Culture and Talent

‘I make myself available to any engineer in the organization’: How financial services firms are coping with the changing nature of work

  • Work is changing and financial services and fintech firms are keeping up.
  • Data, learning, and mission focus are all important in today's workplace.

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‘I make myself available to any engineer in the organization’: How financial services firms are coping with the changing nature of work

The workplace continues to evolve and financial services firms are changing the ways they recruit and manage their employees. They're tweaking the job perks they offer, like flexible working arrangements, to hire and retain top talent. Financial firms are also making changes to the structure of teams and to their organizations as a whole to keep pace with innovation.

Strong company missions

When it comes to perks, some firms are going beyond the typical unlimited paid time off and wellness programs that are common in Silicon Valley. Millennials are more than 4.5 times more likely to be engaged in their work when companies promote their purpose, according to Gallup. And with growing millennial participation in the workforce, financial firms are trying hard to create a positive atmosphere their employees can connect to.

“We have worked hard to connect our team with our mission to help small business owners achieve their dreams,” said Jennifer Hamelin, chief of staff at Lendio. “When employees at all levels feel connected to a company cause, they have a sense of purpose that further fuels their productivity and the workplace culture.”

Having the right environment is important, but it's also crucial to make sure that there's a fit with new hires and firm culture from the start. Lendio incorporates data and predictive analytics into its recruiting process to help identify which recruits will fit best within its company and structure. Building and maintaining a strong company culture is a pretty common goal for today's financial services firms.

Data-driven idea generation

Strong company missions can be focused on employees or take an external approach. Intuit, for example, rallies its employees around solving customer problems. To do this, the financial technology firm uses data and technology in its products. Internally, it also incorporates technology to address culture.

“As we think about our own transformation to becoming an AI-centric company, it’s important for us to not only focus on our algorithms and data, but also the cultural shift that the transformation requires,” said Intuit’s chief architect officer, Alex Balazs.

The company uses data to help bubble up new ideas for products and processes. With the insights generated from data, Intuit's engineering team can decide to pivot quickly, invest more aggressively, or test new products.

“Data allows us to take a step back and look at evidence in a more detached way – letting the numbers on a page speak for themselves. This can be helpful to identify theories that may have been counter-intuitive or uncover unintended correlations or interdependencies,” said Balazs.

This focus on serving the customer has had its impact on the Intuit culture, too. The company makes engineering executives accessible to all levels of engineers to ask questions and engage in solving problems. The engineering team opens up its tools, code and APIs to their peers throughout the organization to build speed. Lastly, they've built a reward system for the creators of data-driven solutions. This further serves to drive accountability to have opinions supported by data.

“Personally, I make myself available to any engineer in the organization, and help engineers understand the problem, devise experiments to test, analyze the results, and determine the next course of action,” said Intuit's Balazs.

VR immersive empathy training

Solving customer problems requires a certain type of sensitivity which can be learned and strengthened through training. For Fidelity Investments, call center reps provide an important frontline service for clients. The company is currently testing empathy training with associates that handle incoming calls. Fidelity works with Strivr, an immersive training company, to provide virtual reality sessions that mimic the types of questions a call center rep would receive in real life.

“The training is a choose-your-own-adventure experience, bringing the trainee into a virtual call center to help understand the impact of listening and helping the Fidelity customer through real-life scenarios,” said Adam Schouela, vice president, product management - emerging technology at Fidelity Labs. Throughout the training, the Fidelity employee is transported between the call center and the customer’s living room to view the environment, facial expressions and personal perspective.

Financial wellness programs

Financial services and fintech firms are adopting modern financial wellness programs, as well. 50 percent of employees spend time worrying about their financial situations, according to EY. This can obviously lead to productivity losses and high turnover, as stressed employees can spend over three hours during the workday to deal with their personal finances. Financial services firms create financial wellness programs in-house or partner with firms like LearnLux that offer digital, independent financial wellness that can scale.

“Human resources teams at top financial services and fintech companies are looking to financial wellness companies to help with their team's challenges around student loan repayment, retirement readiness, employee benefits adoption and to build confidence around events like doing their taxes or buying their first home,” said Rebecca Liebman, CEO of LearnLux, which has Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and actor Ashton Kutcher as early investors. A growing number of firms offer financial wellness as part of a comprehensive benefits package. This can help them stand out when hiring and recruiting, according to Liebman.

Personal and professional development

Beyond financial wellness, some firms, like Investors Bank, have put a renewed emphasis on professional development, as employees look to juggle the work hours they have in a day. The bank uses a compressed knowledge library called getAbstract that offers summaries on everything from professional development books and TED talks to books on economics and politics.

“It is important to realize that we are never too busy to better ourselves and it is instrumental in ensuring we are producing our best work and being our best selves,” said Dennis Budinich, chief culture officer and svp at Investors Bank. “If we don’t take the time to work on ourselves, we in turn begin to lose our effectiveness as professionals and individuals.”

Investors Bank encourages its employees to volunteer, too. The banks works with Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchens and pantries and local farms to create opportunities for employees to give back to the community. It also hosts 10-week manager trainings that bring together diverse groups of employees. Managers can interact with colleagues from across the organization, developing new friendships.

“By creating opportunities for our employees to regularly interact we are enabling people to build relationships on a personal level, thus enhancing the social element of work,” said Budinich.

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