With the rapidly evolving financial services industry, interdisciplinary skills are becoming increasingly important for leaders to drive transformation and stay ahead of their game.
Traditional players in the sector are undergoing rapid digitalisation as they respond to the pressures of competition from FinTechs and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Challenger banks and other new entrants have raised consumers’ expectations for a seamless and omnichannel digital experience. Social distancing measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the migration to online banking. This migration is unlikely to be reversed.
At the same time, traditional financial institutions are facing higher costs due to a combination of increased regulatory burden and the need to invest in talent and technology. Meanwhile, revenues are squeezed as rivals with innovative business models compete with lower fees, with customers leaning towards these low-cost products and services.
“Traditional banks and financial services institutions need to undergo a major digital and business transformation,” says Adjunct Associate Professor Ho Kim Wai, Academic Director of the Nanyang Executive MBA (EMBA) programme at Nanyang Business School (NBS), part of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
It is not only digital transformation that leaders in financial services must grapple with; they must also understand how they can leverage the vast amount of data being generated to gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences through harnessing artificial intelligence and big data analytics. At the same time, they must maintain the trust of their stakeholders and ensure that their systems are secure to prevent data breaches and cyberattacks.
Harness the Power of Technology
Against this backdrop, it is no longer enough for leaders in the financial services sector to be strong in traditionally essential skills like finance and economics. They also need a sound understanding of technology.
NBS draws on NTU’s strengths in technology and innovation to offer a multi-faceted EMBA programme. The Nanyang EMBA curriculum includes unique courses that explore the business applications of technologies such as automation, AI, blockchain, and robotics. It also trains participants to drive digital transformation and create innovative strategies for the digital age.
The 13-month programme is organised around key themes, to ensure that business leaders have the tools and knowledge they need for their organisations to thrive. Alongside general management, leadership, business fundamentals, and management of technology and innovation, there are also modules on corporate sustainability, a topic that is relevant to Singapore’s ambition to be a leading green finance hub in Asia.
Make the East-West Connect
Singapore occupies a dynamic position at the intersection of East and West, with many financial services firms using it as a springboard to expand into Asia. But the interconnected nature of banking means it is not enough for leaders to be experts in their local markets alone.
The Nanyang EMBA teaches cultural dexterity to help leaders excel in any environment. To inculcate a deep understanding of both Asian and Western business mindsets, numerous case studies are embedded into the various modules to get participants thinking about the management issues faced in different regions.
To further increase their international exposure, participants undertake two intensive segments with NBS’ partner universities, the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing.
“At UC Berkeley they learn about leadership, innovation, and technology at the heart of Silicon Valley. At Tsinghua University, participants learn how business is conducted in China and how China has transformed itself into a technology powerhouse. Through these segments, participants get to experience the best of both the US and China, the two largest economies in the world,” Professor Ho says.
Become a Natural Leader
In addition to applications of theoretical frameworks and technical know-how, the Nanyang EMBA places a huge emphasis on the soft skills needed to implement change as part of digital and business transformation.
Associate Professor Ivy Kwan, Assistant Dean, Graduate Career Services at Nanyang Business School, explains that her team works with more than 300 industry partners to identify the soft skills most important for leaders.
“Leaders in the financial services industry must possess multiple soft skills to be able to drive transformation and pivot their organisations in an agile manner. They must be able to adapt to changes quickly, and be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn,” she says.
She adds that, “when driving change, people management is extremely important. Leaders need to be good collaborators, with empathy and humility. They must also be strong communicators, whether they are talking to someone individually or addressing a town hall.”
Participants have the opportunity to sharpen their soft skills through collaborative projects in all modules, including the Strategy Project at Nanyang (SPAN) module, during which they work in teams to solve real-life business issues faced by sponsoring companies. The Nanyang EMBA offers ample opportunities for participants to work with other senior business leaders from diverse professional backgrounds and industries, which they may not otherwise experience in their own organisations.
Join an Exclusive C-suite Network
A typical Nanyang EMBA class has about 40 business leaders from more than 20 industries and 15 nationalities. They have an average of 17 years of work experience, and 85% of them hold senior management or C-suite positions. The diversity and seniority in each cohort provide
s an excellent environment for peer learning and broadening of networks.
The Nanyang EMBA’s Strategic Career Management programme helps participants understand how they can further advance their careers beyond their current senior roles. As part of this programme, industry leaders are invited to the classroom to share their personal experiences on how to progress strategically in their career journeys. It also includes one-on-one leadership coaching by senior industry leaders, many of whom are former managing directors of major investment banking, wealth management, and commercial banking institutions.
Professor Ho believes that the Nanyang EMBA’s forward-looking curriculum provides financial services leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to excel in this fast-changing industry. “Leaders today need multiple skills and an interdisciplinary approach to leadership and decision-making. We aim to help them achieve this.”
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