Project Career Moves: Financial Services
Want a financial career you can bank on? Invest in developing a digital-first, user-centric mindset.
The digital revolution has redefined how people invest, save and pay. Subsequently, the rapid-fire expansion of initiatives ranging from mobile banking to virtual currency has radically transformed what’s needed to build and maintain a project management career in financial services.
Whether you’re working in advanced economies, where legacy institutions are closing the gap on fintech startups, or in historically banking-deficient regions, where first-mover innovators leapfrogged straight to digital payments, the need for digital-savvy project managers in financial services keeps surging.
“Gone are the days of standing in long queues to open a bank account, receive a physical statement of your account or wait days for a loan approval,” says Dibyajyoti Banerjee, PMP, VP, senior specialist program manager, client experience and service delivery, BNY Mellon, Pune, India. “Those are all available at your fingertips now, powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning and instant messaging apps—all of which are very safe and easy to use.”
Dibyajyoti Banerjee, PMP, VP
senior specialist program manager, BNY Mellon
Indeed, according to the BAI Banking Outlook Special Report, customers expect 61 percent of their banking to be done digitally by 2024. While such expectations will surely widen, other factors fuel uncertainty—and could alter how project professionals sustain a career advantage in the industry.
As central banks steadily hike interest rates to mitigate persistent inflation, the threat of a global recession looms over the industry. And when FTX filed for bankruptcy, it renewed concerns about cryptocurrency. In the eye of so many industry unknowns, financial services companies need project professionals who can help them balance the pursuit of profit and the Next Big Thing.
Here are four moves experienced and aspiring project professionals can make to establish career resilience in an evolving industry.
Look Ahead: The Future Is Fintech
Project professionals in the financial services industry need to run—not walk—toward digital. Next-gen tech tools are redefining industry services and how project teams deliver those innovations. Helping teams continue to explore the limits of fintech will help project managers stand out over the long haul—providing a critical career edge if recession-wary companies start to reduce headcounts.
What can transform careers?
- Automation: According to Forrester, cost-cutting is a priority for 73 percent of financial services firms. By investing in tech like AI and machine learning to automate project tasks, companies can find efficiencies to help offset their bottom line. Project professionals who learn to leverage these tools will free up more time for strategic decision-making and stay ahead of the digital curve.
- DIY development: Project professionals can add citizen developer experience or show an organization the value of low-code/no-code development can deliver. This understanding can help companies tighten resource investments. It can also prove to companies that you’re a forward-thinking project leader.
- Virtual advantage: Companies are looking to cash in on buzzy trends like the metaverse for virtual experiences and blockchain for creating a ledger for virtual currencies and peer-to-peer loans. While becoming a master of those technologies isn’t necessary, building up a general knowledge of such platforms can help determine when and how they can become a strategic fit for a company.
“Every day there’s a new technology or a new trend that everybody wants,” says 2021 Future 50 leader Jaime Lama Collado, PMI-PBA, PMP, of the Dominican Republic Stock Exchange. “Young leaders need to identify which trends will and won’t affect their business.”
Prioritize People for a Career Payoff
Only 9 percent of financial services leaders say their organization’s digital customer experience is “excellent,” according to the BAI study—which means there’s an opportunity for project managers to raise the bar. Project professionals who understand the need to put the customer first will carve out a career advantage and build long-term value for financial companies.
“Digital transformation and disruption help financial services companies improve the customer experience in many ways—from attracting new customers to simplifying banking,” Banerjee says. “During this process, customer centricity, or a clear focus on meeting customers' needs, is key.”
User experience (UX) needs to be front of mind at all times for project professionals—turning feedback into ideas that improve the customer journey. Putting people-centered decision-making at the core of your professional development is critical. Two ways to do that?
- Design thinking: Learning to solve problems with the end user in mind is a must-have approach for financial services teams. From building more intuitive mobile banking apps to updating account security protocols, project managers who elevate UX will remain in high demand.
- Risk and reward: Sure, that PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® certification will help you build a better risk register and proactively identify potential problems before they create blockers. But having a firm grasp on possible threats can also reveal opportunities to rethink solutions from the customer’s perspective.
Communication Turns Ideas into Reality
The need to navigate so much disruption means project professionals in the financial services industry can’t allow ambiguity to slow progress or threaten outcomes. Mastering effective communication means being an active listener who can synthesize UX feedback and developing an influential voice for elevating innovation and reinforcing alignment.
Want to strengthen that power skill? Try these steps:
- Tailor the message: Learn how different stakeholders best receive information—and which insights are most relevant to them to maintain progress.
- Learn the language: Can you translate jargon from cutting-edge tech teams into words that resonate with sponsors or users? Consider building a virtual glossary and sharing it with the team at project kickoff so that mission-critical terms are defined from the start.
- Keep the lines open: Communication is a two-way street. By encouraging constant engagement, project professionals can empower team members to exchange ideas and information in ways that get ahead of potential problems and accelerate decision-making.
Agility (and Agile) is Everything
Project professionals must adapt to new ways of working to build truly cross-functional teams. For instance, do you have the skills to help a company scale agile beyond IT teams? Whether this involves earning a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification, becoming a scrum master or learning to seed hybrid approaches, project professionals in the financial services industry must know how to tailor delivery.
Embracing agile is part of a broader vision project professionals must sharpen to remain resilient and change-ready. Can you reshuffle resources on the fly? Do you know when the zeal of first-mover advantage must take a back seat to ensure all cybersecurity threats are buttoned up first? The ability to reinforce a mindset for teams to be proactive and seamlessly responsive can carve out a professional advantage in financial services.
“Agility is the most important thing for us,” Michal Raczka, IT director at Poland’s mBank, told PMI’s Projectified®. He helps to enforce a quarterly cadence for team-wide engagement that prioritizes reviews that show agility in action, empowering team members to make the right decisions. Amid a need to flex, project professionals who can keep everyone on the same page will bring value to financial services companies.
Make Your Move in Financial Services
“In the current financial services industry, data privacy, maintaining legal and regulatory requirements, and exceeding consumer expectations should be the key for project professionals. Future opportunities are unlimited if the right balance of customer centricity and innovation is maintained.”
—Dibyajyoti Banerjee, PMP, VP, senior specialist program manager, client experience and service delivery, BNY Mellon, Pune, India