Becoming the Banker of Tomorrow

Becoming the Banker of Tomorrow

An article based on the book “Becoming the Banker of Tomorrow: A Five-Land Journey” by Ayalla Reuven-Lelong.

Banks never had to face more concerns about the future of their workforce than they do today. The challenge of disruptive technologies will make tomorrow’s banking workforce unrecognizable.

Yet most bank leaders focus mainly on business models and technological transformation and hardly invest any time and effort in their talent strategy.

Bank leaders should consider that in this new reality in which automation and robots will do most of the repetitive work, the banker of the future will need to be flexible, purpose-driven, creative, entrepreneurial, customer-centric, cooperative and a lifelong learner. Bank leaders must realize that the future of their banks is dependent mainly on their ability to attract, retain and develop the right type of talents. This is especially relevant as banks are no longer perceived as a very appealing workplace by many talented young people nowadays.

One of the main challenges of many banks is that, in order to create a culture suitable for the new era of the workplace, the top leaders will need to lead by example. To do that, the leaders themselves will have to possess the right mindset and be entrepreneurial, creative, flexible, cooperative, full of passion and purpose-driven. Unfortunately, our data shows that most bankers have a long way to go to get there. Cultivating the skills of tomorrow takes time, and there are no shortcuts.

The C-suite and top leaders of all banks must take this journey very seriously and put in the time and effort for self- development. Only by going through this journey will banks be able to prepare their workforce for the new era.

Becoming the Banker of Tomorrow: A Five-Land Journey

The Five-Land Model describes a metaphorical journey that we should all go through in order to cultivate the skills of tomorrow. This model is based on cutting-edge theories on the plasticity of the brain, the future of business and leadership in the era of complexity.

It is also based on interviews with dozens of CEOs, C-suite members and top leaders, as well as on the writer’s own experience in implementing change management processes in different industries, mainly in professional services and financial sector.

Bankers and the Mindset Land

This land is based on the theory and book of Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. In her book, Prof. Dweck describes two different types of mindsets: A fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset attitude assume that our character, talents, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens, which are unchangeable in any meaningful way.

Therefore, they tend to stay in their comfort zone and resist any change or personal development process. These people will figure out very soon that their personal value proposition is depreciating.

On the other hand, people with a growth

mindset attitude believe that their most basic abilities are not fixed and can be developed through dedication and hard work. They enjoy challenges and see failure not as evidence of unintelligence, but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching their existing abilities. These people are willing to step out of their comfort zones and put in the effort and practice to develop new skills and competencies. As a result, they will invent and reinvent themselves and maintain their own winning personal value proposition.

A growth mindset attitude is a prerequisite for success in a new reality where change has become the new normal.

The banker as a trusted advisor and business partner for banking customers is not a new concept. To help their organizations succeed in the new reality, all banking professionals, from back office clerk to bank CEO, will have to think and act as “Whole advisors” for both external and internal customers, contributing to a customer centric culture.

The first field of the “Whole Advisor” model is the Professional field. The bankers of the future will still need to have and develop skills and competencies related to their profession such as corporate/ retail banking, treasury, operations, compliance, and risk management.

The second field in which bankers will need to become lifelong learners is Technology and Innovation. Bankers of the 21st century will need to be smart users of the new technologies that increasingly penetrate the world of banking from the communications and tech industry.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of bankers fear these new technologies and are not prepared to embrace them. They must however understand that they have no choice, as this is the direction to which the banking world is headed.

The third field of the “Whole Advisor” model is Leadership. To become the first choice of their strategic clients and most talented employees, bank leaders will have to demonstrate leadership skills. Above all, they need to think of themselves as inspirational leaders. And it starts on the inside. Leaders need to find, deep within themselves, their own personal vision and their own sense of true purpose in the profession. Vision and a sense of purpose are critical factors in creating endless passion and preventing burnout. In addition, leaders still need to have managerial capabilities, since they have to manage their teams, their clients, their time and their careers.

Next, the fourth field of the “Whole Advisor” model is Soft Skills. Nowadays, leaders must believe in their ability to develop their own set of soft skills, which are so very critical to their success. This is especially crucial when it comes to employees’ engagement, passion and grit. Soft skills are also indispensable for leading change, building relationships with clients and becoming a trusted advisor.

