Data is changing the world. It’s been called the “new oil”, with its flows driving growth and profound change. It is not only transforming how we work and play, it is shaping the information we use to perceive and understand ourselves and others.
Our clients recognise the growing value of data as an essential resource for business success. However, they are also becoming increasingly aware that collecting data for its own sake represents an activity offering diminishing returns unless it’s accompanied by an increasing ability to understand what it all means.
McGregor Boyall has responded to this by forming a dedicate Data & Analytics team to service the increasing resourcing requirements of our clients both within and outside the financial services sector. So if you can demonstrate experience-hardened data/analytics skills gained on a permanent or interim basis, we feel certain that they will want to talk to you.
We want to talk to you. Drop us a line and tell us about yourself!
According to the BCS, neurodiversity remains an overlooked issue in the tech industry — employment rates for neurodiverse people remains low and stigma remains. However, a growing number of companies are recognising that it’s not only right to offer opportunities to all, but people who think differently provide a competitive advantage and help to create an inclusive environment for everyone. For example, both Microsoft and Dell have an established autism hiring programme. So, what are the barriers to a neurodiverse tech industry and how can organisations help?
Neurodiversity refers to the differences in thinking patterns, interests and motivations that naturally occur throughout the population. A neurotypical brain functions in the way that the majority expects. However, an estimated 15% of the UK population are neurodivergent. This is an umbrella term that refers to people who have Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and other neurodevelopmental conditions.
Employment rates vary across conditions. For example, according to research conducted by the National Autistic Society, just 16% of autistic people are in full-time paid work and many are working in a job below their skill level. Worryingly, a recent study found that half of leaders and managers would be uncomfortable hiring a neurodivergent person. The highest level of bias was against people with Tourettes, ADHD or Autism. In addition, the majority of neurodivergent people surveyed felt their workplace was not inclusive to their needs. Up to 40% of employees in the tech industry have not disclosed their neurodivergent traits, meaning that their needs are unlikely to be supported.
It’s important to firstly point out that stereotypes around neurodivergent behaviour are unhelpful and often cause unrealistic expectations. For example, the idea that autistic people are maths or computer savants. However, there are many benefits that go beyond superficial abilities including:
Software and data quality engineering start-up, Ultranauts, is a fantastic demonstration of a company leveraging the power of a neurodiversity. 75% of the workforce are on the Autism spectrum. The small company is now winning contracts from Fortune 100 companies over established global IT consultancies. The company’s founder credits their success to their neurodiverse workforce, saying that, ‘with different learning styles and information processing models, to collaborate and focus on attacking the same problem, we’re just going to be better at it.’ Crucially, Ultranauts also worked hard to create an inclusive culture that supports neurodivergent people.
Importantly, hiring neurodivergent people has a positive effect on the entire workforce by fostering a culture of inclusion. Accommodating individual needs is a wonderful thing that everyone can benefit from by encouraging both innovation and empathy within the organisation.
Many neurodivergent people will require accommodations in their workspace. For example, Autistic people who suffer with sensory processing disorder may benefit from adjustments in lighting and noise (however, it’s important to highlight that variation exists — one autistic person could be over-sensitive and another under sensitive). ADHD people who experience periods of hyper-fixation accompanied by distractibility may benefit from a flexible schedule. In addition, making interviews neurodiverse friendly will support fair assessment practices and encourage hiring of neurodiverse candidates.
Finally, many neurotypical people overestimate their knowledge of conditions such as Autism and ADHD. Awareness training can help build understanding and avoid further workplace barriers being created for their neurodivergent peers.
Several major employers, such as Twitter and Facebook, have announced that remote work will continue indefinitely. For those who enjoy the flexibility and lack of commute that working from home offers, this will be welcome news. For others who thrive in an office environment or who lack a suitable home-working space, a remote future could be a nightmare. There are also growing concerns about what remote work will mean for training, teamwork and sustaining company culture.
The hybrid office is being touted as a solution, where employees split their week between their home and the physical office space. However, this comes with its own set of problems. For example, there is concern over a two-tier system arising between office and home workers, and a possible breakdown in communication as a result. Luckily, there are a number of innovative new technologies being designed — could they help build a hybrid office that people want to be part of?
