Julia Streets, CEO, Streets Consulting
Which came first, the buzzword or the bandwagon? I’ve always argued that fintech innovation was born in capital markets and it’s been a fascinating ten year ride watching new business models, markets and technologies challenge the financial markets. Under the ever-watchful eye of the regulators, each and every asset class has been challenged like never before.
As the technology has driven change, so too has the demand for data scientists and analysts, blockchain coders and programmers, not to mention cyber-security experts. Competition for technology talent has never been more fierce.
Industry conference floors used to be stalked by heads of trading and divisional heads; today they’re networking with senior tech execs in tow. New models of service continue to emerge. Extending beyond simply ‘software as a service’, these now stretch into ‘AI as a service’, ‘front-to-back platforms as a service’, and even ‘cyber as a service’; many functioning in the cloud as firms embrace the data processing performance that industry innovation now demands.
It is all about gaining that last mile, competitive edge. Business strategies, corporate alliances, embracing innovation and delivering highly effective transformational change as legacy is carefully and emphatically laid to rest.
Against this backdrop, the theme du jour turns to talent, recognising that high-performing teams make all the difference. Ask any agile tech team; the key to success is placing a variety of skills around a central problem in order to build, challenge, test and improve. If your people are too similar, the result will be biased and skewed. This is supported by so much evidence to prove that diversity ultimately delivers a better result.
I continuously hear about the industry’s relentless efforts to find and retain talent, particularly young rising employees, mindful that the firm just down the street, or corridor, is poised to poach. Read the Brexit headlines about the UK’s appeal as a place to work and we must also ask ourselves whether the financial services industry appeals to the much-needed talent, or is it being lured by overtures from other sectors or put off by its entrenched culture and working structures.
I believe that diversity and inclusion can deliver the talented, high-performing teams that the financial services industry needs. And I’m not simply talking about gender. This also includes age. What about ethnic minorities, LGBT talent and disabled talent?
This autumn marks another anniversary, the first anniversary of DiverCity Podcast, talking diversity and inclusion in financial services. In each episode we shine a light on positive areas of progress, call out areas requiring further focus and offer plenty of ideas designed to help drive change. We have interviewed many of the most senior industry leaders to explore how they encourage greater diversity into the industry, each keen to gain a competitive edge.
Looking ahead to the next ten years, I strongly believe organisations destined for greatness will reconsider their organisational structures and cultures. It takes courage to take a long, hard and challenging look, and it is encouraging to see many on this road, mindful that their ability to attract, hire and retain talent will ultimately deliver that necessary competitive edge.