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Banking on the future of work

Millicent Clarke is Head of Human Resources, Africa and Middle East (AME) for Standard Chartered Bank, where she is responsible for the overall strategic people agenda. Millicent joined Standard Chartered Bank in August 2013 as the Regional Head of Talent for Africa, and became Head of HR Africa in December 2013.Before joining the Bank, Millicent was Head of HR, Retail and Business Banking for Barclays Africa. She also worked for the leading shipping firm Maersk, and left as the Organisational Development Executive for Africa in 2006. Millicent also spent her earlier career lecturing Business Management in various tertiary institutions in Ghana and South Africa. She holds a Masters in Business Leadership (MBL) from the University of South Africa, a BA (Sec) Honours Degree and a Diploma in Education from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. She has participated in various leadership programmes in South Africa, as well as at INSEAD (France) IMD (Switzerland) and SAID Business School (Oxford). She is a Non-Executive Director of Maersk South Africa and a Non-Executive Director of Legacy Girls College in Ghana. She was appointed to the Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe Board of Directors in August 2016 as a Non-Executive Director, as well as a member of the Board Risk Committee. Millicent is based in Dubai. She is married and has two children.

The disruption of technology is revolutionising industries across many levels. As businesses evolve during the unprecedented revolution in the workplace, appropriate operating models must be put in place to meet the continuous demands of clients and the world around us. The future workforce must be equipped with the necessary tools to allow them to easily adapt to the ever changing world that will require digital skills, organisational adaptability and a different kind of leadership at all levels.

The banking industry specifically, has faced significant disruption from changes in client expectations, geopolitical landscape shifts and development of artificial intelligence (AI). There is often anxiety linked to disruption, as it cannot always be predicted and organisations need to be ready to take advantage of new developments now for the future.

To remain competitive, organisations will need to retool their structures and their approaches to work to make use of the new technologies with full effect. Redesigned business structures and processes with a new focus on talent must be looked at as a priority.

Research suggests that through 2030, the time spent using advanced technological skills will increase by 50 percent in the United States and by 41 percent in Europe, with the fastest rise in the need for advanced IT and programming skills. Additionally, automation will accelerate the shift in career skills with an increasing demand for technological abilities, while other skills such as, basic cognitive and manual skills will be less in demand. Data scientists, agile developers, engineers and scrum maters will become important in the new world of work. Those who can work across functions and businesses will be more valuable.

At Standard Chartered, we believe to have a competitive advantage with a future fit workforce we need to embrace digitization and incorporate advanced technologies into the work stream. We have taken proactive steps to help drive the growth of the business by embracing these changes early on. and promote innovation across all parts of the Bank, in our drive to make banking simpler, faster and more convenient for our customers and to stay relevant in our markets. We are experimenting with disruptive business models that create optionality for the Bank, including investing in fintech’s and start-ups outside the Bank, and establishing new partnerships and solutions that have the potential to change how we approach and think about banking.


Most banks are looking at replacing their legacy systems to ensure the new technology will improve their operating effectiveness and improve the customer experience. We see a lot of improvements around account opening, mortgage payments, new hire processing – even IPOs are being done by algorithm! Automation will have an impact on the way we deliver and consequently our workforce and talent strategies.

Looking at what lays ahead, I foresee three challenges facing the role of Human Resources (HR) in developing a talent strategy for the future of work. The critical questions we need to ask ourselves are:

  • How do we identify the skills needed to compete in the new world?
  • How do we prepare for the technology disruption and re-train our existing staff to be ready?
  • How do we attract digital talent, knowing that we have to compete with other industries for this same talent pool?

We have invested heavily in our ‘People Strategy’ to ensure that we harness our unique individual strengths which build the organisation. Newly developed HR technologies and tools are used within Standard Chartered to create a consumer grade experience with HR through mobile friendly and online portals. The training of more than 1,200 senior executives took place, towards positively transforming the culture of the Bank, focusing on supporting our employees and enabling them to become more comfortable with innovation and the development of new ideas, even if these ideas were not successful. We are retraining our staff on agile to ensure we remain competitive in the new world of work. Through our on-line learning platform staff can choose a varied number of programmes and develop themselves at their own leisure.

The scale, scope and complexity of technology and its transformative powers is something organisations are still yet to fully comprehend, especially when it comes to the future of work and what the modern workplace will look like. However, it is important for banks to evolve as rapidly as technology – at least, they must try to. It is important for an organisation to be agile and continue developing to hold a competitive advantage and remain self-sustaining.

McKinsey Global Institute https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/skill-shift-automation-and-the-future-of-the-workforce

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