One of these new technologies is Yonderdesk, a custom digital workspace. One of the main issues with a hybrid office is that it lacks the ‘sense of togetherness’ created by physically being in the same space. This means employees miss out on socialising and are less likely to ask their colleagues quick queries. Yonderdesk is a digital floor plan that can mimic the organisation’s actual office space. Employees are given an avatar and a desk, so that it’s easy to see where your colleagues are at (e.g., in meetings, available or working on a task). Digital floor plans have been a key element of online games, such as Habbo, for years because they are fun, engaging and make people feel like they are having a shared experience, so it will be fascinating to see whether ideas like Yonderdesk prove popular.
On a more tech-heavy futuristic note, there is plenty of development in virtual and augmented reality technology. Digital start-up, Spatial, are working on augmented reality filters that create the illusion that your co-worker is right in front of you (similar to Pokemon Go). The avatar has facial expressions and can even sit down on a chair. It also works on existing virtual reality headsets, but Spatial are particularly excited by the idea of lightweight glasses, which are likely to be far more practical for everyday use. In addition, Spatial allows your avatar to interact with virtual tools. In their words, ‘Your room is your monitor, your hands are the mouse.’ There are plenty of other virtual reality meeting applications, such as the ones on this list, but Spatial is one of the most immersive.
A more controversial development is the increase of monitoring software, sometimes known as ‘Tattleware’. Some of these products can be used without employee knowledge to spy on emails, software use and more, which can have serious data privacy implications and undermine trust. Given that, on average, people have been working longer hours during the pandemic, it seems unwise to use monitoring software in this way. However, when used ethically and transparently, such tools can provide a rich understanding of employee behaviour that can improve productivity, engagement and prevent fatigue and/or burnout. For example, software like Time Doctor has time-tracking features that can help employees and managers gain a better understanding of how long tasks actually take, which can be fed into future estimates and used to reshuffle schedules.
Last but not least, collaboration tools. If you haven’t done this already, finding and implementing effective collaboration tools is vital to successful remote and hybrid working. You are probably most familiar with services like Slack — instant messaging chat rooms are a great way for employees to show their availability and engage in more casual conversations. Take this further with tools like Donut, a slack channel that makes introductions with a random employee every couple of weeks and encourages virtual or in-person meet-ups. This helps build a cohesive company culture by structuring those random encounters from the pre-pandemic days.
Clearly, it will take time to build a hybrid office that suits your organisation. Exploring new tools is a great way to avoid complacency and ensure the hybrid office experience is something your employees want to be part of.
Data Science has become an umbrella category for a number of roles. It is being increasingly recognised that the ‘unicorn’ data scientist who is a master of all the in-demand skills is largely a myth, and that data science roles need to be further specified to serve business needs.
Unfortunately, job titles are still sometimes used inconsistently, which can be confusing if you are looking to pursue a new direction or find a new job. Here is a quick and handy guide to the top job roles, and a breakdown of what each one involves.
This is probably the most common overarching job title. A data scientist’s core responsibility will be to provide actionable business insight from a dataset. Stitch Fix’s Director of data science, Michael Hochster, suggests that the roles tend to fall into two camps: analytical or building. The first focuses on the statistical interpretation of data, whereas the latter builds models based on data. The extent you’ll be expected to diversify your talents will depend on the structure and size of the data science team (i.e. your role is likely to become more focused on true data science in a larger team). Regardless, a data scientist will need to be comfortable with a range of machine learning and data mining techniques. Key skills include expertise in programming languages such as R, MatLab, SQL and Python and a strong background in computer science or related field.
These titles refer to a number of related roles which all focus on communicating data insights and putting them in context of the wider business goals. People in these roles will need a talent for creating a data story and presenting it to people without data expertise or even without much IT knowledge. The focus will be on understanding how data trends can be leveraged to drive the business forward, whereas a data scientist may want to know the root cause of such trends. Though a statistical and coding knowledge are important, it is communication, a business background and an in-depth industry knowledge that are the key skills to these roles.
Now, an analyst and a statistician may rely on similar methods to analyse datasets, but they are very different roles. Harvard Business Review describe the difference as a narrow and deep approach (statisticians) vs wide and shallow (analysts). Statisticians can estimate how data insights might hold up in a variety of circumstances by incorporating error into a model — so they are useful for in-depth insights and minimising the risk of reaching an incorrect conclusion. On the other hand, a data analyst can code at lightning speed and discover potential insights extremely quickly — they can then point statisticians in the right direction. Utilising both a statistician and an analyst can make for a highly efficient system.
