Published 24. Oct. 2018

4 Critical Skills Of Banking Leaders Today

Every era calls for a different leadership skill set. Here are 4 critical areas every banking leader should focus on to be future-ready.

Trailblazing from The Colonial Period down to today’s Digital Era, the Banking Industry has found itself constantly innovating to adapt to the requirements of the current time.

Without a doubt, banks are more than just transactions – customer relationships must be at the heart of everything. Most importantly, a culture of customer-centricity is something that every banking leader should prioritize, which is why visionary leadership is crucial, as it could make or break the entire organization.

Here are 4 critical skills for leaders to move the banking system at the speed of technological advancement and add more values to customers’ lives.

Vision Casting

Everything is changing at an unparalleled speed. For banks to survive and thrive, their leaders must possess the ability to foresee and have a clear picture of what lies ahead. And this vision must be a pre-requisite to an endgame, according to Vietnam Maritime Commercial Joint Stock Bank’s CIO Quoc Khanh Bui, “We need to be able to look into the future and create a vision, but we have to ensure that our vision is realistic to our business and that our organization actually benefits from its implementation.”

The end goal is to be a part of a customer’s everyday life, rather than a mere banking partner. To achieve better outcomes for customers, the industry has widely adopted cloud computing, wearables, and AI chatbots to name a few, to enable frictionless banking experiences and be there whenever the need arises. It’s worth noting that a major part of banking technology vision now focuses on the use of blockchain, especially with its potential to solve the drawbacks in traditional SWIFT bank transfer and the client identification system.

Related: Finance Leadership in the Digital Economy

Technological Literacy

From innovation to security, everything is technology-based. With the speed at which technology grows, bank leaders must be tech-savvy. Hugo Nájera Alva, Head of Business Development at BBVA Bancomer, shares that it is important for leaders to always be ahead of the technological  trends.“Competitors are no longer financial institutions, but technology players,” he says. To get ahead of the competition, banking leaders must think outside of the portals of the finance mindset. Technology is the game changer in modern banking institutions. A keen eye on the latest trends and technologies will enable leaders to gear up for forthcoming challenges in the industry, simultaneously introduce new solutions to existing problems and revolutionize banking experience at large.


Not only are the changes fast-paced, they’re also happening on multiple fronts. To be able to respond and meet demands in a timely manner, organizations must remove old restrictions and be more flexible with policies. Given the rise of disruptive fintech startups, stepping out of tradition is vital.

20th century banks were all about paper works, buildings and humans, while 21st century banks data are about software and servers. A leader’s role in driving banking innovation is built on the foundation of adaptability, to understand the digital capacity in transforming legacy systems and how banks can leverage it to create better products for today’s customers. As what Maybank Group’s CMO Mohamed Adam Wee Abdullah said, “Organizations must first learn to understand change to be able to adapt to it.” Going digital means having a better reach to customers; hence, establishing stronger customer relationships.

Read More: From Business Transactions to Customer Relationships: The Banking Industry at the Digital Age

Strong Emotional Quotient

In an era where everything is customer-centric, and banks are disrupting themselves to foster strong customer relationships, employees are oftentimes repressed to the background. Always keep in mind that the banking sector is the backbone of every economy. The pressure that comes with this responsibility could take a toll on bank employees.

In a study by Anurag Pahuja and Anu Sahi, the most common problems in the banking sector are “overloading and extreme burden of work, strictly time pressure of completion of tasks, more than 12 hours of work duration, long travel, fear of termination of job contract, etc.” This creates a strain in employee productivity and being able to accomplish their tasks.  A good banking leader should be able to help his employees regulate and navigate these emotional challenges by maintaining a strong EQ, and be an example. For employees to deliver an effective customer experience, they should have a culture where employee experience is given due importance.

Driven by value-creation mindset, banks should compete for customer satisfaction, not the counts of transactions. And these leadership qualities are the first step for bankers to take a leap into the future of smart banking.

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