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Network Profile 
Name of Network: IFS Skillnet
Members: 200+
Sector(s) covered:  International Financial Services: banking, aircraft leasing, re/insurance, asset management, funds, fintech
Year established:  2019
Network Manager: Donna Noonan

Please describe what your Skillnet Business Network does and how it came about?

IFS Skillnet aims to support the International Financial Services (IFS) sector in maintaining Ireland’s position as a top international financial services centre, through ongoing investment in the development of the skills and expertise of this workforce. From humble beginnings in the IFSC in 1987 with a couple of hundred employees, the sector now employs over 105,000 people in the financial services sector, 52,000 who work in international financial services.

We are one of the Ibec Skillnet Business Networks and are promoted by Financial Services Ireland.

Can you outline one important way your Skillnet Business Network impacts positively on your sector?

There a several IFS sub-sectors including banking, insurance and reinsurance, fintech and digital finance, asset management and investment funds. We have representation from the leading financial services industry associations on our steering groups including Financial Services Ireland, Banking and Payments Ireland, Insurance Ireland, Irish Funds and the Irish Association of Investment Managers. This ensures we get a broad view of the skills needs, gaps and emerging trends across all sectors of the industry so that we can develop specific and relevant talent development programmes and initiatives for our members.

What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?

In discussion with member companies, there are two main topics on everyone’s agenda: Digital Skills Development and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG).

To remain competitive, financial institutions require access to a strong and digitally fluent workforce who can effectively utilise new technologies and leverage the vast amounts of data now available. Jobs are changing dramatically, and new skills are needed to drive initiatives in the DARQ technologies (distributed ledger technologies, artificial intelligence, extended reality and quantum computing) and data analytics. This digital transformation has been accelerated due to Covid-19. We plan to run a series of programmes to address the ever-growing need for digital skills in the sector.

ESG will be a key focus of the financial services sector in the coming years. IDA Ireland’s strategy statement for 2021–2024 notes that the heightened focus on environmental sustainability will lead to increased prominence of green finance, and investment by multinational companies that is related to environment, governance and social factors, which presents opportunities for Ireland. Demand for ESG and sustainable finance skills will increase and, according to our recent skills report Financial Services in Ireland: Skills of the Future 2022, member companies see sustainable finance as the greatest opportunity in the financial services sector (69%). We plan to expand our provision of ESG-themed courses to fulfil skills needs in this emerging area.

How is your Skillnet Business Network using technology to facilitate learning and development programmes?

We work collaboratively with our training partners to utilise technology in our training provision. Many of our network companies have staff based in different parts of the country, for example Northern Trust (Dublin, Limerick) and State Street (Dundalk, Kilkenny), so using technology for learning and development programmes enables staff based regionally to come together and avail of training in an efficient and cost-effective way. We are also finalising an e-learning programme that will provide bite-sized, online training in project management specifically targeted at those in the financial services sector.

What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?

The retail banking sector is experiencing a major transformation as KBC and Ulster Bank prepare to exit the Irish market and the retail banks repurpose many of their branches nationally.

Through Skillnet Ireland’s Skills Connect programme, we developed Skills Ignite, a new programme that will upskill bank professionals with in-demand skills at this crucial time. It is a joint initiative between IFS Skillnet, Financial Services Ireland, IOB (the Institute of Banking) and the five main retail banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, KBC and Ulster Bank.

The Skills Ignite for Financial Services programme will support individuals to develop in-demand skills to progress in their current employment as well as improving employability for those leaving jobs, by providing a selection of training courses to ensure Ireland remains competitive, with a skilled workforce that can attract and retain global corporations.

The programme launched on 19 July 2022 and to-date we have had over 600 participants sign up. The programme will have a positive impact on the sector as it will equip participants with in demand digital, technology and customer advice skills.

Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Business Network?

Get in contact with your relevant network. Skillnet Business Networks are unique in the way that they are led by industry, for industry. We remain in constant contact with our members so we know what is going on at a practical level, where skill gaps are emerging and what can be done to fill those gaps. These insights are invaluable in creating talent development programmes and initiatives for our members, which are up-to-date and industry-relevant.

Learn more  

Visit the IFS Skillnet website to learn more about their upskilling and talent development opportunities.

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