FIs look to gig workers to upskill workforce

Financial services institutions could be looking to increase their use of gig economy workers, according to a report from PwC, which says that the digital and specialist skillsets of such workers is “critical to driving digitisation and upskilling” within the sector.

Self-employed staff make up just 5% of the workforce in financial services businesses today and contractors 9%; PwC predicts that in the next five years, freelancers, and specifically, gig workers will perform 15% to 20% of the work of a typical institution, as they seek to lower costs.

More than half of the 502 senior executives quizzed by PwC in its survey of 15 territories (the US, Canada, Brazil, Germany, UK, Ireland, France, South Africa, India, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) say they expect to have more self-employed staff over the next three to five years.

John Garvey, PwC’s global financial services leader, PwC US, said financial services firms are looking seriously at their workforces to evaluate which roles need to be performed by permanent employees and which can be performed by gig-economy workers, contractors -- or even crowd-sourced on a case-by-case basis.

“COVID-19 and remote working have opened the door to accessing talent outside of a firm’s physical location, including outside of the country. What we are seeing now is a talent marketplace for gig workers in financial services, competing to take advantage of their specialist skill set and boost productivity within their businesses,” he explained.

Nicole Wakefield, PwC's global financial services advisory leader, PwC Singapore, added: "Gig economy workers also add value by immediately bringing the digital skills needed by financial services firms to improve functions such as customer experience and improving institutional resilience, while the full-time workforce is being upskilled."

PwC’s survey highlighted some concerns among respondents, the most common of which were confidentiality and regulatory risk. They also pointed to a lack of knowledge of the market.

“Many of the most valuable companies in the world share one thing in common: they have embraced the platform economy as a business model,” Garvey added. “They operate with relatively few full-time employees and an increasing percentage of gig-economy talent and skills that they can access on-demand, making the organisations far more innovative, nimble and cost-efficient.”

Gig workers are defined as non full-time employees that are sourced for specific projects and skills for a function or engagement; as freelancers. Contractors generally work exclusively for the employer and for a defined period of time rather than on a per-project basis.

Business with gig economy models were last week warned to take heed of a landmark ruling by The Supreme Court against Uber, which determined that the company’s drivers are not self-employed, but are workers entitled to workers’ rights including holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks.

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