Engineering roles often fall under data science (and these roles can often be combined), but when there is a specific engineering role, these people are likely to work with data at an early stage. As a data engineer, you will build and optimise data and data pipeline architecture. Think of engineering as creating the infrastructure necessary for further analysis. As a result, a technical computer science background and exemplary coding skills are essential to this role. It will also be an advantage to gain experience with big data tools, SQL and NoSQL databases, data pipeline tools and cloud services. Machine learning engineering is an additional specialism, which focuses on identifying and applying appropriate models to big datasets.
Big data just keeps growing, and in response many companies are hiring specialists to manage these large datasets. If you are working in one of these roles, you will be expected to create systems that enable integration, centralisation and protection of datasets. You ensure the data engineers and data scientists have an efficient dataset to work with, that it is safely backed up and can be easily recovered. Therefore, you will need to be comfortable in data modelling techniques, data warehousing and security procedures.
We surveyed more than 1,500 employers to gather data on current hiring trends, changes to learning and development programmes, the impacts of Brexit and the upcoming IR35 regulations, the pandemics influence on salaries and rates, and current skills in demand. We are pleased to be able to present the results for January below:
For many, the adaption to working from home has been a challenge. Maintaining productivity while also facing health, financial and family concerns can be stressful enough — so understandably many employees would rather not add information security to their list. However, you would have been hard pushed to have missed the sharp rise in data breaches last year. Under the GDPR and Data Protection Act of 2018, companies must protect data in a way that ensures ‘appropriate security’ by using ‘appropriate technical or organisational measures’ — and COVID-19 doesn’t provide an exemption. What can organisations do to keep data safe in such difficult circumstances?
Many organisations already have remote working policies in place (93% according to a study by OpenVPN), however, 25% of these companies have not updated these policies in over a year. Hackers will easily exploit out-of-date systems, so now is the ideal time to update policy, which will also provide the opportunity to remind employees on proper remote working procedure. Additionally, ensure that existing security measures are working as intended. For example, most organisations will use a virtual private network (VPN) for employees to access company data via an encrypted connection. However, many corporate VPN’s have vulnerabilities IT teams do not regularly patch or do not allow for constraints like lack of bandwidth, which may stop the VPN working properly. Many companies, including Dell, have said that evaluating their VPN was a top priority during the pandemic.
A recent study by IBM concluded that the current workforce, who have been rushed into remote work, poses a significant risk to information security. 52% of surveyed newly working-from-home employees reported using their personal devices for work (often without new tools to secure the device) and 45% have not received any new security training — yet 93% felt confident that their company would keep personal identifiable information safe. This suggests that employees are underestimating the security risks of working-from-home and IT teams may be overestimating employee knowledge of information security. Therefore, IT may be unaware of the risks employees are actually taking, such as sharing devices with family members, which means that data could be downloaded and unknown software installed with the employee’s company credentials entered. It’s important to both enforce regular training on how to keep data safe and repeatedly communicate the business consequences of failing to follow policy.
On a related note, being realistic about the risk employees pose to a security system means limiting the potential damage. Employing multiple layers of security, such as multi-factor authentication and encryption, will help businesses stay safe. Encryption is specifically mentioned by GDPR when outlining what constitutes appropriate technical and organisational security measures — the reason being is that even if a breach occurs, the data will be unreadable. It’s crucial that all devices used for work (including phones and tablets) are encrypted. Plenty of widely used software, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat, also provides an option to encrypt files — it’s a good idea to get into the habit of encrypting everything. Then, in the potential situation that a device is remotely or physically accessed by an unknown person, the data stays safe.
While many businesses are juggling a number of concerns during the pandemic, it’s essential that information security remains a priority. GDPR means data must be kept safe at all times by evaluating security systems, understanding the risks your employees take in home-working situations, and responding to this with training and failsafe measures like encryption. Given the financial and reputational consequences of a data breach, it’s vital that businesses are proactive in ensuring information security.
Diversity remains a key issue for the technology industry. According to a recent BCS report, 18% of IT professionals have BAME backgrounds. BAME people are also less likely to hold senior positions — only 9% are directors and 32% are supervisors (for comparison 43% of white employees have a supervisory role). The lack of diversity becomes even clearer when considering specific ethnic groups. For example, black women make up just 0.7% of the technology industry — a representation rate that is 2.5 times lower than in other industries. Clearly, the technology industry is still struggling to achieve true diversity, so what can companies do about it?
