On the 4th of August, GIFS sponsored a webinar on Skills Development in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR). This was a panel discussion that engaged two leaders in various areas of expertise on the skills and competencies required for SA business to successfully navigate the new, digitised realities, with a specific focus on the Short-Term Insurance industry. The session explored how the Financial Services Sector can develop a future-fit mindset by developing critical skills and competencies.
Sean Naidoo started his journey within the banking and insurance industry in 1994, at the young age of 19 years old. Through this journey, he has held several senior management and executive positions in this industry. He has a proven record in rescuing ailing business operations as well as managing new acquisitions and merger integrations in challenging and unfamiliar environments.
Frans Kutumela works for Santam as Head of Leadership & People Development. His role is to lead the team to deliver high quality learning, consistent with global/local standards in the most effective and efficient way to build employee capabilities to drive business performance.
Name: Dr Kershen Pillay, CEO of the Graduate Institute of Financial Sciences (GIFS)
Dr Kershen Pillay, CEO of the Graduate Institute of Financial Sciences (GIFS), is regarded as a foremost thought-leader, and an education trailblazer and visionary. He is deeply committed to mobilising the power of education to create a better Africa for others to inherit. Kershen is an astute innovator who is nationally acknowledged and respected for his consistent efforts to level the socio-economic playing fields by making quality education available to all.
Dr Kershen Pillay commenced the session by giving insight into an article published by the Institute for Global dialog which outlined the large-scale retrenchments in the banking sector, one of the major examples of the implications of Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR). He further expounded on the knock-on effects of these job losses to our economy. The question then posed, is this FIR really boom or is it, all doom?
Our guest speakers, Mr Frans Kutumela and Mr Sean Naidoo was asked to provide their thoughts on the question posed.
Sean echoed that it would take all stakeholders to participate in our economy for it to grow and not just businesses, likening it to the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. To answer the questioned posed, he encouraged us to see the revolution not just as job losses, but rather the removal of mundane job functions to make space for more complex and challenging functions to be performed by our workforce. He further explained the reasons why such higher levels of performances are needed and what it means for job satisfaction, workers expectations and ultimately leads to employees thriving in their roles. Perhaps the reason why FIR is considered doom and gloom by some, is the lack of preparation for it.
Frans absolutely sees the FIR as a boom. He has seen job integration rather than simply job redundancies.
On answering the question what specific skills and competencies are needed in the Financial Services industry to be future fit, Frans drew from his experience and confirmed on an annual basis the re-skilling, upskilling and multi-skilling of workers being performed, before considering job losses. Despite the challenges faced, he also re-iterated the huge investments seen from industry sectors with regards to learning and development, resources, and budgets, which is encouraging to see. There has been a large increase for the need of data analysis/scientist, across all sectors, some due to the regulated industries we work in. Further opportunities for cyber security skills associated with data and securing client data are also on the increase. We are also seeing an emergence of new roles, such as content creators for online learning, curators, and the like. In essence, people who possess a specific skill set like marketing, finance and tech can now learn a new skill. A lot of opportunities are now available online for the work force to upskill themselves and become more marketable. Whilst the structured platforms still exist for learnerships and graduate programs, there is opportunities to repurpose and even change job careers if one desires to do so.
Dr Kershen provided feedback from the comments received from the attendees, it is unanimous that the attendees of the session believed the FIR can be considered as a boom which brings with it huge opportunities and not just job losses. Human interventions are always required, the boom will bring new skill sets.
Sean was asked what in his opinion, was needed from a human perspective to be future fit. He brought it back to a thought, from invisible to invaluable, citing the fact that for a very long time in the industry data was never really analysed until the onset of FIR. As much as we need investment in technology to analyse the data, we would need investment in the critical resources needed to analyse this data and one needs to look at our current workforce to see if they are ready to take on the role to “deep dive” data.
To be ready as organisations, we need to start not just at the FIR, but rather, right at the beginning, at the onset, to ensure individuals get the foundations and right grounding in the industry they are in. There is a new shift to move towards technology but it’s critical that individuals understand, not just the basic of their industry but the technical aspects as well. A combination of good foundational skills, product, and technical knowledge together with the data analysis can then be centred toward the customer to make for a better client experience. Not all workers are going to end up with the same skill set. As much as we can blame various factors, like schooling, once an individual enters an organisation, there must be a commitment to capital investment, thus ensuring everyone receives what is needed to be future fit. If needed, step changing individuals to achieve success in their roles.
