While 10 years might not seem so long in the course of a lifetime, a decade may as well be an eternity when it comes to the financial services job market. Professionals across the sell-side and the buy-side alike have to navigate the cyclical nature of the markets and the industry as a whole, bouncing back after downturns and layoffs and savoring the salad days and the meaty bonuses while they last.
To have staying power in the financial services industry, you have to be able to adapt to constant changes and continue to update and expand your skill set.
Here are the essential skills you should have to ensure that you survive on Wall Street and thrive within the industry at least until 2026, and hopefully even longer.
1. Technology across the front-, middle- and back-office
Technology is the most important and ever-changing phenomenon that has impacted the financial services industry in the last five years and will continue to do so over the next decade and beyond.
No financial services organisation can ignore the need to invest in people that understand technology to keep the firm at the forefront of the industry and ahead of their competitors, says to Jeanne Branthover, a partner at DHR International.
“Keeping clients' data secure, having mobile apps that are user-friendly, having the analytics to know who your customer is and how to attract them are just some of the concerns these firms have to gain market share,” she said.
“The world has become digital and the financial services industry fell behind due to the costs to upgrade antiquated systems and the willingness – or lack thereof – to invest in cutting-edge technology.”
Anne Crowley, managing director at Jay Gaines & Co., stressed that you need experience in the following areas if you want to have staying power the financial services big data/information technology (IT) space:
- Data analytics, including predictive analytics;
- Mobile applications;
- Cloud computing and capabilities as a service, for example, software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS);
- Payment card industry (PCI) and identity protection;
- Credit-rating and credit-risk solutions/software;
- Low-latency trading platforms; and
- Strategic IT outsourcing.
To stay employed in the financial services sector for at least the next decade, it is essential to be tech-savvy in any role in any firm – and that includes the front office, Branthover said. The days of having your own assistant or secretary are long gone for most financial services professional, she said.
“Everyone is hands-on, creating their own reports, researching data themselves,” Branthover said. “To stay employed, each employee needs to look at their skillset and make sure they continue to educate themselves to be current – many need to reinvent themselves.”
2. Operations and change management
The principal concern of banks in the next few years and beyond will be to reduce costs, improve productivity and develop new and more profitable products and services.
People who can assist with the automation of regulatory requirements and operational processes will be in demand, according to Peter Laughter, the CEO of Wall Street Services.
“Operational risk management professionals who can identify process improvement – that is, cost reduction – are in a good place,” he said.
Blockchain technology is, of course, the current buzzword and offers an interesting solution to many regulatory and operational problems.
“At this point, the only people in financial services who understand blockchain are highly technical and do not have the expertise and ability to implement it practically,” Laughter said.
Change management and operations professionals who understand the technology and can engage stakeholders and senior leadership on adoption will be very well situated, he said.
3. Regulatory compliance and risk management
We would be remiss not to mention two departments experiencing major secular growth within financial services where firms are constantly looking to hire: regulatory compliance and risk management.
Crowley said that the following areas are likely to be in-demand long-term:
- Regulatory compliance – one hot-button issue is the U.S. Department of Labor’s new fiduciary standards in investment management, wealth management and banking;
- IT risk management – many of the banks are not performing well on regulatory exams;
- Business continuity management, disaster recovery and resiliency; and
- Liquidity and interest-rate risk management, particularly as interest rates begin to rise in the U.S.
Crowley also believes that protecting against money-laundering, complying with international sanctions and tax compliance will be areas of ongoing focus, specifically anti-money laundering (AML), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and know your customers (KYC) initiatives.
4. Close client relationships
With the frenetic changes to digital technology and platforms, the most successful people across sectors will continue to hone their client-service skills, according to A.J. D'Antonio, a financial services sector leader at Korn Ferry Futurestep.
“Finance has traditionally been one of the most high-touch industries, and those who can stay ahead of the technology curve and provide new types of value-added services for their clients and their employer will be the winners,” D’Antonio said.
In the wealth management space in particular, high-value clients will always want a trusted financial adviser who can help them to leverage new robo-adviser offerings and other digital platforms while still providing a personal touch in managing their investments, he said.
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