It’s easy to say the right thing, harder to put this into action. Setting targets, continually measuring diversity and reviewing progress helps organisations to commit to change. For example, some big companies like Facebook and Pinterest have tried to use the ‘Rooney rule’ where at least one woman and one person of colour are interviewed for director positions within the company. However, progress has been limited and concerns about it being a ‘diversity tickbox’ exercise have been raised. More recently, it’s been emphasised that targets need to be set at all levels of seniority, and that there needs to be external accountability for failure to meet targets.
On the other hand, sometimes companies fail to say enough. Statements of diversity support are important to attract new staff and ensure existing employees are reassured by an inclusive company culture — both those with BAME backgrounds and beyond. For example, Unilever recently pledged their support for a campaign working to end discrimination against hairstyles associated with racial, ethnic and cultural identities. Given that this kind of discrimination often happens in the workplace, a major employer taking a stance sends out a powerful message.
Many people from under-represented groups have concerns that a career in tech is ‘not for them’. This can be reinforced by a lack of people who look like them in senior positions. In addition, some BAME communities prioritise traditional jobs such as medicine, law and finance over technology careers. Companies can participate in outreach in schools and other settings to expand on what a technology career looks like and address concerns someone might have about entering the world of technology. Outreach can help to shed a light on available opportunities while also sending a clear message about the company’s commitment to a diverse workforce.
There’s been a recent discussion about diversity training — particularly the low reliability of the implicit association test and its lack of impact on reducing real-world biases — to the extent that the civil service has stopped all unconscious bias training. However, while certain tools have been criticised, research shows that ongoing diversity training is successful when it combines a range of techniques and is complemented by other diversity initiatives. It’s clear that diversity training needs to be ongoing and not seen as a substitute for wider policy change.
After the Black Lives Matter movement put the spotlight on diversity in 2020, many companies turned to their staff for advice. There have been several instances of people from BAME backgrounds being asked to speak about and advise on diversity practices amidst a climate of emotional trauma and, in some cases, fear of later reprisals from the organisation they were asked to defend. It’s important not to place the burden of improving diversity on individuals — especially if they are unsure how to refuse and are not being compensated for their extra work. Diversity — like any other organisational strategy — should be managed by qualified professionals and engaged with by interested employees.
The technology industry’s track record when it comes to diversity is far from perfect. However, changes are being made. It’s clear that actionable, long-term strategies are needed to truly support organisational diversity in tech.
One thing I’m fortunate to have in my role is almost constant contact with other people. After all it’s my job is to talk to Finance Professionals in the market. It’s through conversations with these individuals that I have gained a real insight into the impact the pandemic has had on Finance Teams, and the challenges and adjustments they have faced to ensure a continued level of service.
The common theme amongst the businesses I’ve spoken to is that whilst challenging, Finance functions have adapted incredibly quickly to the sharp switch to remote working and have utilised video conferencing technologies to continue to operate efficiently. Whether for work or catching up with colleagues at the end of the week for a virtual wine, it’s become part of daily life. It’s clear though, that home working is not without its risks.
One concern for Managers and new hires alike has been recruiting and onboarding during lockdown. I was told that at the beginning of lockdown some businesses simply didn’t have the resources to onboard remotely but have found that by re-engineering their processes they actually now find it better than before. “A video conference (VC) will never replace a face to face but you can make it work and it can be very effective” said a Finance Manager for a large retail bank, whose main concern was being able to provide support to new starters. “[In the office] you’re always near someone who can help you or provide support and I was concerned that we might not be able to offer the level of support we normally would through VC’s”. This led to her ‘Open Zoom’ policy where any of her team could call her at any time and talk through any issue (big or small). “[Again], it’s not quite the same as being able to sit next to someone but it encourages each of us to try and work out problems together and it builds camaraderie”.
A video conference (VC) will never replace a face to face but you can make it work and it can be very effective
I wanted to explore the other side of the coin, so I spoke with a recently employed Financial Accountant who had been onboarded in April. She told me that she had struggled joining a new company during lockdown. “My manager is great but it’s just not the same, I need the facetime. I feel like a pain calling my manager five times a day. The social side is also tough, and I did worry about fitting in virtually over Zoom”.
