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Management Strategies

03:35 PM
Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
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6 Steps for Building the Next-Gen Bank IT Workforce

Bank technology organizations increasingly require new capabilities that go well beyond traditional IT skills. Here are six challenges banks must address in building the IT workforce of the future.

Superman's skills include "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." Perhaps the bank IT workforce of the future won't require such a tall order of superhuman strength, but the skills bar definitely has been raised.

Banks are under intensifying pressure to increase revenues, enhance the customer experience, reduce costs, replace legacy systems, and meet security and regulatory mandates, notes Hope Hughes, a director with Deloitte in New York. These pressures, she explains, are forcing banks to more closely link technology with business goals and hire IT staff with the relationship skills to work closely with the business units. "It's a big change from just hiring technologically savvy folks," says Hughes.

It's imperative that as banks evolve, the IT workforce evolves as well, say industry consultants. The future IT workforce, the experts agree, most certainly will need to add aptitude in business acumen, interpersonal communications, proficiency in risk and compliance, and competence in process management to its arsenal of technology skills. Here are six challenges banks face in building the IT workforce of tomorrow:

1. Emerging Technology Skills in Short Supply

According to Julien Courbe, financial sector technology lead partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York, the problem is not a shortage of IT staff per se; rather, the challenge is a shortage of IT talent in emerging technologies that are increasingly important to banks, such as cloud, virtual desktops, mobile and big data, which is leading banks to hire contractors and consultants. "Banks don't feel that existing [in-house] IT teams have the ability to learn these technologies quickly enough," he says.

Other technology skill sets that are in short supply include information security and IT architecture, notes Allen Weinberg, a senior partner in the banking operations and IT practice at McKinsey & Co. (New York). And like Courbe, Weinberg also points to big data as an emerging technology area in which banks will need to search out highly skilled workers.

Further, IT no longer is organized by applications, notes Mark Sullivan, an Atlanta-based senior executive in Accenture's financial services IT strategy and transformation practice. Instead, IT organizations today are more service-centric, where the ability to drive consistency across delivery channels is more important than ever, he says.

2. Attracting the Best of the Best

Finding these attributes in a single, super-IT professional will be difficult, if not impossible, acknowledges Sullivan, especially as banks compete for this high-level talent with consumer technology powerhouses and emerging financial services players such as Apple, Google and Facebook. Banks just don't have the cachet and innovative reputation that can attract top technology talent, he insists. Banks also suffer from a somewhat sullied reputation in the wake of the financial crisis.

So what can banks do? In addition to competitive compensation, the IT workforce of the future will value a different lifestyle and have different expectations than Baby Boomers; many are used to flex time and other perks to help them achieve work/life balance, Sullivan adds, noting that banks are having some success adjusting to these expectations and positioning themselves as top places to work.

The IT workforce of the future also will value training, Sullivan continues. "It's an arms race for talent, and banks will need world-class training to attract the best employees," he says.

Notes PricewaterhouseCooper's Courbe, "To hire top talent away from emerging technology firms, banks must bring the culture and the spirit of these firms to their organizations."

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