It is not enough to just say “clients come first”, as many leaders do. Any bank needs to ensure that all of its leaders and employees have adequate emotional intelligence in order to build meaningful relationships with their clients and especially to create WOW moments.

Many people mistakenly think that thanks to various new technologies, especially with the pervasiveness of online and digital banking, bankers will no longer need to build meaningful relationships with their clients. On the contrary–the use of technology enables bankers to free themselves from repetitive, routine tasks and to engage more creatively with their customers.

They have thus more opportunities to differentiate themselves by focusing on client relationships and higher-quality services.

And, last but not least, comes the field of Business Value Proposition. Many banking professionals, especially those working in support functions, who are not interacting directly with clients, do not feel that business development is a natural part of their job. They tend to focus on compliance and operational aspects, not keeping in mind the big picture and the final customers of the bank.

Still, in order to help their organization succeed in the market place, all banking professionals need to have an understanding of how local and global trends may affect the preferences and needs of their bank’s clients in the coming years, and to keep an open mind. They should also know which are the most important business issues on the C-suite’s table, which keep them up at night. Whenever possible, they should offer valuable and creative solutions to these issues. They should invest the time and effort to build a meaningful network and to act as trusted advisors for their management and for their internal and external clients. Thus, they will be able to develop a winning personal value proposition for themselves and to contribute to a winning business value proposition for their bank.

Bankers and the Artgineer Land

The Artgineer Land is based on the Whole Brain concept; the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. In the new era of the workplace, we all need to be Artgineers – both engineers and artists. Critical and strategic thinkers, analytical and methodological (engineers); yet also intuitive, visionary, creative, relationship driven and passionate (artists). This land relies on theories of brain function lateralization, the physical division of the brain into two hemispheres, each characterized by different functions. Although considered to be largely metaphorical in nature, the model is an effective way of describing and understanding different thinking styles and decision-making patterns, which are complementary to each other. The left, rational hemisphere is related to analytical, problem-solving, and logical abilities. The right, metaphorical hemisphere is related to feelings, imagination, abstractions and associations, vision, creativity and holistic thinking.

In contrast to the 20th century in which success belonged to employees and leaders who displayed strong left-brain skills, success in the new era of the workplace requires using both parts of the brain and, in particular, right-brain related abilities.

Throughout the past hundred years, those who were inclined to use the left part of their brain had an advantage in the organizational world. Rational thinking and technical skills were held at high regard. Those with pure knowledge on their hands, such as engineers, economists, accountants, and lawyers rose to the top of the pyramid, benefiting from high salaries, excellent working conditions, respect and prestige.

This period is almost over. In the new era of the workplace, many of the roles fulfilled by such highly skilled professionals are at risk of disappearing.

This day may still be in the future, but part of this transformation has already begun. This is true for the banking world as well. Most of the tasks of bankers with a so-called left-brain tendency are repetitive and analytical. Such people – the engineer type – rely on facts, numbers, details, and the checking of the applied aspect of things. These repetitive and analytical tasks will eventually be performed by computers and big data technologies.

On the other hand, banking professionals with a right-brain tendency, but who are also driven by a vision, and who are intuitive, inspirational, creative and expressive, who look at the bigger picture – the artistic type – will be more and more in need.

The successful bankers of the future will see the big picture and will be able to connect the dots and be very creative and innovative. By doing that, they will be able to provide their clients with a winning value proposition. They will put relationships at the heart of their everyday life and will do their best to maintain positive relationships with their team members and clients, based on trust and respect. They will do their best to help their clients and team members succeed, and that is where they will focus their energy. The bankers of the future will have a strong emotional connection to their field of activity and expertise and will be driven to do their best, as they will want to be meaningful and wish to have a long-term impact on their environment. They will have a strong vision and will invest their time and energy in places where their impact could be greater and always look for the next thing across all the five fields of the ‘Whole Advisor’ model. They will have a tendency for exploration, which will drive them to go out of their way to find new areas of interest, to break the boundaries of the present, and to search for new opportunities for their organization, their clients and their teams. Such people are constantly looking for new challenges, and as a result, they leave their comfort zone on a regular basis. Their creativity and their ability to think outside the box lead them to discover new ways of improving their performance. They focus on the opportunities instead of the obstacles and are actively seeking challenges in order to achieve excellence. They look for people with similar interests because they understand that the more they expand their network of contacts, the greater their chance of learning from others. Finally, they seek out meaningful relationships with relevant figures in their field of expertise in order to reach new insights, to learn and improve, irrespective of their level of knowledge.

