Digital revolution hammers home IT's importance to Financial Services
The growing use of technology throughout the financial services sector is having a significant impact on the people that companies are looking to hire.
More consumers are using banking applications via their smartphones and tablets to access their accounts and banks are finding that fewer transactions are being completed in-branch.
A report published by the Netherlands-based National Forum on the Payment System at the start of 2014 showed that Dutch consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are finding digital payment solutions more convenient. A survey produced on the subject gave a score of 80 per cent for the availability of smartphone payment services.
The study also suggested that people are generally unconcerned about the growing number of branch closures across the country - there was an 18 per cent reduction between 2010 and 2013 - because they are comfortable using technology to keep their financial affairs in order.
Over the same three-year period monitored, the number of consumers living within five kilometres of their local branch declined, while SMEs noted a similar increase in the physical distance they must travel to their bank's office.
However, the necessity of banking in person has been dampened by the technological developments and just 44 per cent of the general public in the Netherlands said they had visited a bank in the three months prior to the survey being completed. Even then, the most frequently cited reason for going to the bank was simply to withdraw cash, followed by a visit relating to a matter that could not be settled via online or mobile banking.
While the emergence of digital payment systems has undoubtedly benefited consumers, there is added pressure on banks to stay up to date with the latest technological developments. This increasing reliance on technology has spilled over into other departments within the financial services industry. No longer the sole responsibility of it, other functions within the business, such as finance teams, now need people with a technical skill set to sit alongside skills associated with their discipline.
Why technical skills are in high demand
With the financial services industry evolving swiftly across Europe in recent years, it should perhaps come as no surprise to learn that skills shortages are causing major issues for around one-third of European organisations, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company.
In its 2014 Education to Employment report, the organisation found that the biggest problems have been noted in Italy and Greece, where 47 per cent and 45 per cent respectively of companies have struggled to locate skilled employees.
These nations are among those that were worst-hit by the global financial crisis of 2008 and are currently experiencing near-record levels of unemployment, yet are struggling to fill roles because of a skills shortage.
Mona Mourshed, director at McKinsey, said: "The debate in Europe has so far focused on there not being enough jobs. What our research shows is that jobs are a challenge, but there’s an equally large skills issue."
Can businesses find enough suitably talented candidates?
There has been a lot of debate surrounding skills shortages in the European IT sector in the past few years. The European Financial Services industry, with its heavy reliance on technology, is acutely affected.
The European Commission is concerned that youngsters are not developing digital skills that will benefit employers in the future and governments across the continent are attempting to address this problem by changing school IT curricula and encouraging businesses to have a greater influence in how university courses are designed.
Last year, the commission launched a "grand coalition" to address the skills shortage in evidence across the eurozone, with research indicating the number of so-called "digital jobs" available is expanding by around 100,000 per year. Roles in Banking and Financial Services are increasingly falling under this description, so these industries could stand to benefit more than most if the commission's efforts are successful.
With talent pools being so sparse, project workers who have a strong track record in IT and Financial Services are finding it much easier to secure highly-paid jobs.