Author: Richard Buckingham, Partner, Leathwaite

Within the financial services sector, we are seeing a continued shift and evolution of roles and consequently hiring trends within specific functions. Institutions are increasingly understanding the potential impact of data analytics, especially when used at scale across the business. This is coupled with disruption from the digital function, as firms wrestle with what digital means to them and how it impacts their relationship with their customers, their own operating model and the positioning of their employees.

As many financial services firms continue to rebuild their reputations after the financial crisis, whilst continuing to manage regulatory pressure, a new range of opportunities and threats have presented themselves. As a result we have seen a growing proliferation of new types of roles, including the Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer and Head of Cyber Security, as well as the evolution of the Chief Information Officer role itself. Underpinning this is the pace at which technology is driving much of this change.

Data and digital roles mirror each other, not least because they are varied and still evolving, but also in their close alignment with the strategic business aims.  This is demonstrated, in many cases, by their positioning in the organisation and reporting line. For example, Aviva has hired a Chief Digital Officer and Head of Data Analytics within the last year, reporting into the Group CEO and GI CEO respectively.

Chief Data Officer:

The Chief Data role continues to develop and where it sits varies from organisation to organisation. Fundamentally, the individual in this role needs to have a clear vision of how data will drive business growth across the enterprise. The position will lead the organisation’s strategy to utilise customer data more efficiently, in order to create a better customer experience, sell more effectively to their customers, and enable their sales teams to become a progressively consultative value add function. A good percentage of Chief Data Officers will report into the business (possibly CEOs, CMOs and also CROs) but this role can also sit in the operations and technology group reporting into the CIO or COO.

Companies are working through what their Chief Data Officer owns. They need to make decisions around where each part of the data function sits. This includes data quality and governance and the operational aspects of data (DBAs and data warehouse) and additionally the analytics, data science and big data functions. Part of the complexity around the Chief Data role stems from the fact that data is a companywide asset, covering varied business lines and their disparate objectives.

Moreover, a cultural change often needs to take place. Data analytics is no longer the sole preserve of the data scientists. Employees are learning that increasingly they can become autonomous in their use of data, as they are able to access and link data from a variety of sources and apply analytics through the provision of self-service tools. This “democratisation” of data analytics, alongside tools to aid visualisation, is key in an organisation’s ability to scale the use of data.

Chief Digital Officer:

The Chief Digital Officer role is similar to the data position in that it continues to develop and is structured in differing ways depending on the company. What seems certain is that a successful Chief Digital Officer has to understand the business and certainly the customer experience as part of this. As such, due to the dearth of digital and data talent within financial services, we are seeing firms hiring individuals into these roles from sectors where the customer experience has been more closely ingrained. This brings its own challenges around cultural fit and whether the financial sector is attractive enough for the best digital talent. Where once investment banks had the pick of candidates, often relying on compensation as a principal draw, now the ethos, lifestyle and equity options offered by high-growth technology firms is proving more alluring.

Perceived as a more structured environment, financial services firms are therefore having to evolve in order to entice digital innovators. Efforts include creating separate innovation labs and groups within the wider organisation and also developing strategic partnerships with entrepreneurs, start-ups and leading technology firms.

Chief Information Security Officer:

We are also seeing innovation and changing hiring trends in more defensive functions, not least with a focus on cyber security. Increasingly, the more traditional Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role has developed into the hiring of cyber heads to build centres of excellence in key regions. These roles require deep technical knowledge but also the ability to interact and operate regularly at board level. In line with the data and digital functions, we are seeing hiring from a variety of sectors, for example Barclays recently hired its Head of Cyber Security from the European Cybercrime Centre, and Aviva hired its new Global CISO from Vodafone.

Chief Information Officer:

Alongside the emergence of newer roles, the CIO role itself is evolving. Financial services firms have traditionally viewed technology as a support function. It is now more often being viewed as a critical enabler, revolutionising how organisations operate, driving the bottom line, customer experience and adding real value, front to back. As a result, the role and remit of the CIO has altered and the level of importance attached to the role has increased. We are witnessing technology executives reporting directly into the CEO and playing a more active role on executive committees and with genuine board exposure. Chief Information Officers need to be able to think strategically, understand the business strategy and drive the delivery of this strategy through the provision of ever more innovative technology.

The impact of technology on the financial services sector has been vast and will continue well into the future. These new roles have emerged in order to deal with the sheer level of change. Many companies are still working through what this means for them but the reporting lines of these roles illustrate just how important they have become to a financial services business. We expect to see these roles continuing to evolve and are already observing the next generation of role, such as the Chief Data Scientist and Head of Data Monetisation. This is forcing institutions to similarly evolve their thinking about where to find these candidates and how to integrate them into their organisations.