These Artgineers will be the biggest asset of any bank. In his book “The Future of Management“, Gary Hamel notes that the abilities that contribute the most to the success of business organizations are passion (35%), creativity (25%) and initiative (20%). They exceed intelligence (15%) and diligence (5%). Obedience, which was also tested, makes no contribution to organizational success. These findings are particularly relevant for banks, where the compliance culture is prevalent.

While compliance remains highly important for banks and all their stakeholders, including customers, regulators and shareholders, the new reality demands that bankers should use both parts of the brain, as their work and their environment has become much more complex. Without a doubt, the leaders that will be able to make their banks succeed in the marketplace will be those with a strong right-brain tendency. This change, in fact, marks the end of the management era and the beginning of the leadership era. In the management era, the predominant use of the left-brain was a prerequisite. In the leadership era, at the beginning of the 21st century, an additional prerequisite for success is a simultaneous and intensive use of the right-brain. In other words, a whole-brain outstanding performance. A leader must work with people – connect with them emotionally, create a sense of trust and empathy and make them willingly walk the extra mile for him or her, and for the organization. Many studies find that people are not actually committed to organizations, but rather to their managers. Daniel Pink discusses in his book “Drive” how leaders can motivate their employees in three ways: through autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Without a doubt, only leaders who succeed in using their whole brain will be able to do so.

Bankers and the Emotional Intelligence Land

EQ stands for Emotional Quotient, similarly to IQ, the Intelligence Quotient. Measuring one’s emotional intelligence comes from the relatively new recognition of the fact that emotions are important in every aspect of our life, including those that were previously considered to be entirely analytical or logical by nature. Today, emotions are increasingly recognized as an inseparable part of the thinking processes which are part of our professional lives.

Overall, emotional intelligence is a set of social and emotional skills that enables an optimal action, which leads to desirable results – individual and group effectiveness, synergy, as well as the recognition of challenges and the ways to address them. Our emotional intelligence model consists of 10 subscales, divided into four groups: Emotional Awareness & Management relates to understanding, accepting and managing our own emotions. Social Skills relates to our abilities in understanding emotions of others and managing interactions and relationships. Adaptability relates to our ability to understand situations objectively and to handle changes and uncertainty. Self- Actualization relates to our determination, passion and influence.

In the new era of the workplace the ability to understand one’s own emotions and those of others, to be flexible in the fast-changing reality, to show determination while facing growing challenges in a competitive world, and to lead with both head and heart, are crucial for personal and organizational success in a disruptive and turbulent reality.

While in the 20th century emotional intelligence was only perceived as “nice-to-have” and sometimes even frowned upon, it is nowadays a critical element of personal and professional success in the new era of the workplace.

Emotional intelligence is a scientific concept, based on more than 30 years of detailed research. The largest emotional intelligence center is located at Yale University.

In his insightful book “Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution“, the president of the World Economic Forum, Prof. Klaus Schwab says that emotional intelligence is especially needed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to Prof. Schwab, leaders and employees will need to become comfortable with the unknown and remain both hopeful and alert about what comes next. They will need to be creative in how they respond to the complexity of the systems around them and yet remain humble enough to know that they cannot know it all.

There is nowadays reputable evidence that emotional intelligence is one of the biggest predictors of performance in the workplace and a strong driver of leadership. Without a good amount of emotional intelligence, many bankers will find it difficult to achieve their personal and professional goals, mainly as leaders. As Daniel Goleman puts it, “Without it, a person can

have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.” Young bankers joining the industry will very quickly discover this themselves. They join organizations that are full of smart, hardworking and ambitious professionals and they will quickly realize that they need more than IQ and a great education to differentiate themselves.

