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Skills for the digital age of Canadian banking

The explosion of technological advances is fundamentally transforming the way people work. Besides having to learn new technologies, they must also use large amounts of data, which is growing at an unrelenting and unprecedented pace, to develop insights.

On top of these digital capabilities, other essential skills, like critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills and emotional intelligence, remain important to creating uniquely human experiences, building trust with customers and driving innovation.

Equipping employees with these skills is a key priority for banking executives. In our latest global CEO Survey, 77% of top executives in banking and capital markets expressed concern about the availability of key skills.

77% of top executives in banking and capital markets expressed concern about the availability of key skills

The opportunity to upskill the current banking workforce

With so much discussion about the impact of technology on our society, digital skills have become fundamental to thriving in a changing banking workplace. But the digital world is also about human mindsets, relationships and behaviours that enable new ways of working and help to transform cultures. Not everyone has to learn to code, but many people need to understand and be comfortable with artificial intelligence, data analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), bots and other technologies we can't yet predict. 

It’s important to acknowledge that banks, which are facing significant competition for skilled workers, can’t acquire these critical skills simply by hiring for them. While targeted hires who bring key skills and expertise will continue to be critical, preparing the banks’ current employees for the future of work will need to be a key focus.

While banks have made solid progress so far, the need to evolve upskilling efforts is well recognized. As our CEO Survey found, many banking and capital markets CEOs say they’ve yet to see the business impact of their training and upskilling programs, such as stronger technology adoption, improved efficiencies, higher employee retention rates and a workforce equipped with the digital skills needed most. We see five key opportunities for Canada’s banks to take their upskilling efforts to the next level.

Key opportunities for Canadian banks

1. Tailor the upskilling journey

As they work to improve back-office operating efficiency by automating manual and mundane activities and enhance the front office through digitizing customer interactions, banks need to consider how their employees’ roles and responsibilities will change. This requires each area of the business to take a tailored approach to digital upskilling.

For example, with retail advisors working in the branch network, leading banks are focusing on building the foundational digital skills to help employees take advantage of new technology and teach new ways of interacting with clients. They’re also building empathy-based skills to better understand customer needs and goals.

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2. Empower employees through citizen-led innovation

A citizen-led approach relies on employees to increase their technological capabilities while empowering them to develop small-scale business solutions in their day-to-day roles. This approach can also motivate and inspire employees to embrace new ways of working and free up their time to contribute to higher-value activities. It has been particularly effective in areas such as operations, finance, risk management and compliance functions. Banks are beginning to see successes from this strategy.

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3. Take an ecosystem approach to upskilling

An ecosystem approach develops the right mix of skills that suit the needs of individual employees and different groups. This ecosystem consists of various upskilling elements, including digital learning assets, immersive training programs, gamification and change agents and coaches with technical expertise.

These elements combine to create synergies and momentum to develop critical skills and help employees immediately apply what they learn. For example, banks can offer foundational learning that’s available to everyone to create an inclusive journey so no employee feels left behind. This could include apps offering short, bite-sized learnings on important digital topics or immersive and gamified experiences that give them the skills to adapt to new ways of working.

For a subset of employees, banks can offer more in-depth learning that moves beyond awareness of key digital concepts to develop knowledge and skills in areas essential to achieving results.

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4. Embrace new leadership styles and skills for the digital age

As they take people through ambiguous times and transition them to new ways of working, leaders play a critical role in upskilling. They’re essential to establishing a continuous learning culture by setting expectations, giving their teams time and space for learning and experimenting, recognizing and rewarding the right behaviours and creating environments where it’s safe for people to learn from experience and make mistakes.

The ability to have honest but positive conversations about the future so people understand how the business and their role may evolve and what they can aspire to is also key.

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5. Rethink jobs and career paths

As new technologies and automation continue to transform roles, banks will need to consider job design and progression to create meaningful career paths that support skills development within employees’ day-to-day experiences.

Take, for example, the trend toward creating financial crimes fusion centres that aim to generate efficiencies and improve effectiveness by integrating cybersecurity, internal and external fraud, anti-money laundering and physical security activities. We see an opportunity to create career paths in this area that would focus on developing talent to cross-train in anti-money laundering, fraud and cybersecurity practices.

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Contact us

Kim Vander Aerschot

Kim Vander Aerschot

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5893

Paula Pereira

Paula Pereira

Partner, Banking & Capital Markets, Consulting, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 941 8460

Andrew  Dooner

Andrew Dooner

Partner, Strategy&, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8502

Yair Weisblum

Yair Weisblum

Partner, Customer Services, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5892

Ryan Leopold

Ryan Leopold

Partner, National Banking and Capital Markets Assurance Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 869 2594

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Strategy & Transformation Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 947 8966

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