While home working generally receives a thumbs up from the Finance professionals I’ve spoken with, one Head of Finance for a National Bank told me that concern around burnout of employees was high on the agenda for them. When lockdown kicked in, their trades trebled overnight and in addition to learning to work from home, it was a perfect storm. This led to very long hours for his Finance Team. Speaking with his team he found that like himself, his team were also allocating their morning commute time to work as well as their evening commute. Already that’s two extra hours in the virtual office every day. “So what?” some people will say, or “that’s only an extra couple of hours, that’s nothing!”. However, people by nature need a change of scene every so often and when you’re staring at the same four walls for twenty-four hours a day it can be tough mentally.
My manager is great but it’s just not the same, I need the facetime. I feel like a pain calling my manager five times a day
Though people may approach their day differently, chances are you need that transition period between home, coffee shop and work to wind down or gear up. People use the time to reflect on challenges, take a step back and to be able to view things holistically that can then present solutions you may not have thought of. Furthermore, going out to grab a coffee or heading to the work kitchen can be hugely beneficial to someone’s own wellbeing and motivation. The same Head of Finance also told me that employees haven’t been taking holidays because “there is nowhere they can realistically go”. A holiday is not just about the travel but the mental break, so with many people not taking breaks, this is where burnout is occurring. As a solution, he was keen to make sure his team were strict about the hours they worked and that team members could finish early or take half days as needed to ensure they were rested and motivated. “There is a huge intensity of working from home” he told me, which is something that I resonate with.
I spoke with a CFO of a Brokerage who said that home working, had been largely successful but was quick to point out that not everyone’s situation is the same. “Some may own their own home; others may be in flat shares or have children. We have to be very sensitive to people’s needs”. This led to the business offering office space set-ups for people locally and paying for travel should employees wish to temporarily relocate or if younger staff members wanted to move back home with their parents. In one case the business paid for flights to fly one of their recently joined Accountants back to Australia where she could work remotely. Providing this for their staff, they saw no loss in quality or productivity but quite the opposite, they witnessed an increase in quality and productivity as well as an increase in engagement. Another Finance Director I spoke with mentioned that they had kept their offices open specifically for employees who lived in flat shares.
Some may own their own home; others may be in flat shares or have children. We have to be very sensitive to people’s needs
One of the CFOs of a start-up I spoke with had actually just cancelled the lease on their office “We’re only a small brokerage and we can’t see the possibility returning to the office until the end of 2021 so we paid the exit clause.” This has been common amongst London businesses as according to a survey conducted by CBI and PwC, 74% of Financial Services firms are reviewing their office space needs. Most organisations are looking to either use space differently, get rid of it, or both. And according to a report led by Professor Alan Felstead of Cardiff University most “people are as productive working from home, if not more so”. This of course has an adverse reaction on the local economies but I’m not here to talk about that – see the BBC article here that references this.
While this is only a small sample of some of the conversations I have had, the themes have been consistent, it seems evident that home working can be successful if organisations are mindful of potential pitfalls and maybe office working has changed forever? My clients have been able to adapt with some teething problems but like me, every single person I have spoken with is still ideally looking for some form of presence in a physical office, just maybe not on a 5 day per week basis. After all we are social beings by nature and whether we’re introverts or extroverts we all need some degree of human interaction.
Principal Consultant - Finance & Audit Recruitment
McGregor Boyall Associates Ltd
t: +44 (0)20 7422 9076
Despite the turbulent times of 2020 we have continued to see high demand for Data Governance / Data Management / Cloud Professional. Over the past 10 years there has been a huge push for firms to manage their data and it is imperative that they build a strong data governance strategy to ensure they are compliant with any current and future regulations.
With the fast approaching Basel III deadline, it is extremely important that firms have their data processes in order. During these uncertain times it is crucial that firms manage their data correctly and input it accurately, as this will stand firms in a good stead when building crucial new data strategies for the future.
Additionally, Data Analytics remains a top priority for many organisations. Now, more than ever, is the time to utilise the data we have and use it to build a robust strategy for the future.
The importance of Data Governance cannot be underestimated and for firms nowadays their data infrastructure has to be transparent and auditable.
For the data governance to be compliant, there needs to be a robust data infrastructure in place, so that when there are potential moments of crisis all the data processes and infrastructure remain intact. Data governance is the most important element of the data infrastructure, along with the definition of your data strategy and data lineage, to ensure that performance is regularly assessed.