Even more than it is today, emotional intelligence will be a critical ability for all bankers in the next decades. Banks that will continue to lead in the future will need to create a culture of augmented intelligence: the best partnership between people and artificial intelligence. This partnership should enhance, scale and upgrade human activities.

Artificial intelligence + Emotional intelligence = Augmented intelligence

Only bankers with high emotional intelligence are able to do well in this new environment, as they are aware of their emotions and their thoughts in various situations. They have a better understanding of their emotions and can manage them successfully (emotional self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence). They are also proactive and can demonstrate self-regulation, acting by choice rather than by emotional hijacking. Working in the finance industry that is constantly scrutinized by regulators, authorities and the larger public, in a highly competitive market where the quality and speed of services is a key differentiator (considering that the products themselves barely differentiate banks in the marketplace), with new trends changing business models every day, the ability of bankers to understand and manage their own emotions is critical.

Bank leaders and bank professionals who master emotional intelligence are aware of their values, purpose and knowledge, which enables them to set challenging yet realistic objectives and strive to attain them. They have a high sense of self-actualization and a growth mindset. They strive for constant learning and development and are not afraid to take risks and step out of their comfort zone. Their ability to clearly and assertively express their opinions and needs both in the organization and with their customers enables them to achieve their objectives. They are flexible and adapt easily to changes; they know how to act, even in stressful situations, how to remain optimistic and happy and how to communicate these feelings to their employees. They understand the emotions of others (employees, colleagues and superiors), recognize their needs, provide them with an appropriate response, build positive and productive relationships and become the trusted advisors of their clients. They create a shared vision and successfully motivate others to join in.

The banking industry needs leaders who are not only adaptable themselves but are also able to help others adapt to change in an industry that has already undergone tremendous change and will continue to transform itself dramatically in the coming years.

Many leaders and professionals in the banking world now realize that it is time to shift focus from developing mainly technical and professional skills to other areas. With the banking industry being the backbone of any economy, having workforces and leaders who are actively focusing on developing their emotional intelligence skills will certainly make a lasting impact.

Bankers and the Sustainability Land

The fast-changing and disruptive reality in the new era of the workplace is often described as stormy weather or turbulent water rapids. The Sustainability Land relates to our ability to “stay on the boat” when there is a big risk of falling into the gushing waters. It is about success in the long term. The rate and pace of changes we are all facing now are not easy and take a toll on everyone. No one can run a marathon at sprint-speed for a long time without proper resources. The land is based on the work of many thought leaders on the topic of well- being, optimism (Professor Seligman), and career success in a changing, complex and dynamic reality (Barsh and Cranston).

The following five components of the sustainability land are therefore crucial for our success in the new era of the workplace. First, our ability to find a sense of Higher Purpose in our work and life. Second, our ability to choose to look at the glass half full (Optimism). Third is our ability to take full ownership of our career by building and maintaining a personal winning value proposition (Proactive Career Management). Fourth is our ability to build and maintain a wide network of relationships, so people will support us during both good and challenging times (Social Capital). And last but not least, we also need to proactively take care of ourselves – get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and engage ourselves in activities that contribute to our well-being and our level of happiness (Well Being). 

Staying on the boat when in the gushing white waters

Higher Purpose:

The bankers of tomorrow need a high sense of purpose. Such bankers no longer assess their success based only on traditional factors such as good financial performance, or a low number of customer complaints.

They have a strong feeling that their personal success is also based on their positive influence on all their stakeholders: team members, clients, shareholders and the society at large. Bankers with a high sense of purpose are highly committed to their work and believe that what they are doing is meaningful. They feel that they are very competent in their jobs and have a high sense of giving and meaning. The sense of higher purpose helps leaders inspire and motivate their employees, build relationships based on trust with their clients and contribute to the advance of society at large. This sense of meaning will help them overcome most of the obstacles and stay on the boat in the white-water rapids.

Optimism and Positive Framing:

Optimism is a crucial ability in the ever-changing reality, when obstacles will be on the way most of the time. Optimism plays a role in almost every aspect of one’s professional life, regardless of its field of specialization – when facing clients, colleagues, superiors or subordinates, as well as when leading organizational change management processes or innovative processes.

