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How the financial services industry should embrace next-gen learning to get ahead of digital disruption
By Tim Harnett
When ATMs were first introduced, many predicted the bank teller job would disappear, as transactional tasks could now be completed by machines. Yet between 1970 and 2010, the number of tellers increased — even as the number of ATMs grew. Tellers’ marketing and interpersonal skills became vital to the job, as tellers completed tasks that ATMs couldn’t.
The need for critical skills continues to challenge the financial services sector. As blockchain technology threatens to further automate transactions and processes, employee responsibilities will shift. With the ubiquity of smartphone apps that handle financial transactions automatically, organizations will need to develop their employees differently to effectively serve a more knowledgeable customer base.
“The effects of artificial intelligence augmenting what people do with technology, coupled with the speed of change are all challenges,” says Jeremy Auger, chief strategy officer for D2L Corporation. “In 5 years there will be new skills sets people will need, so addressing that skills shortage and supporting your organization are top priorities.”
Fintech can help remove inefficient business practices, but established organizations will need new learning methods to stay ahead of digital disruption and shifting customer loyalties. This is where next-gen learning platforms come in. Next-gen learning platforms feature adaptive learning paths, with video, micro- and social-learning tools that augment how people naturally learn.
Understand the challenges
Digital disruption from blockchain and other technologies permeates every industry and financial services are no different. Yet these challenges give financial services organizations the opportunity to reevaluate and retrain their workforce. “The pace of technological change is driving a skills explosion, with the shelf-life of many skills shortening,” Auger says. “At the same time, AI and other technologies are disrupting traditional skills and even jobs. Staying ahead of the curve on this disruptive force is critical to every business and every employee.”
Sarah Nicholl, director of customer success for D2L Corporation, agrees. “Next-gen learning platforms excel in their ability to generate and curate content. In the early days of online learning it took time to deploy a new initiative, and often learning priorities had shifted by the time the program was in place. But with next-gen learning platforms, you can develop and deploy content quickly. These agile learning platforms can adapt to how people learn and integrate feedback across the organization which helps build employee engagement.”
Recognize the need for development
More employees are concerned about their own development as they move through the job market. Organizations that respond to this need for development will have an edge in hiring top talent. “Some organizations are using preboarding, MOOCs or even philanthropy to attract this new generation of workers,” says Nicholl. “By using preboarding to train potential recruits, learning and development teams can impact recruiting and retention in ways they weren’t doing before.” With financial services unemployment hovering around 2.7 percent (far below the national average), organizations will need every tool at their disposal to attract and recruit top talent.
These days, all financial services employees need to be tech-savvy employees. As customer knowledge increases and new fintech models bring transactional processes direct to customers’ phones, organizations will need to upskill their current employees to prepare them for the digital disruption already happening in the industry. “Employees need to be better informed and able to answer deeper questions than before,” Nicholl says. “By reskilling employees, organizations can engage with customers at a very high level.”
Leveraging technology and employees’ familiarity with it will help with reskilling. “Recognize that many of your incoming workers are digital natives,” Nicholl says. “They’re very comfortable searching for a video or tutorial whenever they need information. By curating your content on a next-gen learning platform, you can push technology to any device and ensure your employees always have the right information available when they need it.”
All organizations in the financial services sector — from banks to investment firms — face immense disruption. While today’s workforce may call for new learning and development delivery methods, the competencies themselves won’t change. “The knowledge people will need for their jobs will be different, but the approach will be the same,” Nicholl says. “What problems are you trying to solve? Basic skills we’ve always needed will be more important going forward: employees will need critical thinking skills and a host of core competencies to respond to changing markets. Next-gen learning platforms give employees just-in-time resources to keep them engaged and relevant, which in turn translates to better organizational outcomes.”
D2L can help you execute a next-gen learning strategy. Read our ebook to learn how
 Bessen, J. (2015). Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages and Wealth. Yale University Press.
 Pethokoukis, J. (2016). “What the story of ATMs and bank tellers reveals about the ‘rise of the robots’ and jobs. AEI.
 BLS (2017). Industries at a Glance: Finance and Insurance: NAICS 52.