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New roles of the modern banker

Competition and rapid changes in regulations and technology, banking continues to transform

Gulf News

Banks all over the world are striving to strengthen themselves by making significant investments in technology and creating partnerships with ‘disrupters’. But what about the core component of the bank of the future — that is its people? What are the key skill-sets and growth areas for the bank jobs of tomorrow? Just as in other industries, bankers need to acquire new skills in this time of rapid technological advance.

Historically, banks were institutions that served customers with deposits and had a small team of staff concerned with financing or sales and other products. However, due to market volatility, increasing competition and rapid changes in regulations and technology, traditional banking has and continues to transform.

Efficient and responsible management

Recently, there has been strong demand for Corporate Governance in banking, which needs to be supported by rigorous Risk Management, Compliance and Audit functions. The financial crisis demonstrated that some of the world’s biggest banks did not clearly understand, or control, their level of risk.

The reaction by regulators led to a massive surge in compliance jobs, to the point where in 2014 press headlines such as “The age of the compliance officer arrives” ran in the Financial Times and “The Hottest job in America: Compliance officer” appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

Banks now require solid fraud prevention, anti-money-laundering and Information Technology security practices, as new technology throws up new challenges. Operational risk management similarly needs to be constantly reinvigorated, with a clear understanding of risk implications in new processes; for example in deploying blockchain for processing payments.

Catering the technological shift

In the bank of the future, staff have to be proficient with technology, to ensure they are ready and able to fill specialised roles.

The first of these is analytics. Banks are well-placed to take advantage of the emergence of Big Data. Improvements in data analytic capabilities are crucial to understanding the customers’ requirements, and ensuring that they are aware of relevant products from the Bank. Ultimately, the Bank that correctly identifies the needs of its customers and offers relevant service and solutions at the right time, will retain its customers.

The second new role spurred by technology is software programming. While banks do outsource software projects from time-to-time, having an in-house resource ensures more specialised knowledge, lower costs, better security, and effective project management. It also allows the Bank to cultivate long-term knowledge and build the retention of skills. These programmers can be required to write software to meet business requirements, such as writing software to make trading decisions, generate reports, and create internal applications, to name a few.

A third role in demand is IT staff who have knowledge in developing artificial intelligence systems at some banks. In the US for example, Banks have developed robots that execute trades with ease, increasing the automation of these processes. According to an industry report, one of the major global investment banks in the world also employs more software engineers than a leading social network — also outlining the importance of this new role.

Adapting to disruptions

But just as the rise of financial technology — fintech will create legions of new jobs, will eliminate some traditional jobs, and force banks to alter the size and composition of their workforce. Banks are already facing challenges with traditional financing jobs susceptible to disruption.

Industry reports this year also showed that in China, which has become the world’s fintech leader, financing is an area that attracted the most fintech venture capital in 2016. It was also noted that in US, fintech financing was the leading area for venture capital in 2015 but was surpassed by insurance in 2016. Crowdfunding platforms have emerged and disrupted traditional financing, but Banks are adapting by partnering or acquiring these innovations.

For consumers, it will take time before the benefits of banking’s new jobs shift being to show. As is always the case when innovating, new changes and methods of operations always tend to occur in slightly uncharted waters, but the result will be a bank that is more sustainable, efficient and better positioned to serve its community.

— Mufazzal Kajiji, Head of Retail Banking, Noor Bank. Views expressed in the column are the writer’s own and do not reflect those of the newspaper.

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