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The Fintech Revolution Begins With Workforce Agility But Succeeds With Scale The boundaries between previously isolated sectors are blurring as a response to changing customer behavior and preferences

By Victor Choi

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One of the fastest growing globally, India's fintech sector is projected to expand to $31 billion by next year. With tech-advances and growing responsibilities, financial leaders are bracing themselves for even bigger changes ahead to stay competitive. CII & Deloitte's latest "Banking on the future: Vision 2020' has identified several core shifts that Indian banks and financial institutions will need to make in their go-to-market approach in response to market conditions.

However, despite the fast pace of growth, the industry has always seen deficit of talent and skills. Around 25 per cent of the existing jobs in the BFSI sector face an existential crisis in the next three years, while 20-25 per cent of people will be deployed in jobs that don't exist yet. Meanwhile, the boundaries between previously isolated sectors are blurring as a response to changing customer behavior and preferences.

Incumbent players are adapting operating models, structures, and systems to enhance efficiency, turnaround time and agility. With the digital realm expanding the concept of a workforce, the historical roles of operating in a fintech workplace are finally on the precipice of two outcomes—evolve or become extinct.

The Need For Lean

In this regard, fintech organisations are taking a leaf out of the IT agile framework. Smaller, agile players are collaborating and creating solutions for the markets once only served by incumbent players. Even the larger financial institutions need to shift their approach from traditional to disruptive. The only way that can happen is with a strong focus on agility. In addition to managing for scale, fintech's must now also manage for organisation-wide quality. They need to know how to make their organizations nimble while they work with a modern-day workforce.

Future Of Fintech Is Agile

While agile performance management is undoubtedly the need of the hour for the fintech sector, it must be aligned to evolving business needs and fluid enough to cater to a progressive culture. If market dynamics are disrupted, adaptability needs to be higher and faster. As opposed to a chain-of-command hierarchy, agile teams work differently and are largely self-governing, with autonomy being a key factor.

Autonomous and entrepreneurial small groups or "cells' or "pods' are not only the fate of many emerging fintech start-ups but also a viable alternative to designing the future of how we work together. Flat structured teams derive guidance from the topmost levels, cross-functional skills, and work in rapid cycles or "sprints' to address a business' most pressing issues. Especially with an increasing need for on-demand skilled professionals adept at technology, multidisciplinary agility becomes imperative for the fintech sector. For instance, cybersecurity experts of the future will also need an understanding of blockchain, and data scientists will need to know UX/UI to keep up with new business disruptions. A clear understanding of the development cycle—from beginning to end/ new product development cycle—will be a prerequisite for most business personnel.

The benefit of this autonomous structure in a finance organisation is quick response time to changing environments. The Reserve Bank of India's latest guidelines to banks on reducing turnaround time to resolve disputes and failed ATM transactions is one such case where banks can definitely improve efficiency with a mix of technology and agile ecosystem. However, enticing as the vision is, the reality of synchronizing the autonomy throughout the entire organisation for sustainable and scalable growth can be a challenge, something that needs to be resolved as a continuous process.

Expertise Over Experience: Bridging the "Agility-Ability' Gap

Culture is the origin of change, and change often seeps top-down. As per several studies from global think-tanks such as KellyOCG and Mckinsey, fintech organisations need agility, yet often lack the ability to redesign the change. Financial institutions, new to disruptive forces especially, require talent who come with a "change mindset' — those are eager to learn, adapt and be agile at it — regardless of their traditional role. Financial leadership therefore will need strategic rethinking of competencies, remapping of roles and infusion of agile governance processes to drive improved outcomes and enhanced customer experiences.

The ultimate goal for the organisation as a whole—operating models, culture and core practices—is to be adaptive to new changing global markets, hyper-competition and skill insufficiencies. With a market size of $73 billion by next year, growing 22 per cent CAGR thereon, the fintech industry will need the support of a highly responsive and technology-savvy workforce, as well as an accelerated speed of change.

Victor Choi

CEO, Balancehero India

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