INSIGHT: Q&A with Fujitsu UK Chief Technology Officer for Financial Services, Ian Bradbury

Ahead of SFE’s joint event with Fujitsu UK on 27 July, we spoke to their Chief Technology Officer for Financial Services, Ian Bradbury, to get a different angle on hybrid working and its impact on wellbeing and culture. 

Fujitsu UK recently launched their Work Life Shift campaign, exploring a variety of new ideas for the future of hybrid work, including the concepts of the Borderless Office, and Smart Working, based on their own quantitative research, which found that industry leaders believed there was “no going back” to pre-covid work life. You can read the research here.

Here’s what Ian had to say:

Q: What was your personal experience of lockdown like?

A: Like everyone, I had my challenges. My wife is a teacher and I am in a high-risk category, so there was a lot of concern for my family, my friends and myself.

When it came to work, I must say I found it uplifting. I suppose the best way of explaining why is by telling you about my pre-covid commute. I live in South East England and I work in Edinburgh! As you can imagine, this was pretty disruptive to my home life and frankly, not great for my health.

I also found my experience of work was better. My productivity improved, and meetings became more engaging, with people really focusing on outcomes rather than processes. 

Q: How has this shaped your understanding of Fujitsu’s work-life shift research?

For the most part, I took a lot of comfort and insight in the fact that the data broadly supported my own experience. The work-life shift research showed us that there were new ways of working that brought new benefits to firms and their people.

I think that covid-19 fundamentally made work different. It changed priorities and it changed value in ways that we simply couldn’t have seen coming. There was a real sense of togetherness, of empathy and compassion for one another, despite workforces being separated by new physical barriers.

There are of course many people who did not feel the same about remote working. Work-life balance and separation became more difficult for lots of people, particularly young people and parents.

It has become clearer that there is no one size fits all model, and the challenge for many firms is to make sure that they adapt to the work-life shift in ways that are inclusive to people with different circumstances and backgrounds.

Q: Has the experience of the last year changed your perception of what makes a good leader?

A: Yes. Let me explain why by expanding on the point I made earlier about value. Covid-19 has led to many sectors, including financial services, reimagining what value really means. People, health and wellbeing have all become more significant features of service business models.

For me, good leadership is about being cognisant and responsive to change. In the context of remote and hybrid working, that means taking more time to understand how people are feeling, giving people more time to express themselves, and making sure people really feel like they are engaged and involved.

But the changes that have happened didn’t all come from leaders. There was a refocusing of attention from all levels of organisations, but it mostly came from colleague to colleague, and I think this is something we need to be aware of.

Q: What role will technology play in supporting the work-life shift?

We have what seems like a contradiction: more technology and more barriers between interaction, yet greater focus on people, wellbeing and collaboration. In reality this isn’t a contradiction. We are looking at an environment where firms use technology as a means to enable their people to thrive.

A good example of this is through employee engagement. Five years ago I think its fair to say this was seen as a bit of tick box exercise, whereas now it’s seen as an imperative.  Wellbeing and motivation have become much more important data with potential ramifications for a firm’s agility and productivity.

Engagement survey tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some organisations have started using smiley face pop ups every day to identify wellbeing trends. Others are exploring whether wearable’s can be used to measure stress levels and identify when action can be taken to prevent burnout.

Clearly there are ethical considerations to make when assessing if these technologies are appropriate, but the fact that they are being considered demonstrates where digital transformation can be an enabler for better wellbeing.

Q: What is the likely impact on skills and inclusion?

A: The drive towards digital adoption means greater focus on the skills that come with this. Firms are going to be focusing their efforts on creating and implementing new digital tools that will make hybrid working more immersive, more inclusive, and more collaborative. This will create opportunities for people with data, collaborative and creative skills to flourish.

But there will also be a real focus on new soft skills. Human interaction has become a more valuable asset, and this means that skills like empathy and compassion are going to become more important to a company’s success.

From an inclusion lens, the challenge for firms is to make sure they are attracting a more diverse range of people to match these new skills as they are integrated into business models. Firms must also nurture the more inclusive cultures that have been borne out of our increased focus on wellbeing.

Q: What does the hybrid model mean for financial services firms in the long term when it comes to people, culture and management?

I believe the long-term outlook for financial services is positive. The industry has made many changes successfully and has risen to the challenges of covid-19 effectively. This should create a feeling of optimism that the sector can continue to evolve at pace as new challenges emerge.

The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation in the sector, and as we go forward this shows no sign of slowing down. This means new digital products and services for customers and new tools and systems for employees.

The opportunity for financial services is to harness both technology and people. Organisations that do this effectively will be able to adapt much more quickly to changing circumstances, and their employees will have more freedom and a better work life balance. This for me is the most exciting prospect for the future of financial services.

 

Make sure you register for SFE and Fujitsu’s joint event on hybrid working in the financial services sector here.