The stupid questions are the best ones

Employers look for employees who can be part of interdisciplinary teams. With artificial intelligence automating many financial positions, you have to be empathetic and inquisitive. Your financial skills have to work together with your personal skills," says consultant Hanne Shapiro

By Carsten Rasmussen / Illustration: Mikkel Henssel

Are you empathetic and can give feedback? Then you might have a very strong card in your hand in the financial sector.

But the truth is that we don't know for sure what skills we will need in our professional life. But we can see trends. We can study the companies that are at the forefront and this is what consultant Hanne Shapiro has done together with Finansforbundet.

"The companies we've spoken with introduce digitisation, because they want to be customer-focused. They're looking from the outside in and they're cooperating more with the customer and not just coming out with pre-made solutions," says Hanne Shapiro, who points to the agile working method that more and more companies are taking up:

"This doesn't mean that professionalism is disappearing, but you have to be inquisitive and put yourself into what your colleagues are doing and translate it into solutions."

Your T profile

The financial employees of the future are best described as a T profile. A profile that possesses interdisciplinary communicative and personal skills. The top bar of the T represents communication, curiosity, forming relationships and empathy. But an employee is also someone who has deep financial skills, because you have to actually solve the problem somehow.

"It might be that you want to have knowledge about artificial intelligence systems, but you don't need to be able to program," Hanne Shapiro emphasises. Artificial intelligence is superior to human intelligence in raw computational power, but not in higher cognitive abilities.

Learning environment

It is pointed out many times in the report on the future financial labour market that classic professionalism is no longer enough. We are at a fundamental shift in how we think about learning and how we develop personal and social skills.

"The learning environment is expanding right now. You don't just learn by making progress along a course, which has been a trend to consider in all professional areas."

Learning is moving a lot more into the workplace and this is actually a global trend, which also means that managers have a huge responsibility," says Hanne Shapiro. As power hierarchies disappear because of these agile methods, companies must be supportive and make sure employees are developing.

Employees have to take responsibility themselves, because no one is coming to say what the next step is.

"If you are used to a very hierarchical organisation and are perhaps very dutiful, you might be cheating yourself," explains Hanne Shapiro, who worries about that part of the process of change. You have to try business models in the sector with a more experimental culture, where things can go wrong or get stuck, where they can ask each other stupid questions - that's probably the best.

The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), which Hanne Shapiro has thoroughly studied, worked with the idea development process hackathon during their transformation, where they put employees together on authentic problems from the company's daily operations. The method is to investigate problems from many angles before formulating solutions.

You have to practice

Even if no one has a clear picture of how our jobs will end up looking, we can train our brains for the journey, Hanne Shapiro reassures us:

"If you are someone who is not particularly good at receiving feedback when working in a group context, you might have to try to restrain yourself, even if this can be transgressive, both for the person giving feedback and the person receiving it. A prerequisite is that the management is aware of how we talk to each other and how we give feedback. You have to practice."

Some social and personal skills can be supported by courses in communication psychology and appreciative communication. You can use NLP and mindfulness. You can find an online programme with some of the best professors in areas where Danish educational institutions don't have anything that targets financial employees.

"All the companies we have visited say the same thing: We don't really use standard courses anymore, because we have to get closer to the actual business," says Hanne Shapiro.

Empathy for the customer

With the change in business focus, the relationship with the customer is becoming more dependent on empathy and understanding the customer's needs. In Hanne Shapiro's view, digitisation doesn't mean that employees have to be cut back. They should be used to providing better service and stand out against the competition.

"Everything about relationships and empathy can be used professionally, even in a call centre, where the issue of social relationships is also becoming more complex, because you are working as an adviser in a more digital world. But you can practice forming relationships even though there's a screen and many hundreds of kilometres between the adviser and the customer."

The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) has used digitisation to become a relationship bank, both in terms of customers and society, says Hanne Shapiro:

"The bank has gone through a digital conversion in a very short time without firing a single employee. Everyone can be developed, everyone can develop. Their entire banking business rests on a deep social and societal commitment, which they actually make money from, and the bank places requirements for ethical behaviour on the companies they bring into their ecosystem."



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