7 Strategies to Futureproof L&D in the Financial Services Industry

The financial services industry is usually in constant training mode. Such areas as customer service and compliance are areas in which firms in banking, insurance, securities, asset management, and even newer technology-first companies like fintechs and neo-banks struggle to keep up in providing up-to-the-minute learning materials for their employees.

Financial services, like other, larger industries that aim to meet the customer wherever they choose to do business, must train employees located physically at a branch in addition to those in contact centers or those working in hybrid work environments. 

The good news is that resources abound for today’s financial services organizations that once developed and implemented, can turn L&D into a strategic imperative that can deliver true impact and position the firm for success ahead of its peers.

Challenges of developing and delivering L&D programs in the financial services industry

The financial services industry faces some unique challenges in the L&D lifecycle. Understanding, addressing, and anticipating these during the various stages of learning content development can ensure smoother processes and stronger effectiveness.

1. A highly regulated industry

Globally, financial services is a highly regulated industry. To complicate matters, laws and policies vary from region to region and can fluctuate based on the particular political climate.

Keeping up with shifting regulations means that developing and delivering compliance training to employees is often challenging. Unfortunately, compliance training is often ineligible to be delivered across multiple regions and is also at the risk of obsolescence rather quickly. 

2. A matrixed, hybrid workforce

Financial services is not the only industry having to rapidly adjust to hybrid and remote workplaces, but there are additional challenges. Training large, geographically dispersed teams is something the industry has had to manage for quite some time, but during the pandemic, many customer service and back-office roles went remote. 

Delivering training quickly to teams that had been accustomed to large-group, in-office settings continues to require great effort.

3. High attrition rates

With the need to recruit, train, and retain employees for work in a highly specialized industry, attrition can often be painful for financial services organizations, as trained employees leave and firms need to train new people all over again.

While the turnover rate at financial institutions for non-officer roles dropped to 19.8% in 2023, lower than that of pre-pandemic levels, turnover is still a concern, according to research compiled by accounting and consulting firm Crowe.

“If financial institutions could start to focus on career-development plans for their employees, maybe it would help with turnover, especially since that’s the No. 1 reason employees are leaving,” says Stephanie White, a senior manager at Crowe.

4. Sophisticated, demanding customers 

Financial transactions, even seemingly simple ones such as payments or remittances, can often be complex, considering all that goes on behind the scenes. 

Further, customers might experience difficulty accessing their funds or understanding their accounts, and frontline employees need the tools and resources to address these issues immediately. Training employees on transactions that grow in volume and complexity continues to be a burden for many firms in the industry.

5. Cost and immediate ROI

Banks and financial institutions are currently facing a difficult time. Rising interest rates are creating uncertainty across the industry, which could affect profitability when consumers and businesses hesitate to borrow.

Indeed, increasing profitability was cited as the top business goal of employee development, according to the OnCourse Learning 2024 State of Learning & Development in Financial Services report. Sixty-one percent of respondents cited increased profitability as the goal of learning programs, followed by increasing the number of customers (53%)  and increasing customer satisfaction (47%).

With profitability at risk, banks are looking more closely at every dollar they invest in operations, which includes their people, potentially adversely affecting spending on L&D programs.

7 strategies to futureproof L&D in the financial services industry

Nonetheless, despite headwinds, the financial services industry can consider several strategies to increase revenue, protect the firm’s assets, bolster customer satisfaction, and derive greater ROI. 

1. Focus on the most business-critical areas

It might be difficult for a financial services company to pinpoint the single most critical area for which to develop employee training. Compliance was cited above, as there are real risks—and costs—of employees, for example, not following a procedure and the firm needing to pay fines. 

However, the firm might have also recently suffered a security breach, thereby making IT security training an area that the firm might find itself needing to develop and launch immediately. Without immediate attention to helping employees identify and thwart potential cyber threats, the firm’s data—as well as that of its customers—remain at risk.

2. Offer specialized, never-before-seen training

Financial services companies, especially younger fintechs and neobanks, strive to offer new experiences. Of course, these new experiences also require new types of training—which could set the firm apart from its competitors.