As we know data and risk are intertwined and it is extremely important that your data is of the right quality before any risk calculation is conducted.
Improving data quality is something that cannot be taken for granted. This can be done by ensuring that your data quality is tracked, taking steps to ensure that data is clean at the points of entry and finally utilising automation processes to limit human error and save time.
With so many cloud migrations and upgrades, there has been lots of demand for cloud data professionals with AWS, Azure or GCP experience, to assist with a new cloud-based Data management structures within many financial services firms.
With the dramatic increase in remote working in recent months having a robust cloud platform has been essential in ensuring employees can access their data from the cloud and work as they would in the office.
Firms that have utilised these cloud platforms have been able to continue working successfully in these uncertain and unpredictable times.
The continual growth of Data Science/Data Engineering technologies and functions is more important than ever in these challenging times. The UK Government and major organisations around the globe are reliant on intelligent technology, which is underpinned by Data Science.
Machine Learning and Data Science technologies have allowed for regular data driven updates and advances in Artificial Intelligence have created a robust digital age. Next day deliveries (e.g. Amazon), streaming services (e.g. Netflix) and near real time takeaway services (e.g. Deliveroo) have become the norm during lockdown and they will continue to grow beyond this.
Organisations have switched to remote working and technological advances have meant that almost anything that previously had to be done in the office can now be done online.
As a result of this, we are expecting to see strong demand for Data Engineers and Data Scientists going forward. The increase in the number of digitally aligned companies means that organisations will require Data Engineers to implement fit for purpose, secure data analytics platforms and they will need Data Scientists to derive insights from the complex data sets.
It is more important than ever to be able to use data to prepare for potential scenarios and inform our decision making, and candidates who are able to crunch data and turn it into valuable insights and data strategy are going to be in high demand over the course of the next year or so. Advanced Data Science is becoming an essential component of almost every industry in both the public and private sectors.
Associate Director - Data & Analytics
t: +44 (0)20 7422 9212
Principal Consultant - Data Science & Data Engineering
t: +44 (0)20 7422 9213
We surveyed 1,500 employers to gather data on current hiring trends, returning to the office, skills in demand and the impact the global pandemic is having on salaries and rates. We are pleased to be able to present the results below:
Times of crisis have often sparked innovation. The Second World War, for example, brought us the forerunner of modern-day computer, advances in radar, the basis of microwaves and mass production of penicillin. COVID-19 is having a similar effect on digital development. Ideas that might have seemed far-fetched (such as the rapid scale-up of online grocery shopping and other e-commerce) are promoted by a crisis-inspired culture of experimentation. Here are five examples of how technology is developing in response to extraordinary demands.
1. Data Analysis Tools
Finding data is easy, understanding it is hard. To this end, the pandemic has inspired several AI tools to help us make sense of the large amount of available information. Data analytics company, Arria NLG, are involved in two projects helping to transform data into an easy-to-understand narrative – the COVID-19 Live Report and the COVID-19 U.S. Tracking Report. AI analysis is also being used by a group of Northwestern University researchers to identify which research will return reliable, usable results that will help aid the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
The power of blockchain was recently demonstrated in a $12 million cross-continent commodity trade transaction of wheat. Usually, a transaction of this kind can take up to a month. However, using dltledgers’s blockchain platform, this was reduced to just five days. More and more businesses are expanding their reliance on blockchain – such as Nestle, who recently extended their use of the IMB Food Trust blockchain platform to their Swedish coffee range. The implications for keeping supply chains running seamlessly – something the coronavirus has highlighted as a serious challenge – are remarkable.
3. Natural Language Processing
With varied applications, such as helping customers navigate online platforms or as efficient medical tools (such as those used by Providence St. Joseph to offer coronavirus-related information), chatbots are proving useful during the pandemic. Chatbots are most commonly used to increase efficiency by answering simple queries, while forwarding more complex requests to a human operator. However, natural language processing, which refers to the deep learning that allows the chatbot to extract meaning from human conversation, improves with increased data. With some custom-made chatbots already proving useful in advanced interactions (such as Replika’s virtual friends, helping some people cope with the effects of social isolation), the uptake in chatbot use may enable the AI underpinning them to become vastly more sophisticated in the years to come.
