Financial services firms are experiencing a whirlwind of rapidly changing market forces. There are new technologies like blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Disruptive business models are popping up from surprising sources like Google, Amazon and Apple, and there’s a flood of innovative self-serve fintech start-ups like Wealthsimple. On top of that, exceptional customer service is no longer a competitive advantage—it’s a basic expectation.
Internally, financial services organizations are dealing with knowledge and leadership gaps as baby boomers retire. Shifting workforce demographics are leading to new employee mindsets, with future leaders expecting different learning experiences from their predecessors. They want flexible, personalized learning experiences using next-generation learning tools.
In the face of ongoing disruption, the importance of soft skills in finance and banking can’t be overstated. They are the skills that will help transform traditional organizations to fuel growth and innovation.
What Are Soft Skills?
Sometimes known as core or transferrable skills, soft skills are not job-specific, but are relevant in every profession. They are sometimes mistaken for personality traits because they include abilities that enable people to develop effective relationships, like listening and empathy. But, both hard and soft skills can be learned and practiced, and either can come more easily to some people than to others.
Soft skills can include:
- effective verbal and written communication
- emotional intelligence
- relationship development and management
- creative thinking and problem solving
- teamwork and collaboration
- decision making
- critical thinking
- time management
- digital literacy
- work ethic
Soft Skills Help Leaders Motivate, Engage and Inspire Teams
Cultivating soft skills in financial services is especially important when it comes to leadership development. Leaders have a key role to play in organizational culture, which is foundational for innovation and growth.
Consider that the main competition for talent in banking and financial services comes from tech companies, which are known for promoting values like work-life balance, autonomy, diversity and social purpose. According to PwC’s 2019 Financial Services Talent Trends report, financial services firms haven’t caught up in these areas, suggesting the need for some major cultural shifts. Leaders with strong soft skills are equipped to help navigate this change and foster an environment that is attractive to new talent.
Similarly, there is an urgent need for digital transformation that requires soft skills for banking and financial services leaders. Almost three quarters of respondents to PwC’s Banking and Capital Trends survey say that the ability to adopt and deploy emerging technologies will be the difference between high-performing firms and those that are left behind. Strong skills in empathy for both the employee and customer experience, along with communication, creative thinking and problem solving, will be the drivers of this transformation.
Training leaders in soft skills is foundational to organizational resilience. This video outlines four soft skills new managers need to be successful.
Soft Skills Improve Customer Interactions
Customer experience is a key factor in increasing loyalty, reducing costs, and boosting revenue. According to McKinsey, 75% of the 50 largest global banks have committed to a customer experience transformation.
Soft skills play a crucial role in customer experience for three major reasons. First, leaders with exceptional soft skills create a positive employee experience, and happy, engaged employees offer better customer experiences.
Second, these leaders are able to work cross-functionally, which is critical to ensuring that the customer experience is seamless rather than fragmented by organizational silos. The ability to look at the big picture, communicate persuasively, and anticipate and overcome resistance will ultimately lead to the kind of internal transformation that is necessary.
Finally, soft skills are essential for employees who work directly with customers. They are your organization’s primary brand ambassadors and are largely responsible for managing and setting customers’ expectations around service and support. Plus, they must also be skilled at developing those cross-functional relationships within the organization that support end-to-end experiences for customers. Soft skills such as listening, emotional intelligence, motivation and effective communication can help employees elevate each interaction and the customer experience overall.
How Can a Modern Learning Strategy Help?
The key is to build a modern learning ecosystem that goes beyond training hard skills (that is, technical prowess and core business knowledge). Incorporating soft skills training that is delivered in a way that’s flexible, engaging and relevant will equip employees with more of what they need to be successful.
Modern workplace learning methods like video-based learning, social assessment, and brain science strategies like situational learning, can effectively encourage the development and practice of soft skills. This approach creates a more balanced and holistic learning model that also prepares the organization to dynamically adapt to new learning demands and changing market conditions.
Tamara Niesen is a senior product marketing manager at D2L focused on enterprise vertical strategy and growth. Her roots are in corporate tech, having started her career with internships at BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) at the age of 17 while completing her degree in Economics and Business Management from the University of Waterloo. With a background in enterprise sales, channel and product marketing, and health care at one of the country’s top cardiac center’s, Niesen is passionate about applying technical innovation for good, especially as it relates to education, healthcare and technology, developing female leaders, the economics of learning, and giving back to the community. In 2013, she was recognized as a top 40 under 40 community leader.
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