For example, despite consumer preferences to conduct transactions via mobile devices, customer service via chat windows still has the opportunity to delight. Offering unique text-based customer service can demonstrate industry leadership, but does require unique training.

3. Work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Who better to understand the inner workings of a product, service, process—or the industry as a whole—than those working inside the organization?

Sourcing SMEs and engaging them to assist with the development of training content can set the company apart. Employees benefit from the rich, deep experience of select employees, ensuring that other employees can benefit from such knowledge.

4. Encapsulate knowledge from the industry at large

On the flip side, financial services firms can also benefit from incorporating external learning, including content surrounding competitors, government regulation, technologies, consumer behavior, and the like. 

In this way, employees—and by extension, the firm as a whole—can stay on their toes and prevent becoming siloed. This learning can be captured from external sources and incorporated into internal training, or L&D can select pre-packaged off-the-shelf training currently in use by companies in the industry. 

Examples of this could be training offered by trade associations or popular courses offered by learning aggregators.

5. Offer continuous, technology-first learning “in the flow of work”

Banks, insurers, trading platforms, and others are no strangers to investing in technology for their operations and customer-facing channels. As such, they should leverage and align those same efforts for training employees. 

As teams and individuals become resource-constrained, and with the need to learn in the moment, L&D has an opportunity to provide on-target, short-form, easy-to-digest learning that’s user-friendly, delivered seamlessly, and easily adaptable. 

Human resources consultant Josh Bersin calls this strategy “learning in the flow of work”: delivering micro-learning as needed, so as not to disrupt or distract the employee’s ability to complete tasks.

6. Continuously review, assess, and refresh training content

We’ve written before on the importance of assessments, and in financial services, it’s more critical than ever. With the risk of skills obsolescence, staying on top of new compliance laws, and a brutally competitive business environment, banks and other financial institutions cannot afford to lean on content that provides no value or worse, instructs with outdated information.

Of course, some firms invest more than others. Trailblazer banks (those who are far ahead of their peers) invest heavily in skills development, agile work methodologies, design thinking, and iterative design. They have 1.3x more people in IT operations, 3.7x fewer people in middle/back-office and front-line service roles, and 2.3x people in transformation roles than their lower-performing counterparts, finds Bersin.

7. Operationalize learning

Learning leaders have begun to understand the need to unite disparate processes, uncover valuable data, and take a bigger-picture view of all operations that go into learning. A newer methodology gaining, momentum, learning operations, or simply LearnOps, unites team members from the learning function, with those in the business, including operations, finance, and IT. 

LearnOps is about unlocking operational inefficiencies across people, processes, and technology to produce better outcomes. LearnOps enables the training function to move from cost center to performance driver, leaning on data to track learning measurement and tie results back to business performance.

Some benefits of LearnOps include the following:

  • Reducing friction among project stakeholders
  • Clearer visibility into resource leaks—i.e., time and budget—to reduce strain
  • Ensuring that L&D’s objectives are more closely aligned with those of the business units and of the organization as a whole
  • Improved learner experiences and outcomes 

Putting everything together for impact

With unified learning operations or LearnOps in place, data, analytics, and insights are accessible to all who touch the learning function—from designers to subject matter experts to managers and business unit leaders. In this way, there can be mutual agreement on measurement and KPIs so that impact can be measured more intuitively and comprehensively, and stronger, more effective decisions can be made. 

As the first and only operations platform built specifically for L&D teams, Cognota’s LearnOps platform brings the entire learning workflow into one platform. In addition to saving time and realizing cost efficiencies, learning leaders get auto-generated insights into the performance of their teams and the learning needs of their entire organization. 

“Nothing was connected. Reporting was in silos. Our number one goal was to have one central repository for the intake, the scheduling, skills, assignments, project management, and the status of all work coming into our team to support our business,” explains Krista Sim of financial planning company Sun Life, “We needed a central process and location for our work where everyone could connect and come to and have a one-stop shop for intake, scheduling, project management. The capacity piece is really, really amazing.”

By leveraging a LearnOps platform, organizations can access diverse tools and methodologies to tackle today’s complex challenges. 

Get started with a free LearnOps consultation. Book a demo today!

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7 Strategies to Futureproof L&D in the Financial Services Industry