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Here's why Nick Pollard, MD, APAC, CFA Institute, says T-shaped teams are the most effective organisational structure for financial institutions, when it comes to helping talent develop in-demand skills.

Rapid technological advancement and the ever-changing business environment have very much changed the shape of careers in the financial services industry. More investment professionals are prompted to build new skills to adapt to the whirlwind of changes. 

To understand the skills and learning equation for building financial expertise in today’s world, CFA Institute released The Future of Work in Investment Management: The Future of Skills and Learning. The report is the fourth part of the Future of Work research series that collected quantitative data from more than 11,000 investment professionals globally.

An unsurprising finding is the rising demand for sustainability experts amid the roaring wave of ESG development. About three in four (73%) investment professionals in Hong Kong expect sustainability ratings to be a more important source of information in their investment decision-making and 85% of them see sustainability issues as a key skill area to pursue. 

On the other hand, the accelerating pace of financial digitalisation has made technological and data skills critical for the professionals’ work. 

Specifically, 74% of investment professionals in Asia Pacific mentioned artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as highly demanded skills while 70% expressed that they are keen to develop skills in data analysis coding languages.

While non-traditional skills have gained more momentum, traditional technical skills in finance must not be overlooked. Technical skills such as risk analytics need to be combined with skills from non-financial disciplines to form T-shaped skills. Talent equipped with T-shaped skills will have in-depth knowledge in a single domain and wider knowledge in various other fields to help bridge the knowledge gap between different specialties. For example, ESG experts who also have wider knowledge in asset allocation are in high demand as they are able to connect sustainability perspectives with investment strategies. 

Besides, having T-shaped skills also means being systems savvy, understanding larger organisational contexts, having situational fluency, and being able to cultivate a valuable network of contacts. The combination of specialist skills, generalist skills, and soft skills make T-shaped talent the most valuable to employers.

Currently, talent equipped with the aforementioned and highly demanded skills is in great shortage. CFA Institute’s report shows that, globally, the gaps between the demand for learning and the supply of talent are the largest in AI, machine learning and sustainability. 48% of global respondents aspire to acquire AI and machine learning skills but only 16% are doing so, mainly because these skills are less adjacent to their current knowledge base. Besides, less than half of the respondents said their company provides support to develop new skills. 

Therefore, employers need to invest more purposefully in talent development programmes such as working with external organisations to provide professional trainings that answer the skill demand of the changing market landscape. In terms of talent sourcing, employers should also expand candidate pools beyond finance-only backgrounds and focus more on the transferability of skills.

Additionally, building an effective team structure can also bridge the talent gap. Employers can build a T-shaped team comprised of talents with different areas of expertise, such as investment specialists, data science specialists, ESG specialists, etc. 

In fact, T-shaped teams are the most effective organisational structure for financial institutions which embrace AI and big data, since data science and investment are two very distinct disciplines.

For employees, knowing what the market needs is essential to build a competitive edge and benefit from the talent war. People who are looking for a role in the investment industry and people wishing to advance their career trajectory can refer to 'The CFA Institute Career Skills Framework'. 

Effective and continuous talent development is essential for investment professionals and the industry as a whole to remain relevant amid ongoing changes. Industry leaders and employers must recognise the value of continuous investment in human capital and its impact on raising standards for a more effective and adaptable investment industry, and hence for the ultimate benefit of society. Collaboration between investment professionals and HR leaders should also be increased in order to develop a mutual understanding of the skills and learning required for the future development of the investment industry.


Image / Provided [Author Nick Pollard, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, CFA Institute]

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