Unis respond to demand for soft skills


By Sarah Kendell

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Financial services employers are placing greater emphasis on soft skills such as creative problem-solving and ethics, as the advent of new technology makes it increasingly important for financial professionals to add real value to the client experience.

Speaking to financialobserver, Macquarie University Applied Finance Centre program director Tony Carlton said the widespread and increasing availability of financial tools meant advisers had to work harder to demonstrate superior knowledge and service to clients.

“We’re seeing commoditisation of financial market products, meaning that corporate and analytical information is much more accessible to the clients that financial institutions are trying to advise,” Carlton said.

“With that environment, if you are a professional you have to be able to answer the question, ‘how can I add value?’

“You have to be able to have creative problem-solving skills and overlay judgment over your technical knowledge, and understand the client’s perspective on the particular problem that’s being addressed.”

As a result, graduate finance programs such as Macquarie’s were focusing coursework on the practical application of technical financial knowledge, as well as corporate responsibility issues such as ethics.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve introduced five or six new electives into our program which are all focused on the application of technical skills to solve problems for clients,” Carlton said.

“A new subject this year called Professional Practice is going to develop those skills further - it includes more emphasis on ethical behaviours and assisting students in developing their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.”

He also observed the transition-to-retirement field was becoming a greater focus for fund managers and advisers, and the university had changed course modules this year to reflect growing interest in concepts like life-cycle investing.

“We’re introducing a new subject called Private Wealth Management, which includes a focus on delivering advice on long-term investing, and one called Life Cycle Investing, which gives students a perspective on whole-of-life investing and how that might relate to retirement outcomes,” he said.

“There is a focus on retirement outcomes rather than simple portfolio management, so [we focus on] how we can provide tools and solutions to better the investment outcomes for members during accumulation and retirement.”

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