Financial services project managers: 4 key areas to succeed

It’s no secret that with the increasing regulatory environment since the financial crisis, financial services project managers have had a lot on their plates. To be a successful project manager, steering a project from point A to point B is no longer enough. Due to increased risk management and auditory controls, successful project managers must now negotiate their way around the new risk management culture, facing more scrutiny than ever before.

Seven years on from the banking-system's near-collapse, the skill set of typical financial services project managers has been completely transformed. Here are 4 key areas to focus and manage in in order to become a successful project manager:

1. Regulatory and risk management awareness

Rather than taking a back seat, regulatory considerations are now firmly out in front. The intense focus on regulatory risk requires all business processes and operations to tick an ever-expanding list of legal and regulatory boxes, not just as an afterthought but as the very first hurdle of business approval for every project.

Not only are successful project teams and managers expected to become experts of the regulatory framework but the more integrated involvement of risk management, change management and legal functions means they must now learn to manage more technical stakeholders than ever before.

2. Working with a budget squeeze

Although the financial services sector is looking for growth, compliance and regulation is still top of the agenda and the impact of project on cost efficiencies is being heavily scrutinised. With a more cautious approach to budgets, successful project managers are adopting a more innovative way of working across sites to keep their “virtual teams” on the same page. It takes a certain level of skill to overcome the inevitable distractions of participants on a conference call and maintain the engagement and buy-in of meeting participants.

3. Keeping up to date with technological advances

As the complexity of technology increases, the job of financial services project managers is becoming ever more specialised. Almost every banking project now includes a technical element. Coupled with increased globalisation and the growing proliferation of data, project managers must stay on top of technological advancements and learn to expertly balance data protection concerns in order to ensure their projects aren't obsolete before they've even begun.

4. Coping with long term scrutiny – the project never ends

The end of a project is no longer the moment of glory it used to be. Along with the new understated end-of-project celebrations comes a realisation that nowadays, projects are never really put to bed. Thanks to increased regulatory and auditor scrutiny, the success of a project is no longer assessed on its day of completion.  How a project outcome fairs over the long-term, whether it produces the expected ROI or causes regulatory bumps later in the road, is now critical.

Successful project managers are in demand and many organisations are hiring interim professionals with the proven skills and experience to add value to the roll-out of their projects. These companies are also seeing the added benefits of having a senior-level interim professional work alongside their existing employees as they share best practice standards and specific industry experience.