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Bridging over the Financial Services skills gap

”Big data” in the Financial Services industry has amplified the need for professionals capable of deriving value from it. In 2012, our research explored the impact of poor modelling; specifically how imperfect implementation of models can negatively affect institutions. The report found that in financial institutions, the real value of data is being lost from ineffective interpretation. As a result, we found that model-driven development paradigms are the key to the future growth of the Financial Services industry. Furthermore, this is driving the need for graduates skilled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects who, when hired, can use their skills to make a strong contribution to the business.

As a recent QS World University Rankings found, however, the UK is ‘lagging behind’ globally in Science and Maths at university level.[1]

Keen to determine the Financial Services industry point of view on the skills gap, MathWorks surveyed a range of industry professionals. Our research found that a large proportion of the UK Financial Services sector are genuinely concerned that UK graduates are leaving university without the necessary skills required to excel in the Financial Services industry. 60% felt there is a shortfall in terms of the maths, statistics and data analysis skills required of graduates by the industry. Worryingly, a third of respondents feel that it is getting worse. This could mean that financial firms will need to commit time and resources to upskilling graduates.

On a more positive note, the industry professionals we spoke to made three suggestions on how the gap could be closed:

  1. Catch them young

    One recommended solution to the skills gap is to stimulate students in secondary education through project-based learning using real world events. The Financial Services industry believes that secondary education is the perfect setting for introducing students to the problems they are likely to face in their professional careers. Real world examples, with no pre-defined solutions, can be leveraged to create projects where students enhance their understanding and learn to apply practical skills to resolve issues. 44% of the respondents view this approach as the way to teach professional skills, teamwork and critical thinking.

  2. Provide the skills

    Respondents to the MathWorks survey felt that students should be given a grounding in subjects that will prepare them for working with data in the future. A focus on IT and maths in secondary schools will equip students with basic problem-solving skills that will stand them in good stead as they start their careers.

  3. Bring the Subjects Together

    For students following a STEM subject at university, it is crucial that they are given a multidisciplinary approach within their core subject. Over a third (37%) of those people surveyed said university students would benefit from being encouraged to merge theory and application by combining IT and maths modules. The result is that students will be able to handle data sets, apply relevant models and then extract value from the results.

 The skills gap is a real issue for the UK’s Financial Services industry, however it is encouraging that the industry and academia are keen to work together to stop the gap from growing wider. Already we’ve seen innovations such as massive open online courses attract a growing number of young professionals learning new skills for data roles. Programmes such as these coupled with active involvement from the industry offers a fantastic platform to bridge the skills gap.







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