How can the financial and professional services sector establish a culture of learning to compete with digital disruptors?

In our final insights report following Learning Technologies 2022, we turn our attention to the world of finance and professional services. Following a decade of expansion since the 2008 crash, the industry is feeling the pressure from digital disruptors.

Setting the scene.

When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, the global financial sector was undergoing a major transformation. Digital disruptors had already entered the marketplace, automation was reducing the number of high-street bank branches, and a technological revolution was underway to speed up processes in middle and back offices.

With COVID-19 catalysing further changes, global players in finance and professional services need to invest in digital skills, build more diverse teams, support the transition to hybrid work, and update outdated methods of delivering compliance learning. However, given the sector’s focus on short-term financial targets, L&D practitioners face a challenge as investing in talent may not generate a return for several years.

That said, it is essential that a reassessment of L&D within the financial and professional services sector takes place. Without it, large-scale organisations will be unable to keep up with new agile players. It is up to L&D practitioners to persuade key decision makers within the sector that L&D should not be viewed as a siloed department, and that learning means much more than understanding ‘best practice’ and complying with the latest regulations.

Across the following three insights, gathered from critical conversations at Learning Technologies 2022, we assess how L&D can help the financial and professional services sector by supporting hybrid work, creating a culture of compliance, and upskilling and retaining talent.

These insights are summarised in the following blog and explored in more detail in the downloadable insights report, below.



For a deeper analysis of the insights we discuss, take a look at our fifth industry-specific report.

In this report, we will cover:

  • An analysis of the top 3 L&D insights for the financial and professional services sector.
  • Key considerations when addressing these priority areas.
  • How to set your digital learning up for success.

Download report

L&D Insights for The Financial and Professional Services Sector 2022

Insight One: High-impact learning is essential for supporting a hybrid and diverse workforce.

Ever since COVID-19 forced the adoption of hybrid work, a debate has been raging across financial and professional services. Naturally, many within large-scale corporations are concerned about such a radical shake-up of working practices. However, the data suggests that employees are demanding change. According to a survey by Accenture, 69% of sector employees would prefer to work two days a week or less in the office.

By 2022, however, there is a sense that despite the views of many at the top, hybrid work is set to stay in the sector. This is because WFH has become an important issue for many employees. Plus, with the threat of losing skilled workers to neobanks, big players in the sector need to do all they can to retain talent.

Against this backdrop, learning can play a major role in easing the transition to hybrid work. L&D practitioners can develop and deploy resources on virtual meetings, remote onboarding, managing remote teams, and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of remote workers. Alongside this practical support, L&D practitioners must help to update financial or professional services organisations’ compliance offering, to ensure that regulations continue to be abided by in a remote environment.

Insight Two: Reduce the reliance on 'tick-box' compliance training to improve your learning culture and engage your workforce.

L&D departments are already well established in many financial and professional services organisations. Therefore, the challenge within the industry is not to create opportunities for learning, but to ensure that learning is fully optimised.

To do this, organisations must look beyond traditional training. Rather than ‘one and done’ tick-box compliance training, a thorough programme of email nudges, refresher courses, and different types of training can be deployed throughout the year.

As a 2021 report noted, most training within the financial sector is ‘inadequate’.  A lot of learning is still focused on classroom-based activities, digital skill investments are spread unevenly across teams, and organisations are unable to respond to new challenges with new learning with the agility and vigour of digital disruptors.

L&D practitioners must lead the charge by creating a ‘joined up’ learning offering that makes use of the full range of learning modes, including in-person, digital, blended, mobile, social, and micro-learning. Having partnered with several large-scale financial and professional services organisations, Sponge specialises in tailoring a range of content options to meet learners’ needs.

Insight Three: Upskilling will not only help with talent retention, it may also reduce the threat from digital disruptors.

According to research by Gartner, 69% of boards of directors believe the pandemic has accelerated digital business initiatives. The automation of processes, and the impact of digital disruptors, have catalysed a range of technological changes that L&D must respond to.

L&D is needed now more than ever. However, traditionally, there has been a reluctance in the sector to embrace training beyond simple compliance learning. For example, the UK finance industry spends less per head on training than either hospitality or construction.

Practitioners must demonstrate the range of options at their disposal for updating employees with the latest digital skills. These include reskilling, upskilling, and redeployment (assigning an employee to a new task).

At Sponge, we invest time and effort into understanding skill gaps on a macro and micro level. In addition to sector-wide knowledge and specific use cases, our LEXCs (Learning Experience Consultants) work carefully to understand the bespoke needs of an organisation. We work to future-proof organisations, using data to plug current skill gaps and to course adjust when new ones emerge.

How can Sponge help?

With over ten years’ experience delivering quality learning programmes to large finance and professional services organisations, Sponge has a proven track record of developing a range of solutions for the industry. As thought leaders, we take it upon ourselves to follow sector developments and work consultatively with organisations to deploy a range of bespoke, off-the-shelf, and data-focused solutions to meet bespoke needs.

Author: Beth Chudley, Learning Experience Consultant, Sponge


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