The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented one for the banking industry, and perhaps one of the more serious challenges in close to a century. Due to its economic impact, banks have had to juggle various priorities that affect their current and future plans. They’re working to stay open for their customers, despite social distancing regulations and existing internal functions (compliance, for example) that were not designed for remote work. They also have to manage revenue expectations, despite financial pressure on customers and a market environment that may need to adopt changes after the pandemic is brought under control.
For the most part, the banking industry’s response to the pandemic has been geared towards the short term. However, given the dynamic nature of the crisis, leaders should start looking at long-term working models that enable them to adjust to potential environmental changes. Such a model should help prepare banking organisations for workforce changes that will ultimately be at the core of economic reopenings. Razi Salih, a businessman with experience in the fintech sector, is among many who will be curious to see how the banking sector emerges from the pandemic.
Of the lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis, the foremost is that the health and safety of the workforce comes first. Companies will need to emphasise physical and mental health at an intensity previously unmatched. This will include regular wellness check-ins and expanding mental health benefits to cater to employees’ needs, and possibly those of their significant others who may have suffered job losses during the crisis.
Uncertainty has been a characteristic feature of the pandemic, especially where business leaders have to make decisions concerning their workforces. For banks, leaders have to be transparent about such aspects while avoiding making promises that may be hard to fulfil. Additionally, these leaders will also have to maintain their commitments to inclusion and diversity, especially in areas such as the representation of women, minorities and other diverse groups.
Traits that financial organisations have worked hard to cultivate may be threatened by the crisis, including the importance of sharing information across product lines and clear role definition. A remote-working structure doesn’t make this easier to follow up on, requiring leaders to proactively work at ensuring the critical elements of an organisation’s culture remain stable.
Conversely, the crisis may have brought about opportunities for financial organisations to adopt new approaches that can be part of their culture. Some institutions are using the time to emphasise the role of family and community, while others are using the restrictive nature of the pandemic to work on prioritisation and decision making.