Solving the digital skills gap in financial services

By Alexia Pedersen, VP of EMEA at O’Reilly


As we reflect on 2022, it is clear that demand for digitally skilled workers continues to outgrow the level of digital skills available to the UK’s financial sector – with research showing that cybersecurity and cloud are currently the digital skills most in demand.

The impact of this growing skills gap is significant. For example, the Bank of England recently issued a warning that cyberattacks pose the greatest risk to financial institutions in both the short and long term, above inflation and geopolitical turmoil. Although there is a high level of awareness for this growing issue, companies continue to invest only a small amount in recruitment and training to bolster much-needed cybersecurity skills.

Furthermore, while digital transformation remains crucial for driving innovation and new services, which are often designed and delivered using sophisticated cloud architecture, companies are not putting adaqaute investment behind the cloud skills they so desperately need. So, amid an increasingly challenging economic climate, how can the UK’s financial sector close its digital skills gap to remain innovative and protect itself from increased cyberthreats in 2023?

Balancing recruitment with L&D opportunities

A decade of recruitment challenges has proven that the technology skills gap cannot be closed by hiring alone. The talent is simply not there to hire. With a dual crisis of recession and talent deficit, the finance sector must explore alternative ways of solidifying its skills strategy. The most obvious way of doing this is to double down on technological L&D as a core strategy.

Yet, research shows that despite cybersecurity being the skill most lacking within finance companies, only a limited number of decision-makers are willing to spend more than £10,000 on recruitment (27%) and learning and development (L&D) (26%) combined to boost cybersecurity talent over in the next twelve months.

Meanwhile, the majority of organisations plan to spend no more than £10,000 on recruitment (60%) or L&D (65%) to increase cloud skills in 2023. When you consider the reputational and regulatory cost of falling victim to a cyberattack, and the vital need for innovation to recession-proof business operations, this invesmtnet in recruitment and L&D is a paltry sum.

Fortunately, HR leaders recognise the need to increase digital talent to ensure resilience and drive innovation – with the majority (77%) planning to increase spend on tech-related L&D over the next twelve months. Employees will most likely support this increased focus on training; while nearly four in ten would consider leaving the financial sector within the next five years, two-thirds would stay if offered more upskilling opportunities.

Recession-proofing with L&D

With DCMS’ UK Data Skills Gap report highlighting that the supply of university graduates with specialist technological skills is limited, financial instituions must recognise they have a larger role to play in fostering digital skills internally. As such, business leaders should put adequate investment and support behind the upskilling of current employees to increase cybersecurity and cloud skills to drive innovation.

This requires employers to grant access to a range of learning opportunities for staff, as part of a defined path of individual development and culture of personal development. At the same time, employees should proactively identify cybersecurity and cloud-related training opportunities with a quality L&D partner, one that aligns with their unique learning style and objectives, to make themselves an invaluable asset to their company.

Looking ahead, digital upskilling should be viewed as a key strategy for recession-proofing business operations. The opportunities that could be lost are too significant, with innovation key to remaining competitive in the year ahead. Likewise, companies must find new and innovative ways to remain safe from the bad threat actors lurking, with previous recessions proving that finance companies soar to the top of the hit list during times of economic volatility. With limited digital talent currently available, this level of innovation can only be achieved through greater upskilling.


Explore more