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Workforce of the Future: Dealing with change and the millennial challenge

Challenge 01


The transforming investment banking industry needs to answer several critical questions about its workforce.

In the search for differentiation and drive to digitize the industry’s value chain, the nature of banks’ work is changing—along with the skills required to deliver those services. That is particularly true for front-office and information technology (IT) personnel.

As banks assess their evolving role(s) and the core skills of their employees, they must also consider broader questions about their workforce. Most banks currently rely on a quickly aging group that will turn over within a few years and needs to be replaced with millennials. How will banks attract, retain and reward new talent, considering that the early career goals of many millennials do not align with the business models of banks?



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Organizational Governance

As banks increasingly leverage external workforces with valuable—but not core—skill sets, they need strategic, organizational governance to answer the following questions:

Which skill sets are critical and must be entrusted to internal workers, and which tasks can be delegated to an extended workforce?

Should banks have equal career-development obligations to both internal workers and the extended workforce?

How can an organization empower its leaders to drive results with disparate workforces?

What is the role of human resources in this overall workforce transformation? Can the talent management function become a true partner for the business, enabling it to develop workforce capabilities and agility?


Over the past few years, 43% of brokers have shrunk their sales-trading workforce, but many are handling the same trading volumes by leveraging technology

Next generation communication trends such as instant messaging, group chats and social media can create a more robust mosaic of information for self-directed buy-side trading

73% of buy-side participants are using trading cost analysis as a method of identifying high-performance trading algorithms to direct trades

Source: Accenture Research

As a concrete example of the changing skills and competencies of the investment banking workforce, consider Accenture’s outlook on how the roles of traders and IT professionals may evolve.

Increased regulation is standardizing the role of traders, necessitating a broader skill set and potentially a different compensation package. The traders of tomorrow will be responsible for supervising largely automated trading activity, overseeing asset liability management and maintaining client relationships. As self-service trading continues to grow in popularity, the need for specialized traders is expected to decline. Equity traders will need to become proficient in dealing with related derivatives, and those trading corporate bonds will require expertise in municipal bonds.

The convergence between IT and the front office, along with the disappearance of commodity IT roles in favor of cloud computing, will lead to smaller IT departments. New IT roles will emerge in service integration, and cloud and client relationship management—roles where softer skills and the quality of personal interaction will be considered more important. At the same time, banks must determine how to deal with legacy technology that is still mission critical—a problem complicated by the fact that legacy technologists are retiring and being replaced by millennials who have a different technology literacy.

the millennial challenge

Retirement throughout the workforce—not just in IT—poses a major challenge for banks. Today, between 60 and 65 percent of employees are older than 40, with millennials accounting for a majority of the remainder.1 In three to five years, those percentages will flip. Retaining the knowledge that is walking out the door and incorporating it into a digestible training model for a younger workforce will be essential.

A significant complicating factor is that investment banking has become a less desirable career choice for millennials than it was less than a decade ago. Accenture research shows that among MBA graduates from two top US business schools—the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University (both of which have had a strong finance focus historically)—investment banking as a career choice fell by nearly 50 percent between 2008 and 2014.

During that same period, the percentage of MBA graduates who chose careers in the technology industry tripled. These figures suggest that banking’s once-dominant appeal over the tech industry has evaporated as millennials are willing to sacrifice some compensation for the opportunity to be part of a small, agile, team-based workforce.

Retaining the knowledge that is walking out the door and incorporating it into a digestible training model for a younger workforce will be essential.

Changing workforces, changing needs

Changing workforces, changing needs for training and leadership

The depth, breadth and complexity of the workforce of the future for investment banking will bring a number of entirely new challenges. Managing talent will take on a whole new dimension and require different and innovative practices. Behavioral change needs to be embedded in managers to enable the right cultural shifts in this rapidly changing environment. Managers must be equipped to manage the external workforce through intermediaries or digital toolsets.

Banks must decide how much they are willing to invest—if at all—in the career development of their extended workforces. Management may be resistant to the idea at first, but as the extended workforce becomes a larger percentage of the overall workforce, broad-based training and incentives will become increasingly necessary for executing changes in products or culture, and ultimately driving success.

Declining interest in a career in investment banking

Source: Accenture Research

A New Era for talent management

The evolution of the workforce will put pressure on banks’ talent management in numerous ways, necessitating that it evolves from an administrative function to a true partner of the business. Banks need to ensure that talent management is equipped to:


The various workforce issues laid out in this challenge also represent opportunities. By adopting a focused and flexible workforce strategy, and developing an organization that is customer-focused and digitally capable, an investment bank can build its brand, both internally and externally.

Creating an environment that allows for employees to create their own career brand across functions, while at the same time fostering work-life integration, innovative work environments, opportunities for challenging work and opportunities for advancement, is critical. Additionally, digital innovations will require the workforce to be more diverse and agile in terms of adapting to new roles over time, and banks will need to focus on hiring those with broader skill sets. Banks will need to foster an innovative and dynamic image to attract and retain the workers they want.


1The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections

This content has been prepared by Accenture and is for information purposes. No part of this content may be reproduced in any manner without the written permission of Accenture. While we take precautions to ensure that the source and the information we base our judgments on is reliable, we do not represent that this information is accurate or complete and it should not be relied upon as such. It is provided with the understanding that Accenture is not acting in a fiduciary capacity. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.