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When Nitin Mehta talks about the importance of financial training, he likes to compare bankers with doctors.
“What’s good for healthcare should be good for wealth care,” says Mr Mehta, managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the CFA Institute, an association of investment professionals.
“Neither you nor I would go to a doctor if he wasn’t properly qualified. And yet the same requirements aren’t there for many of the roles in finance.”
It is not the first time this complaint has been made. In the aftermath of every financial crisis, calls go out for greater rigour in the way financial sector employees are trained. Today, however, a combination of competitive pressures, demand from investors and tightening regulations means institutions have growing incentives to develop a workforce that is better trained.
And there is no shortage of companies ready to provide in-house training to financial institutions, from Training The Street, a corporate training company catering to Wall Street firms, to Adkins Matchett & Toy, a training group with offices in the US, the UK and Hong Kong.
Professional associations such as the CFA Institute offer a range of educational and certification programmes. And while embarking on a full-time MBA may not be necessary or feasible for many people, business schools have been beefing up their part-time executive programmes.
“We’re seeing resumption of growth in the financial training market,” says Mr Mehta. “When you look at the number of candidates enrolling in the CFA programme we’re back to record levels.”
Similarly, since the financial crisis, ifs University College, which provides a range of financial courses, has seen a jump in interest from organisations and individuals, according to Alex Fraser, the institution’s principal.
“In the post-crash world, there is a growing awareness of the need for increased professionalism within the sector,” says Mr Fraser.
At the same time, tighter regulations are being imposed on institutions.
“There’s going to be a greater requirement to demonstrate fitness to hold a particular job,” says Mr Mehta.
Additional pressure is coming from investors such as pension funds, which are becoming more demanding when it comes to the qualifications of the fund managers they hire, with some adding these requirements into their requests for proposals.
“We’re seeing more of that,” says Mr Mehta. “Some of the large institutional asset owners are asking the right questions and in response employers are demanding those qualifications of their staff.”
Meanwhile, some argue that financial training also needs to go beyond the technical education required for certification so that executives at every level of the organisation become more financially literate.
“During and before the financial crisis many financial services professionals working in large organisations found themselves operating in silos, concentrating on very narrow and specific lines of work,” says Mr Fraser. This, he says, meant they had limited awareness of how their roles affected not only the organisations in which they worked, but also society in general, “which led to many of the problems we saw in the immediate aftermath”.
Much of this can be put down to a broader form of financial illiteracy, as Nuno Fernandes, professor of finance at IMD business school in Switzerland, points out: “In most financial institutions you have a very short-term orientation for profit without adequate consideration for the capital or for the risk,” he says. “These are key finance principles that have been forgotten by many banks over the past few years.”
This, he says, means running programmes for everyone from senior executives to first- and second-level managers. “The best results are achieved when you touch different parts of the bank, because people start to talk a common language and gain a common understanding of the objectives. That’s very important.”
Prof Fernandes also believes that financial training should be designed to enable finance specialists to become better equipped to communicate with other banking executives and stakeholders.
However, he warns that financial training alone cannot address systemic problems in an institution. “Training has to be associated with structural changes and incentive changes,” he says. “Training for the sake of training, without changing anything inside the institution, is not very fruitful.”