How apprenticeships can help retail banks adapt to the ‘new normal’

16 October, 2020Karen Taylor

Digital, fintech and evolving customer expectations were disrupting banking and finance long before the Covid-19. But since the pandemic that pace of change has accelerated. So how do financial services apprenticeships keep up?

Car lights on a winding roadThe last six months have seen the credibility of education challenged and learning providers interrogated. Are ‘A’ levels still fit for purpose? Does university provide value for money? Are graduates relevant and ‘job ready’ in today’s market?

Similarly, rarely a week goes by without apprenticeships making the headlines.   

In the midst of a public consultation seeking views on proposals to revise apprenticeship funding strategy, both employers and would-be apprentices rightly want to know what’s in it for them.

Who designs apprenticeships?

Fundamental to the success of apprenticeships is the way they are designed or – to be precise – the individuals who are involved in the design.   

All apprenticeships, whatever the level or industry, are developed by ‘trailblazers’ – groups of employers recognised by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) as being reflective of those who employ people in the occupation.   

Simply put, this means that an apprentice will, first and foremost, pursue a path that sector employers unanimously agree leads to a successful career in their industry.   

Take the Financial Services Professional apprenticeship, for instance. Organisations involved in creating it range from Barclays to Yorkshire Building Society, from JP Morgan to Nationwide, from HSBC to Legal & General.

All of them know exactly what’s needed to become a highly competent professional in banking and finance.

Why apprenticeship qualifications and providers matter

But it’s all very well having groups of employers sitting around the table to design the original apprenticeship. How can apprenticeships then go on to stay up to date and relevant – particularly in financial services which, now more than ever, moves at such a fast pace?

That’s where apprenticeship qualifications and their providers come in.

One of the most popular apprenticeships in financial services is the Level 3 Senior Financial Services Customer Adviser, aimed at frontline, customer-facing roles.   

Things in banking have grown exponentially since this apprenticeship was first launched in the summer of 2015. At that time, branch and telephone banking were still the dominant modes of engaging with customers.

Yet, as Jan van Vonno points out, even before Covid-19 the financial services industry was evolving at a rapid pace – driven by changing consumer demand, increased competition and significant advances in technology.

The pandemic has accelerated this revolution and digital is now at the forefront of all our lives.

Keeping up with the digital revolution

The content of apprenticeships must also, therefore, keep pace with the digital transformation that is taking place in banking. Otherwise, there’s a risk apprenticeships might become stale and outdated.   

In recent months, we’ve addressed this very issue.

Our new Certificate in Retail and Digital Banking (CertRDB) was approved by the IfATE for inclusion in the Senior Financial Services Customer Adviser standard – bringing this apprenticeship right up to date.   

For employers using the apprenticeship levy to invest in their staff, it’s vital that their workforce understands the customers of today – and how the expectations of those customers are continually changing.

As Matt Hammerstein, the CEO of Barclays UK said in May this year, “If we’re going to transform the company, we need people to accept, understand and be excited about technology changing things.” 

Through apprenticeships, banks can better serve their retail customers’ evolving digital needs. 

Karen Taylor
Karen leads the development, implementation and delivery of our apprenticeship strategy, including at higher and degree-level. Karen had a previous career in banking including financial institution relationship management before joining LIBF to specialise on our higher education, online and postgraduate programmes.

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Find out more about the Certificate in Retail and Digital Banking (CertRDB)

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