HR and digital transformation in the banking sector… friends or enemies?

When we talk about digitalisation of the banking sector, it is worth remembering that a profound cultural change is taking place amongst long-standing players.

Organisations are transforming themselves at breakneck speed and staff are on the front line. They need to be stakeholders, proactive operators and witnesses to these transformations, both internally and externally… And this is not easy in their daily working lives! 

Transformation of the banking sector is underway 

Transformation of the banking sector is embodied by three major phenomena: 

  • Account Managers are having to increase their flexibility in order to meet the new expectations of customers. From the position of a person with technical expertise, they are moving to that of a personal banking advisor. 
  • Bank branches are becoming the physical connection point providing access to the banking network’s expertise and the future of a branch hinges on the perceived quality of its welcome. 
  • The change is profound: to be a good banker, it is no longer enough to know your business well, it is now also essential to know how to greet, advise and guide the customer in relation to numerous products. 

I have assisted this kind of structure with its “digitalisation”, as part of projects that always have highly technical aspects. For example, the dematerialisation of customer relationship documents (an aspect that has been heavily impacted by the regulatory framework since April 2018). The same question arises on each occasion: Why has a ROI not been delivered, despite well-managed, ambitious and extremely expensive technological choices? 

The answer is because human behaviour does not fade away with digitalisation, particularly when it comes to managing the teams in charge of achieving the aim!  


A bank that offers digital services sends out a strong signal: it should be approached like a vehicle for commitment and trust in the company. It is a positive subject in itself and a challenge that will need to be taken up by Human Resources.  Three aspects must be taken into account, in order to avoid failure:  

  • The individual at work: pay attention to changes in everyone’s working relationship (practices) and everyone’s relationship with others (interactions). This has a direct impact on what is essential within an organisation: the interplay of those involved… with winners and losers. 
  • Business rationale: the meaning of work and professional culture are reshaped by digitalisation. If personnel cannot answer the question “What is a great job?or a good job?”, motivation and performance will be affected. 
  • Corporate culture: or the ability for employees to find their bearings and position themselves within the organisation’s strategies for action. If there is a lack of “understanding of the situation”, it is hard to understand the drivers behind motivation and to make employees want to contribute to the shared dynamic and results. 

And this is precisely where managers have a key role: they reveal and/or re-articulate contradictions over which they have had little control (as they originate from above). They are conveyors of the vision and the operational owners of projects... and yet, they need to find their feet “somewhat alone” in a new environment, while also needing to promote new tools and methods. 

What solutions are there for avoiding the pitfalls of digital transformation that is more technical than human?  

Two ways of responding:  

Transformation of the banking sector will not be achieved without a transformation of its management style. 

Adopting a more participative and responsive management style, which is based on taking the initiative, will enable this sector’s practices to genuinely evolve.  The managerial approach must take greater account of everyone’s degree of autonomy and talent… and, thereby, encourage more nuanced management of situations. Without marking the end of directive management, this means extending the managerial scope to a more participative and more “delegative” role. 

Advisors (individuals), managed with more trust and openness, will deliver more personalised attention to their clients.  

In the banking sector, where adherence to processes has always been the golden rule, the attention to the human aspect is unprecedented. It is a linchpin in ensuring that all employees remain focused on their goals. In this respect, we can also talk about the Symmetry of attentions©, which “establishes as the fundamental principle that the quality of service between a company and its customers is symmetrical to the quality of the relationship between this company and all its employees”.  

A final point: employees are inundated with information, new processes or methods that are not yet well understood. Good questions to ask, in order to support them:  

  • Is there a risk of saturation? 
  • How are the various projects launched going to regulate, between them, the amount of change they are generating for employees? 
  • Is there a scorecard with an indicator of the capacity, or otherwise, of the organisation to absorb this change? 
  • Are operating methods, such as the “agile” method, really developing initiatives & movement? 

These questions really must be posed if you want committed and motivated employees as part of the now urgent transformation of the banking sector, enabling you to turn human resources and digital transformation into true friends!