The mobile mandate

As billions rely on devices to handle their money and customer and market demands burgeon, forward-thinking financial services companies need to focus on their mobile talent needs.

If financial services companies think it requires Herculean efforts to keep pace with the huge technological, organizational, and regulatory changes demanded by mobile consumers and markets today, they should brace themselves, experts say, because more sweeping advances are on the way.

The evidence abounds in trendy restaurants, packed doctor’s waiting rooms, and crowded airport concourses where everyone in sight seems to be using a smartphone. Today 87% of American adults have mobile phones, with 71% of them owning smartphones. Americans on average own four digital devices and spend 60 hours a week consuming content across those devices. And with more than half of smartphone users reporting that they tap with increasing frequency into mobile banking services, the looming questions for the financial services sector are whether they will recognize their need for elite talent and whether they will respond robustly so they flourish as their customers and markets undergo a dramatic digital transformation.

From a global perspective, the number of mobile banking users is expected to double to 1.8 billion over the next four years, representing more than a quarter of the world’s population. Whether in Tokyo or Topeka, customers and businesses grow more comfortable by the day with and reliant on mobile devices to conduct an array of financial transactions, including handling their checking and savings accounts, mortgages, and credit cards. They monitor their investments and trade stocks, bonds, and commodities while in a taxi or taking a lunch break. Mobile financial services have become so ubiquitous that they already represent the largest banking channel for the majority of banks by volume of transactions. But if financial services companies think it requires Herculean efforts to keep pace with the technological, organizational, and regulatory changes already demanded by mobile consumers and markets, they should brace themselves, experts say, because more sweeping advances already are on their way.

Mobile devices play an increasingly disruptive role for the sector’s major clients, including just about anyone with a product for sale. Consumers now tap mobile devices and apps for product information, comparative pricing, purchases, and especially payments; roughly a quarter of those responding to a recent survey said they paid for goods by mobile in the last year, and that number is growing. Some of the largest and most iconic financial services companies have watched warily as new competitors—including Apple Pay, Square, and Venmo—have raced to claim a share of the lucrative mobile payment market. Other powerhouses in the financial services sector are trying to figure how they can mine insights from their Big Data, the billions of bits of information that they routinely record, so they can better serve and engage with existing clients and build more business, especially in mobile. With their heavy fiduciary responsibilities, companies in the sector are laboring to safeguard their clients and themselves from criminal and malicious attacks through their mobile services; complying with an array of regulatory requirements isn’t making life easy for sector companies.

Financial services companies know they need to recognize what kind of messaging works well on mobile devices so they can provide customers with timely articles, educational materials, calculators, financial planning tools, and ads. How should they anticipate and adapt to new roles that mobile devices will play in an increasingly digitized world? How soon can they provide continuous and voice-authenticated financial transaction services for smartwatches? Can they offer a baby boomer a virtual-reality presentation on her smart glasses about her retirement, not only walking her through her portfolio but also showing her the home she’ll buy in a sunnier clime? When investors commute in autonomous vehicles and connect via smartphones, can financial services firms deliver to them a full-scale briefing on their stocks, bonds, and commodities? Can they answer the call when, through a smartphone and the Internet of Things, the Web-connected refrigerator orders the week’s groceries or the intelligent TV pays for a month of entertainment programming? Financial services companies already struggling with consumer demand via mobile should consider this: Some experts say the number of connected devices that will be a part of the Internet of Things by 2020 will be 30 billion, while others estimate it will be 50 billion, and some calculate it will run as high as 75 billion. “Banks must adapt or die,” wrote the authors of a recent study on British financial institutions’ response to the digital revolution. “Mobile banking is clearly supplanting all other channels as the main portal between the bank and the consumer,” they wrote. “Many banks have already risen to the challenge and invested in new infrastructure and pioneering initiatives, but others must follow suit and commit to building both immediate propositions and on-going capability to keep up with the pace of change.”

