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How to stop your job from becoming redundant – top bankers share their tips

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Life-time leaning: Bankers say finance workers of the future will have to continually study throughout their careers. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Upskilling. Continuous learning. In-work training.

Whatever you call it, top bankers agree that finance workers will have to keep learning across their careers if they want to stay relevant — and keep their jobs — in a fast-changing industry.

I think one of increasing skill sets of the future is your ability to learn because the hard skill set that you learn today very quickly becomes out of date in three or four years time,” Peter O’Hanlon, Lloyds Bank’s (LLOY.L) head of group corporate treasury technology, said at a conference on Tuesday.

O’Hanlon appeared on a panel about how people can “future proof” their careers at the FintechTalents Festival in London. Across the two-day conference, the topic came up repeatedly.

Like other industries, finance is reckoning with big changes brought about by technology. Concepts such as blockchain and peer-to-peer lending that didn’t exist a decade ago are now being discussed all the way up to board level. Fast-growing fintech startups are pushing sleepy institutions to innovate in everything from credit scoring to how they talk to customers. And emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biometrics promise to only add to complexities.

The people who can keep themselves relevant over a 10, 20, 30, 40-year career, they are going to be the people who are able to adapt — flexibility, ability to learn,” O’Hanlon said.

The implication is that those who can’t keep learning throughout their careers could face the chop as their skills become redundant.

“If you don’t show that curiosity to learn for yourself, you can’t expect people to push it towards you,” O’Hanlon said. “You need to show your own curiosity, your own ability to learn.”

He’s not alone in thinking this. Suren Siva, Credit Suisse’s (CS) director of strategy and innovation, appeared alongside O’Hanlon and said: “For staff, it’s about being proactive — gaining the right skills, gaining the relevant skills and keep upskilling because you will become out of date. This is a very fast moving area.”

The World Economic Forum estimates as many as 65% of children in school today will end up working in jobs that don’t exist today. It’s no surprise that people across industry are emphasising the ability to learn and learn quickly when it comes to employability.

Appearing a day earlier at the same conference, Societe Generale’s (SGE.SE) chief innovation officer Claire Calmejane said the most important skill for finance employees now is “learning to learn all your life.”

“The question is not going to be about your job title, it’s going to be how much are you going to change the behaviour and your mindset, how much are you going to learn to learn,” Calmejane said.

“What we can see everywhere is it’s not so much about the technology, it’s really about the cultural change of these organisations. The question is more: how do I generate this internal agility? How do I have the running shoes? We are less sure about what is the destination but what we are sure about is we need to evolve as an organisation.”

Calmejane and others emphasised the role of companies in helping to re-skill employees and teach bankers to be agile. After all, it’s a tough ask to get finance employees who have spent their lives in highly hierarchical, siloed companies to suddenly become flexible lifetime learners.

Diana Briggs, HSBC’s (HSBA.L) head of digital innovation, said: “I think what’s really important is this upskilling and retraining of existing employees and how we help to make sure that everyone can continue into that future.”

Credit Suisse’s Siva also struck an upbeat tonne at the end of his panel: “The upside is it’s a really exciting corporate landscape.”