Spotlight on finance – the state of play for learning technologies

by | Aug 9, 2013 | Articles

The financial services industry has had a tumultuous recent history, as none of us need to be reminded. The explosive nature of the banking crisis in late 2008 reverberated throughout the sector and its repercussions will no doubt be felt for years to come.

So it was with considerable curiosity that I read Towards Maturity’s ‘Spotlight on Finance’ Report, just published. Against this backdrop, how can learning technologies support a sector in putting its house in order? Where does learning fit into the priorities of the business? What appetite is there to invest in technology and how is it used for learning?

The Towards Maturity ‘Spotlight on Finance‘ is a benchmarking report that compares use of learning technologies with other sectors and in particular those organisations that are deemed most successful at getting results from their investment. So what does it tell us about Financial Services?

Not surprisingly, perhaps, compliance is a bigger issue than ever and that’s where the main focus is. Successfully too, with finance exceeding other sectors by 10% in benchmark values. But in almost every other area, finance lags behind those sectors leading the way. The average company spends £80 per person per year in learning technologies (not much really, but it’s going up, universally). Yet, the finance sector spends less than half that. When you look at types of technology being used, finance is behind in use of mobile devices, curation tools and social media.

The tools that are being used are perhaps the more conventional ones: linear video, eBooks and virtual classrooms. So a picture of an industry that’s pretty risk-averse and maybe has more pressing priorities? Perhaps.

I was interested to find out how individual companies felt about this reflection in the mirror held up to their faces. I had the opportunity to do just that at a Finance sector Learning Technology workshop earlier this week in London. Represented were many of the sectors’ biggest players including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, JP Morgan, LV, Tesco Bank and Bank of America Meryl Lynch. Here I was able to get a bit of colour to go with the raw data from this group of passionate, committed and extremely able learning professionals. They recognise the glacial pace with which their sector embraces learning technologies but they are nevertheless determined to learn from the successes of other sectors and best practices of their peers.

They focused on 3 key areas:

  • How to use technology more effectively to simplify the learning offering – In one bank it took a year for them to find out they had 1,300 training suppliers. Another found no fewer than 28 e-learning courses on time management! The scale of these organisations inevitably means it takes time and investment to upgrade infrastructure and roll out new approaches. Several of the organisations in the room employ over 100,000 staff. However by looking at what was needed by the business, simplification gave focus and dramatically reduced costs.
  • How to create a more aligned L&D offering that captures stakeholder attention – Of all things, Bravery and Courage were suggested! A number of banks advocate using data to stimulate discussion within the business to help position alignment to business objectives. Essentially they are analysing what’s going on, highlighting areas for improvement and that’s driving the L&D. – showing a bit of commercial acumen to understand what the business actually needs!
  • How to integrate learning into the workflow effectively – basically shifting to new models of learning. To do that the most successful organisations really understand their learning landscape: what their communities are doing, how they’re doing it and basically how well they understand what they need to do their job and where to get it. It was realised that L&D is going through its own transition from delivery & design to becoming conduits of information leading collaboration, leveraging knowledge.

I’m happy to report that things do appear to be changing. Collaborative software with social media is being used at LV, Bupa, Barclays and JP Morgan among others. ‘How to’ videos are being shared and social media on employee devices is being adopted by some, but not all.

So there are definitely some enlightened companies to be found, plus an appetite for change by those working at the coalface.  Of course coming together at these sector groups can only enhance L&D’s own knowledge of best practice especially during these times of rapid change and the need to be agile to respond to the competitive landscape.

Author – Charles Gould, Managing Director of Brightwave, one of Towards Maturity’s Founding Ambassadors

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