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True Innovation Means Making Talent Your #1 Investment

The following is the third in a series on the future of financial services from Citizens Bank CEO Bruce Van Saun, sourced from

It may sound clichéd, but the long-term success or failure of any company almost always ultimately comes down to talent. Attracting the right talent is currently among the greatest challenges facing banks as they transform to meet shifting customer demands, face off with insurgent competitors and partner smartly to help advance their strategies.

The ongoing disruption in the banking industry has created a moment of reinvention for everyone, one that requires learning at a rapid pace and the ability to reinvent oneself as new disruptions come along. Having the right people — including a diverse team of people with different skills and experiences — enables an organization to develop new thinking, strategies and ultimately growth.

Attracting and developing the strong, capable leaders and employees who understand the changing landscape and can help meet the challenges of transformative change is crucial to success.

As with so many things, success starts with leadership, so step one is making sure you have the right leadership team and talent strategy to take you forward. That involves mapping future skill needs, identifying gaps and moving decisively to fill them.

Today, more than ever, leaders must have the ability to inspire. That means being able to bring out the best in people, to rally employees around the mission and purpose of the company, and to make an emotional connection with employees and customers.

In a time of transformational change, leaders must operate with a growth mindset. The successful leader of the future must be able to create a culture that enables swift execution and risk-taking balanced against the need for consistent delivery of results. They must be able to toggle between strategy and execution. In short, a good businessperson with vision and the ability to see around the corners.

When it comes to attracting talent, banks must provide a superior end-to-end experience for their employees, similar to efforts underway to improve end-to-end experiences for customers. Both potential and current employees have become used to interacting with digital players that can offer a seamless, cutting-edge experience. The simple fact is that if banks are unable to offer digital-savvy talent the experiences they have come to expect, they will lose them to the organizations that will.

Part of providing a great employee experience will include harnessing the power of analytics and A.I. to enable growth and advancement. Just as data and digital innovations enable banks to tailor offerings and stay ahead of customer demands, they can also help banks manage their workforces with more insight and responsiveness than was previously possible.

One way Citizens is working to align the right people and capabilities to our business strategies is by partnering with IBM to deploy a virtual coach that leverages data and cognitive computing to align business needs, employee aspirations and career development.

The interface, which we call “Myca,” learns about employees’ skills and interests and makes recommendations for open roles, building capabilities and growing in their career. The more that employees use Myca and share information, the more valuable it becomes. Myca will interconnect our HR systems, provide a personalized and scalable experience, and fuel growth by better aligning people and capabilities to our business strategy. Citizens is one of only five companies in the world pursuing this cutting-edge AI experience, which we will pilot next month and fully deploy in 2019.

While training and tools are important for attracting and retaining the right kind of talent, banks must also help current and potential employees understand the meaning and higher purpose of what they do.

Research shows that organizations with a clearly defined purpose experience stronger growth and innovation, and that purpose-driven employees are more engaged and more apt to promote their organization to others. This part of the expectation threshold is every bit as important as agile teams and modern workspaces.

Banks have not traditionally scored well in terms of employees finding their work purposeful. This creates a critical opportunity for banks that can make the right connections between their employees and their organization’s mission, vision and values.

At Citizens, we believe the role banks play in helping customers navigate their financial journey is a privileged one. When banks put customers front and center, families flourish, businesses become stronger, communities prosper and local economies thrive. We couch this in terms of helping customers, colleagues and communities reach their potential.

I believe that our efforts to help employees make the vital connection between what they do and why they do it has driven greater engagement and satisfaction.

At the end of the day, navigating transformative change is really all about people — finding, hiring, and cultivating talent who will stay with an organization through the critical transformation period and beyond.

Finding, nurturing and retaining those people must be the #1 investment of any organization with a true culture of innovation.

If you’d like to work for a company that has a top-down commitment to developing its colleagues, learn more about applying and joining our amazing workforce.

© 2019 Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

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