees to access data. Against such a backdrop, it is imperative for the organisations to address a growing number of change management issues and adoption of new enterprise-level technology.

To mitigate change-driven operational risk, project management practices are the most effective. Engaging the right methodologies through effective project management tools can help deliver projects on time, within budget, to specification, and in keeping with organisational objectives.

Project management is a continuous process for the FSI and often linked to assessing value from the cost and benefit perspective.

FSI organisations that aim to be industry leaders must tie-in their strategic goals and operational goals with the tenets of project management. With the regulatory tightening in the industry, key projects for most banks will revolve around these regulatory and compliance changes, resulting in increased opportunities and expanded role for project managers (PMs).

What PM professionals in banking and financial services sector say
ESI International has released its inaugural Asia Pacific Project Management Salary Survey, which was conducted with over 600 PMs across multiple industry sectors in Asia Pacific, spanning China, Hong Kong, India, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Southeast Asia nations including Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

As per the survey, project management professionals across Asia Pacific in the FSI majorly have experience in Waterfall project management (28 percent) and project portfolio management (19 percent). Organisations in financial services sector are increasingly turning to Agile to align business needs with IT and meet regulatory compliance.

Hiring managers from the financial services sector considered Agile and stakeholder management as the top two core proficiencies vital for career progression.

Increasingly gaining traction in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, Agile training is well-poised to make a difference by providing high quality and improving the project delivery on the whole. The Agile methodology involves alternatives to traditional project management and can be effectively engaged in software development to help businesses tackle unpredictability, especially in the banking and financial services sector.

Today the role of PMs in Asia’s banking and financial services sector has expanded. Making the right investments in talent management programmes by identifying the correct skillsets and implementing project management training programmes can help companies sustain a competitive edge in the long run.

Project community is critical to delivering on business strategies. It is important to understand that short-sighted hiring practices and reduced focus on training and development may leave project organisations in dire straits and put business objectives at risk.

While finding external talent is an important part of any staffing strategy, project organisations need to look inward and focus more on developing the talent they already have. Moreover, it is not just about engaging more PMs to handle the current challenges of the FSI but cultivating the requisite PM skills across other functions to drive the business strategy.

Organisations will need a significant change in their approach while aligning talent management with the interests and priorities of employees, and with the needs of their respective company strategy.

Engaging in knee-jerk measures while tackling talent shortages like offering perks, more monetary compensations, and new challenges is often ineffective when there is inadequate medium and long-term resource planning.

Given the changing business dynamics, treating the talent pool as a portfolio, building it, and leveraging the management skills to balance risk on the human resources side is the need of the hour.

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