New skills Needed in Financial Services Sector
21st July 2022
A variety of news skills are required in Ireland’s financial services sector, as it navigates an increasingly digital future and the challenges of climate change, according to a new report released recently.
The report, Financial Services in Ireland – Skills of the Future, from Financial Services Ireland (FSI), through IFS Skillnet, says that making Ireland the preeminent location for talent and expertise in the financial services sector will be key in enabling the country to become a top 20 global financial centre by 2025, a key objective for the industry.
The report includes findings from interviews, focus groups and surveys from leaders in the industry.
Due to technological advancements, jobs are changing dramatically, and new skills are needed to drive initiatives such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies, according to the report.
There is also an urgent requirement to prepare the current and future workforce to support “sustainable finance”.
According to the research, there is a growing gap between the current availability of sustainable finance skills and what will be required to support growth in the field.
Within this report, respondents to the survey recognised Sustainable Finance (69%) and Fintech (47%) as the greatest opportunities for the sector.
The need for greater gender diversity was also highlighted. Fostering and harnessing the talent and experience of all women in financial services is crucial in developing a strong pipeline of talent, the report says.
In general, a shortage of a well-rounded skill set that includes both role-specific hard skills (technical) and in-demand soft skills needed by today’s organisations, represents a threat to the health of the talent pipeline.
The main skills gaps identified in the survey within the report were data analytics and machine learning (18%), digital transformation (18%), and risk and compliance (18%).
The report notes that Ireland is competing against multiple other locations for hosting financial services and the sector is competing against others at a time of labour shortages throughout the economy. Specifically, it says that “trying to be the lowest cost provider is not an optimal choice given both the inherent cost base in Ireland and, more importantly, the growth in other areas with added value”.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including:
•Extending existing talent initiatives that increase access to in-demand skills, such as the IFS Skillnet and IFS, Insurance and Accounting Apprenticeships to help students and employees build work-ready skills
•Attract talent early through well thought out strategically planned processes
•Attract transition talent by showcasing modern financial institutions as technology-centric, innovative, world-class employers
•Broaden recruitment filters to ensure that they are responsive to the changing nature of skills and experience
•Focus on upskilling and reskilling as an opportunity for mid-career employees
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris said: “The ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent is essential to the sector’s continued success. As we see in the report, new college and university graduates will continue to act as the foundation upon which the future of Ireland’s financial services talent pipeline is built, particularly the subset of graduates who possess the skills that are most important to the sector’s digital future. The Government is committed to supporting the industry in meeting these needs as is evidenced by the continued growth in options for people, with a new level 9 international financial services advanced specialist apprenticeship in development.”
FSI Group Director Patricia Callan said “As the report states, Ireland is home to a vibrant and dynamic global financial services sector. Banking, insurance, asset management, funds industry, fintech, and securities markets contribute to a robust, diversified financial services ecosystem, employing over 52,000 people and generating €19.3 billion in GDP for Ireland. It is vital that we take action in the areas identified in the report to ensure we not only protect the jobs currently in the sector but build on the huge potential that international growth, particularly in the fintech sector, offers to Ireland”.
Tracey Donnery, Director of Communications and Policy, Skillnet Ireland said “As Ireland’s financial services sector navigates an increasingly digital future, focusing on talent and skills is critical. This change will be fuelled by the increasing pace of technological innovation, as well as the convergence of finance and technology evidenced by the rapid growth of fintech and digital finance. Responding to the increasing importance of ESG and sustainable finance will also be vital. Today’s report and its recommendations will enable the industry to develop the talent to meet the challenges ahead and maintain Ireland’s leading position.”
Women’s business group Network Ireland has expressed disappointment that there has been no improvement to the numbers of females in the top roles in the financial services sector and although progress has been made, gender gaps remain.
President of Network Ireland Noreen McKenzie said, “We want to see increased participation of women at all levels within the sector. The IFS Skillnet report shows that significant differences emerge in the progression to more senior levels.
In particular, there has been no change in the level of females in revenue generating roles such as CEO or head of business lines with 84% of these roles held by men at the end of last year.
This is disappointing and we have to ask why aren’t there more women achieving these roles?
She added, “Having workforces that accurately reflect the society of Ireland today benefits everyone. It leads to a wider talent pool, better decision making and greater diversity of thought, creativity and innovation. It’s encouraging to see some of Ireland’s largest financial companies committing to addressing the issue of gender imbalance. A total of 45 of Ireland’s largest firms have now signed up to the Women in Finance Charter since it was launched in April of this year. I hope that more companies will follow suit.”