Banking’s 2021 Outlook: Transformation and Resilience

When the pandemic forced the shutdown of businesses across much of the world, one of the sectors that adapted quickly was finance.

In a detailed forward-looking article, Deloitte applauded banking’s response calling it “notable… Banks effectively deployed technology and demonstrated unprecedented agility and resilience.” Looking ahead, the report says now is the time for the industry to institutionalize what it learned about engaging customers, digital transformation, finance and talent, among others.

While COVID impacted so many areas of the global economy and work, perhaps the most highly visible is in workforce management.

“Banking leaders around the world have faced an array of challenges on the talent front, from shifting to a remote, distributed workforce to finding ways to keep employees engaged and productivity high,” says the report written by two of Deloitte’s most senior leaders in its Banking & Capital Markets practice: Mark Shilling, a vice chairman, and Anna Celbner, vice chairman of Deloitte UK.

A majority of banks adopted flexible schedules and focused on employee safety and well-being. However, the economic fallout also led many to implement layoffs, furloughs and voluntary time off. Further “hard decisions on optimal talent models” may need to be made in 2021, the writers acknowledge.

But as uncertainties continue, “Bank leaders should continue to proactively recognize employee concerns, be sensitive to their personal/family needs, and prioritize physical and psychological health efforts that can also help maintain employee productivity.”

To improve retention and engage workers, especially the many that work, and may continue to work remotely, banks must “transform their talent strategies to enable employees to learn better, faster, and more frequently.”

Teaming needs to change to “facilitate flexible, self-organizing teams that come together for a common purpose,” the authors write. “Boosting productivity, creativity, and collaboration should be the ultimate goals.”

The lengthy report addresses multiple other areas of banking operations, suggesting how the industry can build on the lessons of the last year, as well as proposing ways to manage the uncertainties ahead. Resilience, a recurring theme throughout the article, is the overall message.

Acknowledging that, “Uncertainty about the effects of the pandemic will likely remain for the foreseeable future,” Shilling and Celbner, say “This should not prevent bank leaders from reimagining the future and making bold bets.

“They should institutionalize the lessons from the pandemic and build a new playbook by strengthening resilience now and accelerating the transformation in the post-pandemic world.”

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

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