Episode 55: Jim Marous

Greg Palmer is joined by Jim Marous to talk about the future of work in banking — will remote workers become the new norm?


Finovate showcases cutting edge banking and financial technology through a global conference series featuring short-form demos and thought leadership. Now the conversation continues on the innovate podcast.

Greg Palmer 0:22
Welcome to the innovate podcast. Joining me today we have Jim Marous. You may know him from many different areas, but you probably know him best as a co publisher of the financial brand, owner and CEO of the digital banking report and host of the podcast banking transformed. We’re going to be talking with Jim today about the future of work in the banking industry. Jim, thanks so much for joining me.

Jim Marous 0:43
Hey, great to be on the show, Greg.

Greg Palmer 0:46
I just read a paper of yours talking about the future of work in banking based on some research that you’ve done. Can you talk a little bit about your high level of what that report was all about and some of the key findings?

Jim Marous 0:59
Yeah, we did this for the digital bank report was actually the first of several reports we’re doing that was coined, the COVID impact report. So we realized that between February and May, things are in such great transition that it was really hard to do research and have it be applicable. By the time it got published, even if it just took three weeks to get it published. It was almost always out of date. So the future work was the first report we did it was sponsored by open text. And what was interesting about the future work report we did is we asked organizations finance institutions, people that worked for financial institutions, what has changed?

Jim Marous 1:37
Well, number one, we found it we actually did it over a period of time Can we kept on updating the information was that as time went on, as you might expect, the negative impact the dramatic in your face impact of working from home, actually got easier for people to take advantage of. So the frustrations of distractions, working as a team. All these things, what was at the beginning of the COVID crisis, really major hindrances became almost easy to work with. So people adjusted, the adjustment that people made it very easy. But what we did find was that a lot of jobs did almost as well as not as well, from a work at home or work remotely environment, as it did in a work at the business place.

One of the biggest examples for a lot of call centers, so a lot of call centers when they went remote, they found out that, you know, there wasn’t really a dramatic negative impact. And in fact, from a quality of life basis, it actually was a better impact from the standpoint of employee happiness, awareness, and the ability to actually get the job done. I believe TD Bank has already decided in the US that they’re gonna give their employees the option of a work at home environment from a call center basis. You can come into work at some times where you can stay away from work. But it’s really going to change the whole dynamic of what is the work at home. Or do they work remotely environment?

Greg Palmer 3:11
Yeah, I just think that working from home dynamic is one that a lot of people really sort of struggled to wrap their heads around at the beginning. And I think banking specifically has been an industry that’s been kind of resistant to this idea. You know, and you and a lot of people initially to your point kind of struggled, you have kids or family members in your work space. And now I think you see it, at least in some places, you start to see an ability for some people to start to return to the office. And so this question is, are people going to return to the office and mass when they’re able to do so? Or are we going to see more of like, what TD Bank is doing? What’s, you know, obviously, there’s been a couple of people who have kind of made some initial statements there, but what’s your read on what the overall industry will likely do?

Jim Marous 3:55
Well, I think you’re going to see a lot of people. I don’t know what the percentage is going to be. But you’re going to see a lot of people given the option to work from home. A couple reasons. Number one, it’s expensive for organizations, even though they’re owning the real estate right now, in a second situation, if you had a modern workplace with the open desk and all the other open air areas, you can’t handle the number of people you handled before, you’re in some ways going to have to have this option of work from home, just from a capacity standpoint.

Jim Marous 4:29
In addition, you’re going to find that some organizations are going to say, you know, from a standpoint of being able to get work done, you don’t have to be in the workplace to do it. The collaboration with all the new technologies, I mean, we were talking about this about a week ago that you know, the word Zoom was more thought about as speed and a car that was a telecommunications device, but you know, right now, almost everybody’s doing Zoom conference calls. It’s interesting because I was thinking just one last time ahead of a conference call, I had to actually pick up a phone, which is kind of crazy when you think pre and post COVID, but I think that that makes the the integration, the ability to work together that much better.

Jim Marous 5:14
You also have some flexibility. While it was found that in our study that the average work they actually increased by three hours. This was because of work at home. kids got conflicted with the study at home from students, you know, kids at work, were doing school at home, we also had other obligations. So you had to extend the day and make it work. But that extension was flexible. So what ended up happening is people made their schedules work around what else they had to do.

