Gone are the days when you enrolled in a course simply because you had to. Today, learning can be a highly personalised journey to propel you forward in your career and private life. At Julius Baer, we believe in continuous learning as a company and as individuals. We speak with Candy Leung and David Schlumpf of the Julius Baer Academy about the bank’s learning transformation, maximising your own learning experience, and what’s to come.
In an interview, we speak with David Schlumpf, Global Head of Learning & Leadership Development of the Julius Baer Academy (JBA) and Candy Leung, Head JBA Asia Pacific (APAC) to find out more about learning at Julius Baer:
Why is learning important for an organisation and how is learning made accessible to employees?
Candy: To foster Julius Baer as a ‘learning organisation’, the goal is to instill a flexible, employee-centric learning model – enabling learning around the clock via a wide range of platforms. This goes beyond traditional classroom training – we have to be innovative to equip our workforce for the future skills in this VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) environment.
David: Learning is not just important – it is vital for an organisation to equip employees to continuously learn, innovate, and grow in order to stay competitive and drive sustainable performance. A learning organisation enables our employees to be skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at continuously adapting its behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights.
How have employees’ mindsets changed when it comes to learning at the bank?
David: When we started our journey, business proximity was one of our key principles, meaning to fully understand the challenges and success factors of the business and to ultimately focus on defining what the business expects to happen as a result of any learning initiative. And over time, we’ve become a strategic sparring partner who challenges the business in order to find out where the gaps are by asking ‘How can we help solve your problem and drive your business?’ So, it’s not about training; it’s about performance.
Candy: People used to see learning as mandatory, as in: ‘My manager told me to.’ Nowadays people proactively want to learn. It’s not just coming to a classroom – it’s self-driven learning. It’s been a whole culture and mindset shift.
We need to understand that learning is work and work is learning.
What impact has the pandemic had on learning and development at Julius Baer?
Candy: Upon the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Asia in January 2020, the JBA APAC team adapted quickly to change and design the learning format according to local social distancing guidelines. And we continue to help staff adapt to the new normal by offering global hybrid and virtual learning programmes with relevant topics for employees to sustain performance and motivation during this difficult time.
David: The delay of the pandemic in Europe helped us in Zurich prepare thanks to our weekly exchanges with colleagues in Asia. The JBA team was therefore ready in March 2020 to launch a global “COVID-19 Offering": a catalogue of online resources and training opportunities on topics like working from home, managing clients virtually, working and leading remotely, and health and resilience.
Given these changes that came within not even a year, has there been a cultural transformation? And how is something like that brought about?
David: The pandemic has definitely demonstrated how quickly people can change when there is a very clear goal – this is the recipe for initiating cultural change. No one challenged our goal to instill an effective employee-centric learning model which benefits both individuals and the bank because it was transparent from the very beginning.
Candy: One aspect that has helped move change forward is role modeling by senior leadership. There is also an adaptive challenge present, in which employees are both the problem and the solution: in order to benefit from change you need to change, adapting your beliefs and principles. There is no technical solution for that. This is ultimately the essence of leadership.
What does the learning universe of the future look like?
Candy: I think it will become more integrated in our daily lives. Today, the workforce is increasingly connected. Mobile devices make it possible for learners to access learning from anywhere, anytime. Employees can take on dynamic learning opportunities that satisfy both their individual needs as well as their self-made learning schedule.
David: To build on what Candy said, we need to understand that work is learning and learning is work. We have to instil a culture of lifelong learning by having employees take responsibility and ownership of their own learning and development, while leaders take on the role of coach to ensure the continuous development of their people.
We hire mindsets, not purely on skillsets. We look for people with a growth mindset who are able to deal with a lot of information to make the best possible decisions, and learn along the way.
And what’s next on the Julius Baer Academy’s list of learning opportunities?
David: We’ll soon be offering courses on learning how to learn and on how the brain works, via virtual classroom training, tips and tricks, and recommended books. We will even offer a lecture by a university professor who does research in the area of neuroscience and neurodidactics. The reason being that understanding how your brain works can ultimately boost your learning experience. It’s much like software – you can also choose to either upgrade or neglect your ‘brainware’.
Candy: At Julius Baer we hire mindsets, not purely on skillsets. You can be a very knowledgeable person but we look for people with a growth mindset who are also able to deal with a lot of incoming information to make the best possible decisions, and learn along the way – this is what we refer to as an agile way of thinking and working – and ultimately, living.