Boosting Talent Excellence in the Banking Sector: The Crucial Role of Critical Thinking

3 coworkers brainstorming at work - Pearson TalentLens

Possessing critical thinking skills is sought after and highly valued in the banking sector to adapt to changes, make decisions, address issues, and propose solutions.


Banking: A Sector Undergoing Rapid Transformation

In the banking sector, customer expectations are evolving rapidly: They demand user-friendly and intuitive interfaces for their online and mobile banking transactions, as well as a smooth and transparent experience across all communication channels with their bank. They are very open to adopting new technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and chatbots to facilitate their operations. They also expect efficient and responsive financial services tailored to their needs and preferences. Finally, they attach great importance to the protection and confidentiality of their personal data against fraud and cyber-attacks.

To meet these requirements, employees in the banking sector must master technical skills related to online banking operations, data management, cybersecurity, and the use of new technologies. Additionally, they increasingly require behavioral skills in:

  • Communication to effectively interact with clients and respond to their needs clearly and concisely in person, by phone, email, or chat. 
  • Negotiation to reach agreements, resolve conflicts, and achieve favorable conditions for both the bank and clients.
  • Critical thinking to analyze complex situations, identify problems, and find solutions.
  • Attention to detail as precision and thoroughness are essential for managing financial transactions and ensuring compliance with regulations.
  • Adaptability and time management to quickly adapt to new technologies, processes, products, and services, and juggle multiple tasks while meeting deadlines. 

The banking sector employs many people but experiences high attrition and turnover rates. To remain competitive in a market marked by uncertain economic and geopolitical conditions, increased technological disruption, fierce competition between traditional banks and new, more innovative and agile players, banks must compete to attract and retain top talent. They must evolve their talent acquisition processes to improve efficiency and speed, and focus on assessing these skills, particularly critical thinking.


Critical Thinking: A Highly Coveted Power Skill in the Banking Sector 

According to a global study by PwC, while digital skills are considered important by 70%, 77% recognize that critical thinking skills, such as emotional intelligence and judgment, are crucial in banking professions. Isabelle Jenkins, Head of Financial Services at PwC UK, adds: "Being adaptable, collaborative, and demonstrating critical thinking skills is important. If we truly want to leverage technological advances, we will need the right people with the appropriate skills so that we can truly solve problems, drive productivity, and create growth. Investment in technology is essential to achieve all these goals. But it must be guided by human ingenuity, expertise, and understanding."

Carole Fortier Bidan, Senior Product Developer at Pearson TalentLens, and Christelle Cadoret, Psychologist and HR consultant, authors of the book "Embracing Change and Making Informed Decisions - Critical Thinking & Adaptability" (Pearson, Human Skills collection), define critical thinking as a mindset aimed at logically analyzing situations for a specific purpose, such as problem-solving, explaining a viewpoint, interpreting, or justifying a decision. It involves searching for facts, evidence, understanding and analyzing different perspectives, and personal qualities such as listening, humility, curiosity, open-mindedness, and taking a step back. It requires self-awareness regarding one's own biases, beliefs, stereotypes, and cognitive biases to limit their impact on decision-making and positioning. It is practiced through constructive effort that involves and promotes a collaborative spirit in the service of collective intelligence.

It is qualified as a power skill because reasoning and decision-making are the least automated tasks in the workplace. 


Providing the Means to Assess Critical Thinking 

Laure Bogeat, current Director of HR Development and former Head of Recruitment, Career, and Employment Services at BPCE Infogérance et Technologies, the IT GIE of the BPCE group, the second largest French banking group, testifies to the importance of critical thinking in the banking sector: "Our environment is complex, systemic, and evolving rapidly. In the context of recruitment challenges, it is a tight market at the heart of new technologies and the digital transformation of the group, we wanted in our recruitment processes to ensure a level of analysis, an understanding of our challenges, and intellectual flexibility allowing our new recruits to thrive in our structure. The Watson-Glaser™ III Critical Thinking Assessment naturally emerged. It informs us of the intellectual approach of the candidate to solve a problem and make a decision, but also on the understanding of their environment, their interpretation of factual data, and synthesis capacity, all relevant elements in our selection criteria."


Critical thinking skills are crucial within the banking sector and the ability of HR professionals to assess this ability can make a difference to the long-term talent acquisition process. Helping to identify and develop new candidates into roles and spot potential high-performers for training and leadership roles in the future.

Overall, exercising critical thinking ability has a crucial role in the banking sector for making informed decisions, identifying and evaluating potential risks in financial operations, proposing creative and innovative solutions to clients, in compliance with established regulations and standards, and with a focus on confidentiality and data protection. It is an essential skill to assess and develop in candidates and existing employees.