At their recent virtual event, IBM announced a new range of AI-powered services, designed to support businesses in automating their digital infrastructure. According to Verdict, the new offering will “use automation to detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies and will integrate with other products such as those from Slack and Box.” Developments such as these will allow businesses to successfully adapt to a more digital future.
Many companies have reported that they are looking to increase use of robotics for food service, warehouses and cleaning operations. Blue Ocean Robotics have responded to this increased demand by creating a cleaning robot, able to destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms with concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. It can sanitise environments such as hospitals, offices, shops and schools without the need for chemicals, meaning that people can be present during the cleaning. Production was quickly accelerated due to coronavirus-related demand, and it now takes less than one day to create a robot. The general public have often been uncomfortable with the idea of robots (and the issue of replacing human jobs with robot labour remains). However, with social distancing likely to be in place throughout 2021, robot labour may become more acceptable, stimulating demand for and development of robotic technology.
This article has showcased a small handful of the exciting innovation occurring during the pandemic. Given that there is expected to be a permanent shift towards use of digital services and practices such as remote working, these developments could have far-reaching implications for the technology industry for years to come.
Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2020 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Our Risk, Finance & Compliance Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2020 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our specialist Risk, Fiance & Compliance Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Our Scotland Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest salary data collated by our specialist Recruitment Teams covering:
It may be an imposing project for insurers, but with the correct recruitment strategy and positive attitude, IFRS 17 could be turned into a big opportunity.
Twenty years in the making, IFRS 17 comes into effect on 1 January 2021. But unlike most New Year’s resolutions, it’s something insurance companies have to take seriously and ensure they’re completely compliant by the time the deadline comes to pass.
Why’s it happened?
IFRS 17 is designed to standardise accounting models, with the goal of providing investors with more useful information that they’ll be able to compare across the industry internationally.
Of course, this will come at a significant cost to businesses which have to implement the changes. Looking on the bright side, it will also provide them with opportunities to modernise.
The impact on insurance
The new standard will have wide-ranging implications for insurance companies. Unsurprisingly, the biggest impact will be on financial reporting. Companies will be forced to develop new policies and procedures, redesign year-end reporting, and store and process more data. It will all have to be rigorously tested, too, to ensure it runs smoothly.
For many companies, keeping up with the new and increased demands will inevitably mean they need to hire more staff with a wide range of skills. But, perhaps most importantly of all, if a company doesn’t have a designated expert with both detailed knowledge of the exact requirements of IRFS 17 and its wider implications, now is definitely the time to find one.
A significant challenge
Finding potential candidates with the right expertise and levels of experience is already proving to be a challenge for businesses. Deloitte is already calling out for qualified people across the globe to bolster its consulting capabilities, and the very fact it is advertising for candidates suggests it is not finding it all plain sailing.
IFRS 17 leads will require an unusual mix of detailed knowledge of financial reporting, stakeholder management and insurance accountancy, topped off with a broad actuarial understanding and strong project management skills. Ideally, they should also have experience of leading companies through transformational change. It’s not difficult to see why these leaders are hard to find, and in high demand once they are.
Which other skills will you need?
The impact of IFRS 17 on recruitment is huge. For candidates with the right knowledge, there’s an excellent opportunity as companies look to snap up those with the required talents.
Technical skills are obviously very important for businesses. IT teams will see a big change as the new data, processes and systems the ruling requires, need to be implemented by someone. Given the opportunity it presents to modernise, skills like process auditing, workflow analysis and workflow automation will be key.
During this process, the value of relevant soft skills shouldn’t be underestimated, either. The control has brought about an unavoidable period of business transformation that needs to be managed in parallel with BAU activities – this requires professionals who are adept at leadership, communication and change management in particular.
While it is a large imposition for many insurers, your approach to IFRS 17 will define the outcome. Recruit the right people to implement the right processes and systems and you could gain a significant advantage on competitors that do the bare minimum.
Our England Regions Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest salary data collated by our specialist Recruitment Teams covering:
Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Business Intelligence and Data Analytics have been one of the most popular investment strategies adopted by our clients across Banking, Insurance and Wealth / Asset Management during the last two years.
- Contractor Rates are increasing
- Brexit impacts hiring of permanent staff
- Data Science and Data Visualisation skill sets surge in demand
- Real-time analytics and BI software customisation will be key trends in 2017