As the financial services industry copes up with the tech revolution it went through in the last couple of years, both the business and the talent priorities of various companies have also changed manifold.
Douglas Foley, Sr VP, HR & Administration, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) discussed how the tech revolution has impacted the talent priorities in the financial services industry. He along with Kiranmai Pendyala, Head of Human Resources and Site Administration India, ICE, highlighted top skills and competencies the business requires and shared how they nurture them among their employees. They also shared some of the HR focus areas for ICE in the coming year.
Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and blockchain are expected to take the financial services industry to the next level. How do you think tech has revolutionized the industry?
Douglas: From analog to digital, we have come a long way and hence, ICE has also been through immense transformation. Technology has enabled us to replace inefficient infrastructures.
Technology can be deployed to better connect, to create a more efficient marketplace, and to better connect market participants.
How has this tech revolution impacted the talent priorities in the financial services industry?
Douglas: From us, from a global perspective, the biggest challenge has of course been, the dearth of tech talent available to help meet our business needs.
In many instances we know how to solve the problem, but the skills required for that are not available at the right time. Our biggest challenge has therefore been, finding the right tech talent at the right place at the right time.
Among the markets we operate in, certainly, the US is where we are struggling the most in finding the right skills we need. More recently, the challenge has aggravated in that region because of a combination of immigration policies and the lack of talent in STEM degrees.
Kiranmai: Surely, the nature of jobs is changing and so is the demand for skills. Hence, what the industry across the globe is facing is a shortage of skill and not talent. There are enough people out there, however, they are either not ready for the job or for the industry. In India, especially, we have the demographic dividend in our favor. But there is a huge gap in skills from a demand and supply perspective. So, now the most important question for us to address is: How do we hone this talent? The top talent priority is, therefore, to do a skills diagnostic. Identify the industry-relevant skills and dialogue and interface with the schools and universities to help them redesign the curriculum and ensure more job-ready workforce.
Even for business, it is important to invest in the talent’s learning and development. Unless you don’t quickly upgrade yourself, you can’t progress. For industry, it is the need of the hour. Upskill or perish!
The only mantra for everyone to cope with are the challenges of today and the future is “continuous learning”-be it organizations or individuals.
The nature of jobs is changing and so is the demand for skills. Hence, what the industry across the globe is facing is shortage of skill and not talent. There are enough people out there, however, they are either not ready for the job or for the industry
To discuss this year in particular, what were some of the top skills in demand for you?
Douglas: Firstly, when we talk about the top skills our business needs, we focus on both the technical skills and behavioral competencies, which otherwise often gets ignored. For ICE, competencies like collaboration, communication, and problem solving are top priorities.
Being a tech-driven company, our business challenges also require the talent to have digital skills. The demand for AI and ML skills are surely in demand, similar to the industry trend.
Kiranmai: Some of the best-known companies which have lasted and made strides ahead even amid uncertainty and in this VUCA world we live in, are the ones who have always found to unknot a problem. Surely, the nature of jobs will change and so will the demand for skills. There is a huge demand for people with digital skills. But even that is not sufficient if those skills are not combined with competencies like problem solving and collaboration.
We are on the lookout for people who think digitally, love to solve complex problems and simplify tasks and processes.
Amid talent crunch, how do you ensure that you have the right skills and capabilities the business needs? How do you nurture competencies like collaboration, communication, and problem-solving?
Douglas: To begin with, we try to embody all these competencies from the top. These values are both preached and practiced by the leaders starting from the CEO himself. Besides regularly communicating and highlighting these values through communication tools and on the intranet, we often have one on one interventions if the need arises. Through individual coaching, we are able to make the employees see how they could have approached a situation differently.
Then, of course, we do all the basic things to empower our employees, from paying them well to investing in their learning and development. But one thing we do differently to nurture our employees’ growth is we stay out of their way.
One thing we do differently to nurture our employees’ growth is we stay out of their way. We give the development team the most complex business problems to solve along with the resources, the latest and greatest tools they would require to solve them. Then we ensure that there is no bureaucracy or barriers delaying their decision-making process. We try to give them a lot of space to practice, experiment, fail, learn and innovate. We do have a set of guidelines, but we don’t indulge in and encourage unnecessary oversite.
What are some key trends that you think will shape the talent decisions of most companies in your sector in 2020? How is Intercontinental Exchange preparing for these trends?
Douglas: As different companies are on their own journey, for ICE one of the trends I really look forward to in 2020 is deployment of AI & ML. We are heavily investing in it now and testing certain use cases now. With the aim of creating electronic and transparent financial markets, we have also made a great investment in cryptocurrency and digital assets. What’s there to look forward to next year is how the trend of digital assets grows and whether or not mainstream moves towards them. With the business undergoing such a tech revolution, going digital will be a top priority for HR as well. While we have not gone deep down in adopting AI and ML for talent management, we are surely on the journey of automation. Currently, we are stitching together the current systems used by various teams and ensuring those systems and teams work together to simplify and synergize all efforts towards scaling our business and growth.
Exploring how AI and ML can be used, restructuring HR processes and workflows will be our top priorities in 2020.
Kiranmai: As ICE has just forayed into the Indian market, sourcing and nurturing talent are definitely key priorities for us. While we have already gamified our recruitment process to some extent, in India, the HR team’s priority will be on gamification for both sourcing and onboarding. I would look at introducing hackathons for complex problem solving both as a campus hiring strategy as well as an open-sourcing strategy. These hackathons will also enable us to set the expectations for the talent so that there are no surprises later. With most of the workforce in India being ‘Millennial’, our focus is on creating and communicating the culture they resonate with. As per the latest researches, they like to be challenged and are driven by a purpose to solve problems.
2020 for me is, hence, about creating the campus hiring strategy and strategy blueprint for talent sourcing with a focus on gamification and hackathons. Through gamification of these processes, we aim to source the right talent, groom them and nurture them to help them become competent, confident and committed.