Dr Kershen spoke briefly to the point made “Not all staff turn up equally”, especially given our country’s history. To this end, it is important for FIR programs to be designed with this in mind. To be future fit is not merely obtaining one specific qualification, like data analytics, but rather several logical building blocks, and we will see levels of various qualifications that will come through.
To summarise, the skills required are both technological and human in nature. From a human perspective, we need critical thinkers, active listeners, analytical thinkers, and collaborators. On the technical side, we need professional data analysists/scientist but currently in South Africa, our demand exceeds our supply. This will lead to a digital skills gap and readiness when comparing South Africa to other countries. Dr Kershen asked the panel to provide their thoughts on how we now prepare for these challenges.
Frans raised the need for good leadership with strong emotional intelligence to lead organisations through this, specific to what we are facing now in view of the current covid-19 pandemic. We shouldn’t lose sight no matter the perspective you look at it from, whether transformation or strategic, the need for solid leadership is still needed to meet the challenge.
Sean commented, both teacher and students are on the same learning journey regarding the FIR. One needs to consider from early schooling, that the teachers themselves need to be taught about FIR and not assume that everyone is ready to teach. This is critical from a national level; we may be ready from a tech and infrastructure point – in fact, we are technology rich but may be solutions poor in our approach, across the various industries. We need the contribution of the individual, the teaching institution and corporate for a wholistic approach. He further gave insight on a worldwide study done by Deloitte, where 79% of youth had to go outside of work/school organisations to gain the necessary skill to obtain the jobs they wanted, compared to a mere 3% that relied on solely on these organisations for this. Where to from here? Insetas and government need to play a role in making digital learning courses easily accessible to the average individual. As we move from the first IR to the fourth IR, government needs to understand that things are moving quicker. Hence, policy making between government, the educational sector, and corporates, need to be made and implemented at a quicker pace. It’s important to go back to our youth as they are our future workforce and customers.
Dr Kershen, led by comments made by an attendee, “we all are learning, it’s the journey that needs curation”, posed the question, who will this curator be?
Frans suggested, although we should all be curators, this could lead to chaos. He re-iterated that monitoring is already available in the current structures. Start with letting staff know what courses are available within your organisations to make them future ready. Make it easily accessible by using the vast number of platforms already available. At the same time, be mindful of not overloading people with too much. One does not want to be in a state of perpetual learning. Practical initiatives and projects must be implemented to home in and use the new learning and skills acquired. It’s in the action that one will reap the benefits and rewards of this learning, to prepare for the opportunities that the FIR brings. As individuals are already learning outside of organisations, we now need to play a pivotal role in being supportive to this.
To summarise, Dr Kershen shared some of the comments made by the attendees asking for closing thoughts on: – yes provide the skill, but what about the experience needed. Sean expressed the importance of structured career paths being done. Mentorship and coaching being a critical tool to guide even school kids and not just at the point where we start employment. Both organisations and schools need to give guidance on what the opportunities are, provide guidance from an academic point of view, career path and the skills needed. Mentorships is something that individual need to seek as much as they receive it. It needs to be a commitment from all parties.
How will the insurance roles evolve to accommodate these new skills and competencies?
Frans re-iterated the need for integration between organisations and industries. Whilst organisations embrace technology there is certainly a need for organisations to invest in their existing talents for the purposes of retention. In our preparation stages, we must engage with all parties and not forget the why, that is, the customer who is also evolving in terms of their needs. It’s important to note that the financial industry has remained resilient during these challenging times, being conscious of the current rate of unemployment.
Parting thoughts expressed by Sean, the next generation, has a huge role to play in reverse mentorship. As the younger generations are going on a new learning journey, take the older generation with you. Frans expressed his excitement at the opportunities we have ahead, human capital and skill is still needed in this digital age.
Facilitator Christina Jenkins thanked the panel for the insights given and the attendees for their participation and interaction.
The article was written by Suren Kasil
This session was proudly sponsored by: