The world of financial services is changing at a rapid pace as digital technology transforms the way that people work. Over this series of blog posts, I’ll be drawing on research that the Accenture Institute for High Performance conducted with senior executives across industries to look at what this means for financial services leaders. 

Traditional banks and insurers are coming under growing pressure to evolve into multichannel organizations, underpinned by robust capabilities in advanced analytics, data management and personalization if they are to remain relevant in a competitive market.

Most have launched initiatives to use digital technologies to automate their business processes and deliver more personalized experiences to customers. With the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and the blockchain promising to bring even more disruption, insurers and banks will continue to see their assumptions—from operations to strategy—constantly challenged well into the future.

So, what does this mean for the people who lead the organization? They will still have people to guide, organize and reward—surely many principles of leadership remain consistent even in the digital era? While it’s true that some aspects of leadership will indeed be the same in the digital enterprise, banks and insurers can expect the roles of leaders to change in some dramatic ways over the next three to five years.

As one example, we’re steadily seeing the rise of virtual teams within leading financial services groups. People may work together using voice, video and collaboration tools such Microsoft Teams or Slack, yet seldom or never meet each directly in an office. Teams could increasingly comprise a mix of transient and permanent labor brought together to work on specific projects and programs, and then disbanded when their role is complete.

They may include a broad spread of full-time employees, freelancers, contractors and crowdsourced workers all working towards a shared end. And smart machines will become so integrated into the digital workplace that distinctions between human and machine intelligence may no longer be obvious.

For the financial services industry, these changes bring both opportunity and challenge. The sector has traditionally employed large numbers of people to provide service and advice to customers and sell its products. Most banks and insurers continue to manage their workforces in a hierarchical way and divide labor into process and product siloes.

And because they operate in highly regulated sector, they are also averse to risk, slowing down the pace of change and innovation. Yet as digital and non-traditional competitors eye their markets, financial services companies need to change. To remain competitive into the future, they will require a very different kind of leader. In my next post, I’ll look at trends that are redefining leadership in financial services.

To find out more, read Leading the digital enterprise

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