Employers and employees strive together for better working life in the Finnish financial sector

Healthy Financial Sector is a project to improve profitability, competitiveness and wellbeing in the Finnish banking and
insurance sectors.

The project was born out of financial employers and employees’ shared motivation to identify and understand the dynamics of change in the sector. Changing customer behaviour was pinpointed as the most influential factor.

The project participants are Nordea Union Finland, Trade Union Pro, the Union of Insurance Employees VvL, the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN, and the Federation of Finnish Financial Services (as employer representative). This cooperation was agreed on during labour market negotiations. This is the first time the sector is looking into its future with such large-scale cooperation, and also the first development project of this extent in any Finnish service sector.

The project began in 2014 and lasts until 2015. It aims to improve working methods and thus the wellbeing, productivity and competitiveness of the Finnish banking and insurance sectors. The intention is to develop concrete tools that will further these goals. In addition to the abovementioned unions, the project is also funded by the Finnish Innovation Fund and the Finnish Work Environment Fund, and it is also part of the Working Life 2020 project by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, whose goal is to make the Finnish working life the best in Europe in the next six years.

Future customers in the digital world

The Financial sector is shaken by large changes. Technology advancing at a staggering rate has its effects also on finance. Mobile transactions have taken a prominent spot alongside other online services and traditional face-to-face interaction, and new technology will bring even more new types of e-services. Recognizing these types of changes in customer needs is one of the most important focus areas of the Healthy Financial Sector project.

The way people work is also changing. In financial companies, it’s a result of both the restructuring of the sector and changing customer needs. Competitiveness is under stress, and employees are shifting towards multi-skilled roles instead of traditional bank and insurance officers. An increasing amount of work is moving to service centres at various localities. This kind of diversity brings on new challenges, and also changes what is required of managerial employees.

The need for guidance is increasing, and customers require customer service that is more readily available regardless of time or place. Employers and employees must therefore think together on how customers are kept happy, operations profitable and employees comfortable in their new types of assignments.

The project is also aimed to maintain the appeal of the financial sector for future employees. Work wellbeing and enjoyment are thus even more important than before.

Results sought from polls and workshops

The most important aspect of the project are its workshops, in which participants can contemplate future changes in customer behaviour and how these impact work in the financial sector. The workshops’ objective is also to take work wellbeing into consideration and to develop the work environment accordingly.

Four union-specific workshops will be arranged in autumn 2014. They will be attended by both employer and employee representatives to ensure a common vision based on consensus rather than ruling. One workshop will take half a day, with 30–50 participants and plenty of group work. The results will be collected and will make up a significant part of the final report of the project.

In spring 2015, three themed workshops will be organised. The themes and contents are as follows:

  1. Outlook of the sector, technology and innovations
    Structural challenges faced by the sector. The impact and opportunities created by advancing technology and innovations. Future tasks, positions and ways of working in the Finnish financial sector.
  2. Changing needs of financial customers
    How customer behaviour is changing and how it affects the nature and content of work in the financial sector. The perspectives of young and elderly customers. Mapping how, where and when customers want to use financial services.
  3. Changing work, wellbeing and management
    How work is changing and what effect this has on wellbeing at work. Are work places and times changing, and if so, how is it managed? How attractive is the financial sector as an employer? What are the future competences needed in the sector?

Workshop participants include business managers, customers, union representatives, business developers, and managerial employees from successful or innovative companies from other sectors. The workshops will also bring in researchers and developers to broaden the perspectives on relevant topics such as customer behaviour, changing working culture, sector outlook, and Finland’s competitiveness.

Results of the workshops are complemented with two questionnaire surveys. Customers will be asked for their views on future services and service availability in the financial sector. The other survey will focus on employees, and will map their views on work and the ongoing or upcoming changes they have observed. Contents of the survey will be further specified on the basis of the objectives of the project and the findings of employer and union representative workshops. The surveys will be carried out in early 2015.

Project benefits

The project aims to find practical measures for the changes that need to be made in financial companies. The financial sector must follow advancements in technology, and it must do it in ways that are beneficial for customers, employees and employers alike. The project also aims to find out how productivity, wellbeing and service quality should be evaluated and improved.

The overall objective is to define concrete tools for the assessment and improvement of various areas of working life. Establishing a common vision on the changes that the sector is facing and the preparations they necessitate is extremely important. The changes will also be relevant for future labour market negotiations.