Tackling the Talent Gap in Payments Through Upskilling

Tackling the Talent Gap in Payments Through Upskilling

Tackling the Talent Gap in Payments Through Upskilling

Charles Keenan

Charles Keenan

Charles Keenan has written about payments since joining the American Banker as a staff reporter in 1997, a time when automated teller machines were appearing just about everywhere but people's living rooms thanks to the relaxation of surcharging rules.

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Payments and financial services face the same fundamental challenges as any other industry: how to find enough skilled workers to keep up with technological change.

Right now there aren't enough qualified workers to help companies meet the new demands for products and services, which increasingly rely on people skilled in areas such as artificial intelligence, analytics, cloud services and cybersecurity. With cybersecurity alone, the world's economy is on pace to have a gap of 1.8 million workers by 2022, according to a report by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.

Much of the tech talent coming out of traditional American colleges is flocking to 'hip' places to work: large tech firms such as Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Apple — and legions of Silicon Valley startups. At the same time, unemployment is at historic lows; in November, it was 2.1 percent in the category of management, business and financial operations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So the remaining companies can either fight for the scraps or take matters into their own hands by 'upskilling' (sometimes also described as reskilling) their own workforces.

"It's mandatory for companies to make this shift," says Kevin Grieve, head of Accenture's North America payments practice. "If they don't, they are going to get left behind."

Nowadays, new technology is rendering positions obsolete. We saw what Uber and Lyft did to the taxi business. Scanners are replacing cashiers in supermarkets. In banking, cashiers, brokerage clerks and loan officers will be increasingly automated, notes the Accenture report. New jobs will be needed, such as machine 'learning engineer,' 'deep-learning scientist,' 'fraud analyst' and 'lending tactician.'

The value of upskilling

Yet if companies focus on upskilling, the potential payoff is high. By one estimate, if banks invest in AI and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as top-performing businesses, they could boost their revenue by an average of 34 percent and their employment by 14 percent by 2022, according to an Accenture study published in 2018.

Many companies across a variety of industries have already started down the path of reskilling big workforces. AT&T, Disney, Walmart and McDonald's are making large investments. It's happening in payments too: In June, Discover Financial Services announced that it would pay for 90 percent of tuition, books and supplies for online bachelor's degrees at three universities in areas such as business administration, computer and network security, business management and software design.

By 2022: With cybersecurity alone, the world's economy is on pace to have a gap of 1.8 million workers. (source: Center for Cyber Safety and Education)

Today's job, tomorrow's obsolescence 

In payments and in all industries, the cloud's increasing role in business is reshaping what's needed in terms of skills. Working in the cloud requires more coding (think software engineer), with less of a need for someone handling the physical administration of network switches and routers.

"Managing a cloud environment versus an on-premise environment is very different," says Patty Watson, chief information officer at TSYS. "You have traditional roles that people play in an infrastructure organization that don't really apply."

To upskill its own workforce, TSYS uses a variety of methods. One is Pluralsight, an online education tool that offers courses to help companies bridge the gap with workers. Employees have logged more than 24,000 hours of training as of December 2018. The tool allows workers to learn whenever and wherever they want.

TSYS has also instituted digital bootcamps, giving employees an opportunity to plug into new technology, such as software design and engineering skills that are increasingly critical to the company. All told, this and other training programs have allowed for the reskilling of about 2,000 employees, just short of a sixth of the company's workforce.

Back to school

Companies are also partnering with universities to develop more practical ways to upskill workers, who don't have the time, money or lifestyle to go back to school for two to four years. Last August, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) announced an online master's degree in cybersecurity, which began this January.

It follows the creation of the school's two other low-cost master's degrees programs in computer science and analytics. The online format allows for scale, notes Nelson Baker, dean of professional education at Georgia Tech. That brings down tuition costs as well.

The online model at Georgia Tech has students working in 10-minute modules rather than the traditional 50-minute college class, and the school emphasizes collaboration with other students online. Georgia Tech uses analytics to measure how well its teaching methods work online.

Environment matters

In addition to making investments, companies need to create the right environment to encourage learning, adds Jaime Fall, director of the economic opportunities program of Upskilling America, an initiative that works with employers to advance training and education programs.

"If you want to be ready for what's coming down the road, you better be thinking about the learning culture you have created," he says.

For companies, that involves leadership by management  and total buy-in. Watson, who served in the Air Force, notes how leaders in the military don't choose their staff, and instead focus on maximizing the ability of their people. "Your job as the leader is to help them achieve their full potential," she says.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

Other Articles by Charles

Charles Keenan

Charles Keenan has written about payments since joining the American Banker as a staff reporter in 1997, a time when automated teller machines were appearing just about everywhere but people’s living rooms thanks to the relaxation of surcharging rules.

His work at the American Banker included writing about credit and debit cards, merchant processing, and bank stocks. He later freelanced for the Banker and industry publications such as Banking Strategies, Bank Director, Community Banker, and U.S. Banker. He also writes about investing, insurance and health care, and is based in Los Angeles.

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