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CEO blog – Skills and talent in financial services – the impact of the pandemic

Claire Tunley, our CEO, writes about the impact that the pandemic has had on how people in Financial Services want to work and the new skills they need.

26 March 2021

Our people are our most important asset.  Financial services relies on highly-skilled talent to innovate, adapt and succeed.  This reliance is only growing at a time when the sector is facing increased disruption from megatrends such as new technology, reliance on data, globalisation and changing workforce demographics.

Firms are struggling to recruit the skills they need and are facing stiff competition for technological skills across the whole economy.  As existing job roles within the industry evolve, firms are retraining their existing staff and broadening the talent pools they recruit from.

In some ways, Covid-19 has shifted the way our sector operates more quickly than any other disruptor.  The rapid change to ways of working put a heavy reliance on technology and interpersonal skills operating via virtual platforms.  The changes made by employers during this time are now having a profound long-term impact on how we work.

While the sector adapted quickly to remote working –  78 per cent of workers were able to do their job from home[1] with relatively little disruption –  the pandemic has changed the desires and aspirations of our workers around how they want to work. In 2019, most financial services workers were in the office five days a week, and one in five felt nervous requesting home working days or flexible hours[2]. Forced to work remotely for a year, half of workers want to retain this flexibility permanently, working from home at least one day a week.

However, financial services firms continue to experience skills gaps, and investment in learning and development is not keeping pace with the evolving skills needs of the sector.

Government research shows financial services have one of the lowest rates of investment in employee learning and development[3] and skills needs are not static. Meanwhile our research shows that the pandemic has increased skills needs in a number of areas.

We surveyed financial services workers to assess how the skills they require for their roles are changing. Of those surveyed, 30 per cent said they needed more digital/tech expertise, 28 per cent needed a better understanding of the mental and physical health of their staff and customers, 21 per cent required different management and leadership skills, and 36 per cent wanted a better understanding of work-life balance. These training needs, coupled with existing skills deficiencies around complex analytical skills (57%), lack of specific technical skills and lack of operational skills[4], means the case for investing in reskilling and upskilling is stronger than ever.

However, the scale of the challenge means that these issues cannot be addressed by individual firms alone, they require a sector-wide response.  At the Financial Services Skills Commission, we are focused on supporting financial services firms to access, develop and retain the talent and skills they need. The Commission was set up in 2020 to foster collaboration and joint work, providing practical solutions for firms.  Our members employ over a quarter of the UK financial services workforce and include firms from banking, insurance, asset management and fintech as well as Chartered Professional bodies and industry bodies such as the FCA and Banking Standards Board.  With our members we are working to overcome skills gaps and increase the recruitment and retention of a more diverse workforce.


[1] Financial Services Skills Commission & KPMG ‘The future of work, lessons from the pandemic’ (2020)

[3] Employer Skills Survey (2017)