Redefining the role of HR across the financial services industry

A national imperative


With the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community, a regional labour market is emerging. Organisations need to prepare for a changing business landscape with free movement of skilled labour and talent.

Malaysian companies are likely to face increasingly fierce competition for top talent from regional competitors.

This will be particularly felt across the financial services industry (FSI) where a shortage of skilled labour has been identified as one of the top industry challenges.

Leaders are urging their management to tap into regional labour markets and explore innovative approaches to increase their competitive edge.

The role of HR is therefore particularly crucial to manage human capital effectively. 

To what extent has the HR transformation agenda progressed in the FSI in Malaysia and in the ASEAN region as a whole? How is the geopolitics of the region likely to play out?

Is HR ahead of the curve in terms of enabling their organisations to transform to compete? How can FSI organisations take advantage of the shake-up ahead?

The Asian Institute of Finance (AIF), in collaboration with PwC Consulting Services, conducted a multi-method study to explore some of these questions through discussions with industry representatives and practitioners working across four industry sectors – namely conventional banking, Islamic finance, insurance/takaful and capital markets. Participants included both HR and non-HR leaders at all levels, from both local and international organisations. 


The methodology was a triangulation of face-to-face interviews with CEOs, focus group discussions with industry practitioners and opinion leaders, as well as an extensive quantitative survey of 550 respondents.

Organisations that are able to develop business models which include people strategies which are in tandem with this ever-changing and dynamic environment stand a good chance of winning. Those that do not may lose out or see their growth stunted.

The changing landscape suggests that there will be winners and losers in this transformation. Few companies can afford to ignore the need to transform.

Key messages


Global and regional mega-trends are changing market realities across the Malaysian financial services industry. Regional realignment, new regulations, demographic shifts, technology, talent gaps and succession planning are the top mega-trends holding CEO’s attention and creating pressure towards HR transformation.


Diverse disruptors including FinTech are changing the rules of the game across the financial services industry. The HR function is being impacted on all sides, including changing employee and customer expectations, the reinvention of products and services as well as new rules and regulations.


Business models and their parameters are being re-thought in line with the future of work. A change of attitude towards work and life is being mapped out, with many job roles and business structures likely to be transformed. HR is the key driver in any organisation in maximising inputs into designing competitive employee value propositions of the future.


The HR function needs to drive the talent agenda. To be truly transformational, HR needs to be agile and constantly scan the horizon, particularly external market realities. Fulfilling the traditional operational role will not be sufficient in an age where talent and succession planning are seen as key strategic differentiators for organisations to succeed.


It is the final call for HR to rise to the business challenge. The AIF & PwC Consulting Services study indicates that although HR is moving in the right direction, more needs to be accomplished. It is imperative that HR takes the broader view of what it means to transform HR and become a fully-fledged business delivery partner.

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