Savvy financial services companies know that talent will play a critical role in the mobile transformation, Korn Ferry research, experience, and market knowledge indicates. Companies need mobile talent in the C-suite that can, for example, stay atop technology as it shifts sharply; shape and execute not just tactical responses but a sound strategy that adapts to sudden change; and collaborate with others throughout the organization, including board members, the CEO, chief financial officers, and especially executives in charge of technology, cybersecurity, risk management, marketing, and communications. In financial services companies, with their long and understandable histories and cultures of risk aversion, regulation, and insularity, who can drive fast changes across organizations so they become as nimble and responsive as consumers and markets demand? As financial services companies consider their complex mobile demands, and especially the unique skills, experiences, capacities, and collaborative leadership they require, they may find they need to seek outside expertise like Korn Ferry’s, particularly to develop comprehensive solutions to recruit, develop, and retain elite talent.

Finding the right talent with leading-edge skills.

Companies struggle to find talent with the right leading-edge skills, competencies, experiences, traits, and drivers. Today, financial services organizations must take giant leaps forward in talent acquisition and development to thrive in a time of digital transformation. Korn Ferry has the deep experience in financial services and mobile to guide companies in their quest for market leadership. The Korn Ferry Assessment of Leadership Potential provides organizations with the ability to objectively and accurately identify people with high leadership potential. This easy-to-use, comprehensive assessment tool relies on research to determine and measure candidate potential for: learning agility, experience, self-awareness, leadership traits, leadership interest, capacity for problem-solving, and derailment risk. Learning agility is crucial to any job in a rapidly changing field or an area of the business in which the future is undefined or emerging. Korn Ferry research has shown that learning agility is a strong predictor of successful leadership. People who are learning-agile more readily absorb new skills, behaviors, and insights, and they carry those forward to perform successfully, especially in unfamiliar situations.

Finding talent with the right cultural fit.

After identifying talent that seems to possess the leading-edge skills and leadership experience or potential, organizations must ensure a cultural fit. Getting mobile right is one of the most important objectives for financial services companies today; in addition to finding the right talent with the right skills and capacities, financial services companies need to ensure that candidates can work effectively within the company culture. A chief reason leaders fail on the job is not because they lack skills but because of their poor behavioral or cultural fit with the organization. Korn Ferry research shows that 40% to 60% of executives fail and that up to half of new executives quit or are fired within the first 18 months at a new employer because of poor fit.

Korn Ferry’s four dimensions of leadership and talent.

Four dimensions govern human performance in the workplace: competencies, experiences, traits, and drivers (see Figure 1, KF4D). Korn Ferry research shows these four areas to be highly predictive of performance differences and correlated with all key talent variables, including engagement, retention, productivity, leadership effectiveness, and leadership potential.

Figure 1. KF4D

Korn Ferry’s executive search framework can help hiring teams clarify their understanding of how well a candidate fits with their organization. Underpinning this framework is Korn Ferry talent intelligence, which is built on more than 2.5 million assessments and profiles of seven million candidates.

The Four Dimensional Executive Assessment is an innovative tool built into the Korn Ferry search process, providing the most holistic perspective on the market today covering candidates’ competencies, personality traits, motivations, and experiences aligned to the role. The assessment captures, synthesizes, and visualizes unparalleled candidate insight and delivers it to the hiring team in real time on any computer or tablet. By partnering with Korn Ferry, financial services organizations have the ability to predict how well talent will perform and fit.

For financial services firms, insights about top candidates in mobile may prove decisive because of the demands these executives will encounter and potential differences in their backgrounds. Because the field is evolving so rapidly, candidates may not possess the years of corporate grounding common to many C-suite aspirants, directors, CEOs, and C-suite executives tell Korn Ferry. Some candidates may come from sectors far from financial services, and, especially as generational leadership shifts occur, prospective leaders in mobile may differ from their executive peers. Even with these differences, they must work fluidly in a new organization and be able to lead coolly and effectively. They need to be savvy about navigating in a new organization with new practices, policies, and procedures, not the least of which could be dealing with budgets and resource allocation. Resumes and even multiple interviews may not offer hiring teams a sufficient grasp of candidate potential. Evaluators may need the Korn Ferry tools and insights, which can provide CEOs, CHROs, board members, and other hiring managers the experience, metrics, reliable measures, and other data they need, no matter the level of position or the volume of staff needed.

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