Optimistic bankers can find opportunities in difficulties, seeing problems and obstacles in a way that encourages creative solutions and innovation. The way in which they choose to view and interpret the world influences their personal and professional achievements. It is important to note that “positive framing” does not mean putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses, but rather the ability to see the facts as they are and still being able to emphasize the positive. Leaders who positively frame their reality can lead their teams towards feelings of capability and ability, rather than submission and helplessness. This ability helps everyone to keep going in the stormy weather, especially in today’s environment where banks are facing widespread scrutiny and criticism.

Social Capital:

This dimension relates to bankers’ ability to put time and effort into building significant networks and create meaningful relationships with people of various backgrounds. Studies indicate that people who have strong social networks and good mentors tend to progress faster, earn more and be more satisfied with their careers. This means that creating meaningful and productive relationships is part of a banker’s everyday job.

Successful bankers build complex networks of connections, inside and outside of their organisations, which increase their personal influence and accelerate their development, thanks to the variety of ideas, meaningful insights, and experience they are exposed to through these connections. They consult with the relevant experts in different fields in order to deepen their knowledge, widen their perspective, and eventually make better and more professional decisions.

Proactive Career Management:

The bankers of the future will recognize the fact that in “The Era of the Smart Machine” they need to develop the skills of the future. They will need to take full ownership of their career management and determine the set of skills they will need for continuous success. They will search for opportunities to empower themselves, acquire valuable experience and upgrade their capabilities. They will set themselves challenging goals and put in time and effort to achieve them. They will certainly not wait for the HR department in their bank to provide workshops or organizational development programmes, but will put in time and energy on a regular basis in order to build a winning personal value proposition.

Well Being:

The bankers of the future will focus on their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. They will methodically invest in their wellbeing by creating actions and habits on a regular basis. These bankers will realize that everyone has a limited amount of energy – from the CEO in his or her top floor office to the most junior employee. The challenging reality in which we live demands that we exert massive amounts of energy on a daily basis. Many professionals in the banking sector work long hours and especially those in leadership positions struggle to achieve a balance between the responsibilities of their jobs and their lives outside of work. However, bankers need to show awareness of the fact that they must find this balance as leaders – both for themselves and for their employees – and that balance can lead to better life habits.

Individuals who are occupied with things they are good at and love to do are also more likely to maintain high energy levels. When we use our core skills – our strengths – to overcome challenges and achieve goals, we experience a mental state in which our work is perceived as effortless. As a result, we have better output, higher productivity and greater satisfaction from our work. However, it is important to remember that sometimes, even when we are focused on the task at hand and feel capable and motivated, we may still fail. In general, our ability to easily recover from failure attests to our resilience.

Bankers and the I-21 Land

The I-21 Land symbolizes the bankers’ ability to create new lands using the skills and competencies they have acquired in their personal journeys; Holding a growth mindset attitude, leaving their comfort zone, and putting in time and energy; Becoming Artgineers – critical and analytical thinkers on the one hand; visionary, creative and innovative on the other hand; Displaying strong abilities in the components of emotional intelligence, becoming comfortable with the unknown, responding to the complexity of the surrounding systems in creative ways and yet remaining humble enough to know that they cannot understand it all; Maintaining good wellbeing, a wide network and the ability to positively frame challenging situations.

In the new era of the workplace, bankers will need to invent and reinvent themselves in order to provide their employees, clients and society at large with a personal winning value proposition:


Bankers will need to understand how their profession is going to look in “The Era of the Smart Machine” and to put time and effort to develop the set of necessary skills.


Bankers will need to understand how the new era of the workplace is going to change their clients’ lives, needs, industries and strategies, and providing them with a winning value proposition.


Bankers will need to support their employees in their personal journey in the five lands, helping them acquire a

growth mindset attitude and the skills of the future and maintain their employability.

Society at large:

Bankers will need to combine growth and profit with support for society at large: supporting the development of financial markets, investing in making lives of less fortunate people better and shaping the future of the society in which the bank is operating.















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