Rethinking the financial services workforce

Delivering differently as we enter the next stage of the new world of work

Our recent Canadian workforce of the future survey offered some good news for Canada’s financial institutions navigating a changing workplace. Employees in the financial services industry are faring better than those in other sectors when it comes to adapting to remote working. By and large, they say they’ve been able to continue doing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and are more likely than employees in other industries to report that their productivity has increased.

But we are living through a fundamental transformation of the way we work. The ongoing move towards remote working, virtual collaboration, automation and cloud-based productivity tools is reshaping the financial services landscape. As the momentum for change accelerates, financial institutions are looking for new approaches to creating a digitally enabled organization with the right mix of skilled and adaptable people ready to embrace opportunities to collaborate, innovate and deliver differently. What does the future of work look like for financial services?

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Key findings from our Canadian workforce of the future survey:

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1. Remote work is here to stay

Financial services employees have a higher preference for remote working than any other industry measured in our survey. They also feel they have what they need to do their jobs and consider their leadership to be even more effective than prior to the pandemic. If remote working is to continue, leaders will need to look at offering additional upskilling opportunities and consider how to communicate effectively and maintain connectivity with their teams in a virtual environment. This is critical given the miscommunications that can happen in a virtual workplace—often due to issues of tone and body language—as well as rising concerns about maintaining employee morale and supporting mental health.

2. Digitization helps maintain productivity

All sectors in financial services have been feeling the pressures to improve their productivity ratios. Fortunately, almost half of financial services employees reported increased productivity during the pandemic, which was the highest among the industries surveyed. While we know some organizations have other perspectives on this question, employer responses to our survey were generally in line with employee views on whether productivity has increased, decreased or stayed the same.

Why does the financial services industry stand out on the productivity question? We believe it’s because the digitization that was already underway in financial services helped to equip employees with the tools and skills needed to quickly shift to remote working. But as remote working environments become the norm, there are still opportunities for significant productivity gains through continued investments in the workforce and digital transformation of operations across the front, middle and back office.

The work environment employees want
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3. Investing in people pays off

At a time of rising worries about employee burnout and the need to help staff stay connected in a virtual world, upskilling opportunities that let people work smarter and not harder may be the answer. Financial services employees clearly see the benefits, with most saying upskilling would help improve their job performance. But it’s important to remember that digital skills are only part of the story. We also know that key transferable skills—such as creativity, problem solving, digital acumen and leadership—can also help people think, act and thrive in a more unpredictable and rapidly digitizing world.

A closer look at the new world of work within financial services


Amid a new wave of transformation sparked by COVID-19, banks have a fresh opportunity to unlock the power of their people. In a short period of time, commercial bankers and wealth advisers have adopted digital capabilities like electronic signatures and are now engaging with clients via digital channels for relationship building, advice and sales. The challenge for banks now is to continue building their people’s potential to work and lead in bold new ways by bridging skills gaps and adapting strategies for the evolving world of work.

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Before the pandemic, insurers were already pursuing a transformation agenda. As digitization increases, there will be a particular need for skills related to automation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to help pave the way for improvements like one-click purchases of insurance coverage, instant claims payment and new tools for risk prevention. Insurers are also looking for data scientists to support predictive analytics around claims probability, customer risk profiles and underwriting and pricing models.

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Asset and wealth management

The asset and wealth management industry is undergoing rapid change, with everything from the rise of robo advisers to the emergence of digital advice and sales channels influencing the skill sets firms are looking for. The growing focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors is another key trend that will require firms to increase expertise in sustainable investment, the transition to a low-carbon economy and engagement with governments and communities. Risk and internal audit teams also need to upskill to provide proper assurance over ESG commitments.

In an environment of ongoing and accelerating change, asset and wealth management firms will need to embrace workforce strategies that go beyond technical training. They’ll also need to explain to their employees what’s in it for them and offer opportunities for them to apply new skills in their day-to-day work while fostering a culture that embraces innovation and change. 

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Key steps to create your workforce of the future

For financial institutions, this time of change and uncertainty offers a new opportunity to build business resilience, engage and energize the workforce and create sustainable value and impact from their digital investments. How can your organization get ahead?

Number one

Refresh your strategy: Start by identifying the capabilities needed to be successful today and in the future and then execute your road map to transforming your workforce, building resilience and improving performance.

Number two

Maximize human potential: Develop an upskilling program to help you build a workforce with the right mix of skills in line with the behaviours and mindsets that will deliver on your strategy.

Number three

Reinvent the workplace: Reimagine your office of the future by reinventing where and how the work gets done as you assess how you’ll support remote working in the long term. This will help you find cost savings while also improving the employee experience.

Number four

Transform HR: Create a more data-driven human resources function as you look to maximize the returns on your workforce investments.

At PwC Canada, we’ve been on our own path to workforce transformation for some time. Like many financial institutions, we’ve seen the benefits of having made these investments prior to the pandemic. As you explore your next steps, contact me any time to discuss how you can create a comprehensive workforce strategy, upskill your people, reimagine your workplace and transform your human resources function to meet your organization’s evolving needs.

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Andrew Paterson

Andrew Paterson

Markets Leader, Managed Accounts, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5264

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