The banking gears must not slip, and that is why it is so essential to have an extensive risk management system in check always and continuously updating them. Banks are exposed to numerous risks on daily basis from their lending activities, in their participation in financial markets and from wider operational problems like suffering a cyber-attack or losing s senior executive or even worse, being hit by an earth quake! The current crisis has shown that there can be soft risks that even the top operational risk management systems also may not be fully functional. At the same time, bank which manage these soft skills not only protects its business but also boosts it.
Financial firms were not blindsided by the COVID-19 as the other businesses were. Pandemics are one among all the risks that the regulators ask the financial firms to consider and plan. The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks had already provided many countries, especially Asia, a taste of what the COVID strain was capable of doing. Lockdowns however exposed that after all some banks were not ready to face this massive inclusion.
Senior managers in banks have always valued soft skills. But as an adjunct to what was essentially always a very technical training, explained Olivier Beroud, the founder of Beroud Consulting and the head of the Centre for Risk at the London Institute of Banking & Finance. She said that the bankers were used to training that only dealt with the logical and ethical aspects of their work, but they had never had to deal explicitly with the role of feelings. For example, how to show vulnerability as a leader and how to communicate to staff that they share their concerns. But this pandemic put forth soft skills into a sharp focus for numerous reasons. Those included were, he challenges of managing employees working remotely; dealing with staff who were frightened or anxious about the pandemic and their jobs; touching the personal lives of people who were juggling work and children, perhaps in a confined environment, according to Beroud.
The London institute of Banking & Finance, teaming up with the Asian Banking School, lately ran a drill session on the risk for senior bankers in Malaysia and comprised a novel element of asking the participants to put together a reflective journal on what they had learned in the course. They didn’t expect reflective journals to be the star of the training program, said Dr. Paramsothy Vijayan (Vijay), director of Graduate Training and FSTEP at the Asian Banking School. It was mainly valuable because many senior financiers don’t have the opportunity to reflect on the particular aspect of management and get well-versed feedback. It turned out that the senior managers were in fact very eager to test out their skills that they rarely got to examine in depth. One CEO in Malaysia reflected that the basis of his success was his ability to show that he was comfortable being an ‘incomplete leader’ and that he was able to let go of the old-style role of ‘I know’ and rather ‘I can turn to people who know’, Beroud explained. And it turned out to be a valuable mindset. How to deal with other people feeling insecure is through honesty, said Katharine Pons, an executive coach and business director at The Thrive Program, who worked on the training session in Malaysia. One may not be able to provide security and being open about ‘I don’t know’ can be the best way. And one also has to be realistic. There is no point in promising it will all be over by Christmas, which just doesn’t work anymore.