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Finance leaders: Looking to Generation Z and Education

Looking Back 100 years 

At a recent presentation at a Global Creative Innovation Conference, the audience was challenged to identify three (3) industries that had barely changed systematically over the past 100 years. The resulting list: 

1. Religion

2. Education

3. Professional Services

Understandably, few would argue that churches, temples and synagogues and their followers have avoided change (rightfully or wrongfully) despite the tremendous technological progressions over the past century. Plenty of people appear to be committed to ensuring the next generation have no need to learn in a grid-like classroom from the 1800s - but learn in ways that truly enrich educational learning and critical thinking. 

But who is committed to ensuring the co-ordination of resources within the $2 trillion Professional Services industry – the bankers, financiers, lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, risk specialists and more? Are their more efficient and transparent ways to operate and connect supply and demand for Professional Services?  Why is the industry so intimidating? How can it be democratized? How do we treat and nurture our best and brightest of Generation Z after they finish their education as they become part of the Professional Services ecosystem?

As a subset of Professional Services, Financial Services leaders will need to consider the many challenges as part of managing "Generation Next". These include: 

(i) Finding new ways to treat our Best and Brightest

Imagine you are a 24 year-old-boy or girl.  You have been top of your primary school for 6 years.  You have performed well at high school for another 6 years. You spend another 6 years learning the mechanics of your industry becoming at University/College.  You have spent 18 years (or 75%) of your short-life on the earth performing at the top of your global educational institution.

And what is your great prize? The reality in many cases is to work within some Financial Services environments as a graduate that involve working 60-80 hours per week. Your work on boring, mundane, process-obsessed tasks. You are often subjected to managers who cannot manage well. You work in high-rise offices without sunlight (even with all the technology we have today) and you fill in timesheets based on a 9/5 work-week. And you are told you cannot use social media during work hours.  This is a common picture of a "White Collar" apprenticeship. Your Baby Boomers manager may respond “it’s only fair that you endure the same pain as I did" to their Generation Z employees.  This is certainly no way to treat our best and brightest students as they transition from the top of our global education systems into our dynamic Financial Services workforce.

(ii) Improving Numbers Literacy 

A recent list of the World’s Top 100 Educational Tools – featuring Twitter and YouTube near the top – made no mention of any quantitative/numeracy-related educational tools.  The paradox is that most Professional Services decisions are as much quantitative, as much as they are qualitative. Needless to mention that Microsoft Excel – and the 500 million people who spend billions of hours each year using Excel spreadsheets and financial models every day to improve their sales forecasts, value their startups, plan their weddings and better understand complex decisions in their lives. This doesn't even include many other powerful quantitative tools (e.g. Mathematica, Matlab, Eviews, etcs). Generation Z needs a greater appreciation of numbers literacy within Financial Services.

Among the many systemic challenges facing Financial Services over the coming decade - many will require tremendous creative leadership when it comes to co-ordinating and creating value from Generation Z. For example, we need to find new ways for our best and brightest students to be configured, incentivised and challenged once they enter the professional workforce. We also need to find more creative, efficient and interconnected ways of connecting global clients to services providers. Wherever the answer lies - change is imminent and long overdue. This is perhaps one of those moments when technology can be an enabler of enhancing societal value within Financial Services.

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

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