A resilient network is crucial

18/10/2023

Banks and other financial institutions in particular are faced with a double dilemma: the tasks involved in transforming the industry are enormous, but the number of suitable candidates to fill management positions is decreasing. Recruitment professional Henning Sander from HAGER Executive Consulting can make the difference as a partner to the HR departments. A conversation about the pressure for transformation in the financial industry, the shortage of skilled workers and suitable strategies to combat it.

Business Unit Manager, financial services, Henning Sander.

Banks and other financial institutions in particular are faced with a double dilemma: the tasks involved in transforming the industry are enormous, but the number of suitable candidates to fill management positions is decreasing. Recruitment professional Henning Sander from HAGER Executive Consulting can make the difference as a partner to the HR departments. A conversation about the pressure for transformation in the financial industry, the shortage of skilled workers and suitable strategies to combat it.


The financial sector is currently undergoing a massive transformation towards sustainable digitalization and optimization. What role do managers play in this? What strategic approaches exist so that managers can actively drive this transformation forward?

HAGER: Managers have three important tasks in the transformation process. Firstly, they must be drivers of a culture of change. You should create an environment where innovation and continuous improvement are not only accepted but also encouraged. Teams should be encouraged to learn and adapt new technologies and ways of working. Second, leaders must ensure that their teams are empowered to transform and have the necessary skills. This can be done, for example, through targeted training, mentoring programs, but also by hiring (external) employees with expertise in the transformation environment. Collaborations with technology providers and other organizations can help accelerate digital transformation and bring new perspectives and solutions to the organization. Third, leaders must prioritize technology investments, such as in cloud computing, artificial intelligence or big data processing. In addition, managers should always keep an eye on the extent to which these three tasks have been fulfilled. This requires mechanisms to measure and monitor the progress of digital transformation. Regular reports and dashboards can help keep track and ensure the transformation is on track.

The successful implementation of digital transformation in finance is considered essential for the continued existence of companies. What specific skills, qualifications and personal attitudes do you consider essential for managers to be able to work effectively in this area?

HAGER: On the one hand, managers need a high level of methodological and technical competence. This includes a deep understanding of the underlying technologies. They must be familiar with concepts such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, big data and analytics and be able to effectively use these technologies and integrate them into their existing processes. They also have to be able to analyze and interpret data and derive the correct decision from it. At the same time, digital transformation requires a high level of strategic thinking. Leaders must understand the current digital landscape, identify opportunities and risks, and develop and implement a clear strategy for the digital transformation of their company.

On the other hand, managers need a range of personal skills. You must be able to create an inspiring and motivating work environment so that employees approach the transformation process with joy. The digital landscape is constantly changing. Therefore, a high willingness to learn and adaptability are also crucial. Managers must be willing to continually learn new skills and keep their knowledge current.

What particular challenges and opportunities arise when filling management positions in the financial sector, especially with regard to promoting digitalization and optimization?

HAGER: There are various opportunities when filling management positions. Especially with external appointments, there is an opportunity for the company to bring a breath of fresh air into the company. When it comes to internal appointments, this is often made more difficult by long-term socialization with outdated ways of thinking and structures. There are also positive effects from a business perspective, such as improving existing processes, reducing costs or developing new business models. Companies that take advantage of these opportunities can stand out from the competition and gain a competitive advantage.

The challenge with all the existing opportunities is to “take the workforce with you” in the transformation process, i.e. to actively involve employees and make it clear to them the advantages for themselves and the company. There are often fears of change that need to be quelled as a manager. The leadership style and personality of the manager are crucial here: does the person succeed in achieving acceptance or even support for the change within the workforce, or does resistance arise that is harmful to the company and is difficult to break down.

When we look at internal strategic measures for talent acquisition and development in financial companies, the question arises, what concrete steps can be taken to identify qualified managers who will effectively lead the digitalization process?

HAGER: An effective way to assess the professional and personal skills of a potential manager is to conduct structured interviews or assessment centers that specifically target the required competencies. Once talent has been identified in the company, it is important to support and support them individually in the development process. This can be achieved, for example, through regular performance reviews, 360-degree feedback or career development plans. These development plans can focus on digitalization. In addition to technical training, training on personal skills should also be the subject of further training. This ensures that managers are not only technically capable of transformation, but can also effectively support employees in the process. Finally, an external talent search should be considered. Although developing internal talent is important, engaging senior leadership can also benefit. They already have experience in managing digitalization processes in other financial companies or industries. This can be done by working with specialists Executive Search Consultancies can be reached that have access to a broad pool of qualified candidates.

How do financial companies find suitable external candidates for the necessary transformation in the current market environment?

HAGER: The shortage of skilled workers ensures that good and very good candidates can choose their employer. The value of a strong employer brand should therefore not be underestimated. Companies need a clear and compelling message about their values, their culture and the benefits they offer their employees. In the current environment, it is more important than ever to focus on a candidate’s “cultural fit”. If the culture between the company and the candidate is right, it also increases motivation and satisfaction - and thus the likelihood of long-term success.

This fit can be identified, for example, through increased situational questions in the application process. 

In order to find suitable candidates, a reliable network is crucial. We talk about the network as Executive Search Consultancy not only contact candidates directly, but also rely on recommendations. Successful placements usually result from direct approaches. Many suitable specialists are not active on platforms such as Xing and LinkedIn. Others, on the other hand, react less frequently because they are spoken to so often.

How does partnering with a recruiter who helps financial companies recruit and place executives differ from your in-house HR department with its own advertisements?

HAGER: The most important advantages of a specialized Executive Search Consultancy like HAGER compared to an internal HR department is the network and the experience with comparable companies. Executive Search Consultancies build long-term contacts. This means that they gain better insight into the personal and professional situation of the candidates and can therefore, if necessary, plan the ideal time to approach them. They also have access to candidates who are not active on social platforms such as Xing or LinkedIn. Another important point is the function of the Executive Search Consultancy as an intermediary between company and candidate. It is important for advice to help both the company and the candidate. The status as a third party helps to create a special relationship of trust. Candidates react more openly and unbiased to us as a neutral, discreet partner.

About Henning Sander
Henning Sander has headed the Banking business unit at HAGER Executive Consulting for over ten years. Here he holds management positions at banks and insurance companies as well as FinTechs and InsurTechs. The trained systemic coach and psychologist pays particular attention to the compatibility of personalities with the culture of the companies he advises.

This post contains content and quotes from the article “A resilient network is crucial,” first and originally published on Financial World on October 17.10.2023, XNUMX. The full article can here eingesehen werden.

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