That’s a major quality of life issue. In addition, I think we’re going to see that organizations are going to realize that when you’re talking about let’s say, a small business banker, you can do a better collaborative call by not being in person and bring in three or four other specialists from the small business world into a call to serve a client. So an example, innovation example from Denise bank in Turkey was that for their agricultural division, they found that their business bankers spent a long time traveling from farm to farm. But when they did it centrally, they were able to bring in meteorologists, fertilizer people, equipment people, people that dealt with crop rotations and different elements with regard that brought value to the relationship for the farmer. But this was all done in the audio or video environment where it was all taken to the farm without having to go there in person.

Greg Palmer 6:55
Well, I do have to say there’s kind of a flip side of this as well because I mean, there’s clearly this carrot that’s out there. Some real tangible benefits that come from this remote working standpoint. But there was also an interesting piece in the report talking about the skills gap that has kind of come to light as a result of this, people, you know, not being in a position or technologically ready maybe to work remotely from home. And you know, I think you call it a skills gap that was really concerning, and just want to highlight some of this because more than 70% of your respondents saw this gap as a significant or a moderate threat, just 4% saw it as no threat whatsoever. But I think more concerning was 75% of your respondents reported no progress or minimal progress and addressing that skills gap. So this is, I think, a really interesting dichotomy. You know, can you talk a little bit about that problem and how banks and really everybody should be trying to address it?

Jim Marous 7:51
Yeah, so the skills gap release around, obviously on March 13, or whatever date you want to pick. We all went digital. Consumers went digital, small business went digital, banking went digital, we really didn’t have an option. It became vastly apparent, not that we didn’t know as incoming that doing banking the old fashioned way, both internally and externally, was no longer going to work as well. And what we find out is that when you’re doing digital transformation, we can redefine that any way we want. It’s going to take different skills in a lot of areas to work with technology, and digital delivery to say, what how do we deliver services going forward?

Jim Marous 8:35
We don’t necessarily have those people in place. We don’t have digital analytic people. We don’t have a lot of people that understand technology that well, so we have a major gap in the skills that are needed to go forward than those that we needed in the past and almost on a dime. We turned and said, we need them now. So the gap there, as you said, 72% of people have people said there’s something major gap in the skills that we need versus those that we have. And the problem is, most financial institutions, as you mentioned, said, we have made made minimal or no progress. I think it was 80 or 75%, roughly 75% of organizations had that level and they they realized that we’re not ready to even prepare people for that, which gets to my major takeaway in most cases, which is, organizations and governments are going to be required in all industries, to help to need to upskill employees to be ready for the future.

Jim Marous 9:42
The challenge is going to be that employees and companies can’t wait for this to happen. Organizations right now need to find the people to fill those those skills areas. Amazon, I believe, has committed to training 100,000 of their employees. In moving to the digital world, in their organization, they’re going to train their own employees. So they realize it’s easier to train them to find them in the outside marketplace. But that’s that can be enough. Yeah, employees, organizations are going to have to really encourage people to do this training on their own. And, you know, I think in the the research and the articles I’ve written about this, the the really, the really biggest challenge here is organizations and people have to take it upon themselves. They have to make the decision that says, I’m going to disrupt myself and I’m gonna make myself ready for the future.

Greg Palmer 10:39
So here’s kind of the final question then. Because really, we’re up on the end of our time already. But the final question, I think, is you is this an opportunity for FinTech to step in and say we can help with this process? I know we’ve seen FinTech plays where companies are trying to train bankers about new products, new digital offerings that a bank has or how to, you know, just be more productive with the technology that already exists to them. Is this potentially the great opportunity of 2020 from a FinTech standpoint is helping to close this gap and really getting every bank in a position where they can move forward?

Jim Marous 11:17
Well, it is the opportunity for fintech, it’s also the threat to current employees of financial institutions. Because do you really want a FinTech to take the place of what you could have moved to if you had taken on that yourself? In addition, I think it’s an extraordinarily important opportunity for FinTech because a lot of fintechs right now, because the COVID crisis, the there’s a lack of money out there to invest in their solutions. So they’re gonna have to find partners. So I think it’s a perfect storm to be able to move faster on the innovation front, on the technology front and on the skills gap front, but it is also a major warning sign to current employees to say you need it take it upon yourself to figure out where you want to be placed in your organization in the future, knowing that your job is most likely replaceable in the in the new environment we’re moving towards.

Greg Palmer 12:14
Well, that seems like a perfect place to leave it. Obviously this is going to be one of the major questions to keep an eye on over the course of the next couple of months and beyond. Jim, thank you so much for taking the time to talk through some of the results that you found and sharing them with our audience.

Jim Marous 12:30
Thanks a lot, Greg. Really appreciate being on the show.

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