Do you have a “data architect” on board? What about a “chief digital officer”? More important, should you?

While most credit unions aren’t big enough to have such specialized titles, that doesn’t mean they don’t still need to have the expertise that comes with them.

A new report co-sponsored by LinkedIn and Capgemini, “The Digital Talent Gap—Are Companies Doing Enough?,” found that six out of 10 banking organizations polled find that respective digital talent gaps are in fact widening.

“The two soft digital skills in most demand are customer-centricity and passion for learning and the two hard digital skills in most demand are cybersecurity and cloud computing,” the report, which surveyed over 1,250 individuals, including human resource directors and digital and technology recruiters, stated.

As a result of this “gap,” many organizations have positions that were not on the books just a few years ago, such as the aforementioned “data architect,” and others. This trend is also occurring in the credit union space, but it is not always reflected in a new title.

Chris Howard, senior vice president, Callahan & Associates, Washington
“We see credit unions adding a spectrum of technology specialists and requiring a higher level of technology knowledge and savvy in almost all positions,” said Chris Howard, senior vice president at Callahan & Associates, Washington.

“Very few credit unions have ‘chief’ officers in specialized areas of technology because small and medium-sized businesses always, and appropriately, have a limited c-suite,” said Chris Howard, senior vice president at Callahan & Associates, Washington. “Across the board though, we see credit unions adding a spectrum of technology specialists and requiring a higher level of technology knowledge and savvy in almost all positions.”

Jim Trautwein, senior consultant for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cornerstone Advisors, added that the title of “Chief Digital Officer” briefly emerged with a few credit unions and banks in recent years, but said “we’re not seeing that as a sustained trend.”

A trend Trautwein is seeing is the “tech savviness” of the member facing positions. To this end, whereas the CIO/CTO may be consulted on digital strategies, this position is “less likely” to be the “sole owner” of the systems and relationships involved.

“We are seeing some interest in the CIO or CTO having a greater stake in anything delivered by cloud, but that seems to be due to the hosting model versus the shift to these channels or the actual systems in use,” said Trautwein.

Mind the gap
The LinkedIn/Capgemini report also found that 54 percent of the organizations surveyed agreed that the digital talent gap is “hampering their digital transformation programs” and that their organization has “lost competitive advantage because of a shortage of digital talent.” Additionally, 29 percent of employees feel their skill set is either redundant or will be within two years.

Jim Trautwein, senior consultant, Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Cornerstone Advisors Senior Consultant Jim Trautwein said technology officers increasingly need a strong understanding of retail, not just the tech used to enable it.

“Nearly 60 percent of digital talent are even investing their own time and money, most commonly to be on a par with their colleagues on the required digital skills,” the report stated.
In the credit union space, Trautwein said, the talent gap is widening in the “owners of the online and mobile systems” who also have to consider traditional channels, such as branch and call center, while balancing member usage/appeal of the entire channel mix.

“The head of retail needs to evolve into the head of channels,” he said.

Howard explained that while a talent gap may be occurring in certain industries, he “rejects the premise” that it is hampering the CU industry. The “gap,” he added, is more based on consumer awareness and sensitivity.

“We see credit unions adding a great deal of technology talent and capability,” he said. “Where credit unions are perhaps different is the scope of different business models based on their membership bases,” said Howard. “There are many flavors of credit union and the most aware and proactive of them tailor their business plans to the unique characteristics of their memberships.

In Trautwein’s estimation, his credit union clients are aware of this growing talent gap with some CUs being proactive, while others are slower to embrace change.

“Each [credit union] has its own strategy. Some are placing the digital clearly in retail or lending, others continue to associate digital with alternative member service channels, such as call center, card and ATM,” he said. “All are realizing that they need to balance digital with traditional to maintain whatever level of touch and convenience the member wants.”

Who makes the talent gap call?
Since technology touches all aspects of a credit union’s operation, determining who should lead the effort to close the digital gap is often a difficult task. Whereas human resources might have taken the lead in the past, it’s now more of a group effort that often includes the CEO, COO with HR and IT department heads consulting.

“Technology is a marketing, delivery, administrative and risk management tool, among other applications. There are not clear, easy boundaries about responsibility or ownership,” noted Howard. “And this is a good thing. Every day, better and more accessible tools become more available, more affordable and easier to use. As technology becomes increasingly mainstream and commonplace, it empowers enthusiastic generalists with the capabilities to do things that used to require Big Six consulting firms.”

While the asset size of a credit union may determine the ability to afford new digital talent, Trautwein said the equalizer is determining member needs and employee capabilities, not simply roles or titles.

“As is true in every business sector, how credit unions perceive and respond to these needs and how they hire, develop and deploy their human resources varies hugely based on size,” he said. “Meeting member needs and expectations is mandatory, but how best to do that depends on what they are and what resources are available. The ‘right’ answer can vary greatly depending on the size of the credit union.”

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