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What are the critical “future skills” for executives?


by Jennifer Reynolds


“Skills of the future” is a topic that is starting to dominate talent discussions today. Technology is rapidly shifting the landscape in all industries, and as a result, continuously changing the skill sets that are in high demand. The question professionals today need to ask themselves is: how do I ensure that I am developing skill sets which have longevity in the workplace? And employers need to consider: how do we attract and retain a talent pool with those skills of the future?

A recent Toronto Financial Services Alliance study done in partnership with PwC looked at how roles and skills will change in the financial services industry across key functional areas, including customer service and sales, product development, technology, operations and controls. In the context of automation, big data, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, the study sought to identify the skills people working in the
industry will require to harness the value of these technologies.

The study identified four key skills of the future:


1. Human Experience Skills

Emotional intelligence, empathy, communications, and influencing skills will be critical to allow individuals to meet increasingly high expectations of customers and employees when it comes to the value they demand in their interactions with organizations.


2. Re-imagination Skills

Curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and business acumen will help individuals reimagine the future and develop new solutions to meaningful business problems that have commercial value.


3. Pivoting Skills

The willingness to change, the capacity to learn and adopt new skills quickly, and the ability to lead people through change and build resilience will help people adapt in an environment of volatility and uncertainty.


4. Future Currency Skills

Developing and staying current on key technical skills will be a baseline requirement for people as the digital and information age continues to evolve. Holding key technical skills will be critical for employees; however, those in-demand skills will evolve and shift, so employees and employers will need to proactively build new pools of expertise.


To support this more agile, innovative and skilled workforce, talent management will need to take on a more integral role in the strategic planning process and in the performance evaluations of leaders and managers at all levels in the organization. A greater focus on anticipating the new skill sets that will be required and on developing strategies to attract and retain that talent will be key competitive drivers for organizations. Hiring for core skills which can adapt to new job descriptions and adopt new competencies will provide a stronger talent pool with lower friction costs. Retraining and regular education will need to be a principal element in any successful talent strategy.

Undoubtedly, all this will mean managers and leaders will spend considerably more time managing and developing talent. As the investment in the talent pool increases, attracting and retaining that talent will be increasingly important to organizations.


“Academia and the private sector will need to work together to ensure Canadian post-secondary institutions are equipping students with skills that are relevant and in-demand.”


To facilitate the evolution and development of the skill sets required for the future, academia and the private sector will need to work together to ensure Canadian post-secondary institutions are equipping students with skills that are relevant and in-demand. A critical role that the private sector can play will be to create more work-integrated learning experiences for students. These practical work experiences will allow students to graduate with more sophisticated and well-rounded skill sets and enable them to transition into careers more effectively. The financial services industry is increasingly recognizing the value of these programs for students and is creating a growing number of co-op and internship opportunities, both through independent programs and as part of collective initiatives like ASPIRE, a TFSA-led sector-wide work-integrated learning program. Reaching students earlier ensures organizations can help equip the future workforce with the skills our economy requires, not to mention it allows those organizations to define the value proposition its organization can provide to new graduates.

Organizations will need to prioritize bench strengths like people development and coaching skills much more highly than in the past. Rapid change and continuous re-skilling will challenge both employees and managers, but if successfully navigated, can be a defining element of success. Today, more than ever, strong talent management will be a key competitive advantage for senior executives and their organizations.



Jennifer Reynolds is the President & CEO at Toronto Financial Services Alliance. Her 20 year career in the financial services industry has included senior roles in investment banking, venture capital, and global risk management. Prior to joining TFSA, Jennifer was the President & CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), Canada’s largest industry association and advocacy group for women in the financial sector.