Curiosity@Work Report | Insights by Industry
Key Findings for FINANCIAL SERVICES
- Financial services managers struggle with issues related to employee morale, retention and collaboration – as well as challenges related to hiring applicants with necessary technical and interpersonal skills.
- Managers in the financial services industry recognize the value of curiosity as an intrinsic skill that will continue to become more important for employees to have and a skill that drives real business impact.
- Curiosity can help address financial services managers’ concerns. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity include more creative thinking (63%), greater efficiency (62%) and stronger collaboration (62%) within the workplace and among employees.
- Managers that come from younger financial services organizations (10 years of age or less) are more inclined to strongly agree that curiosity drives real business impact and is a skill that has become much more important for employees to have compared to five years ago.
- Like managers in most industries, managers in financial services struggle with identifying curiosity in job applicants and direct reports. Half of these managers find it difficult to develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (50%) and to connect curiosity to job performance (49%). Managers in financial services need further guidance on how curiosity can be effectively utilized and developed in direct reports to complement and amplify the efforts they are already making to foster this trait.
- Two in five (42%) managers in the financial services industry can be categorized as highly curious vs. only 16% having low curiosity – on par with other industries. It is beneficial for managers to display high workplace curiosity because these managers exhibit greater workplace engagement and motivation and do more to encourage this valuable skill among their direct reports compared to their less curious peers.
Curiosity is an increasingly valuable employee trait across industries, including financial services.
Amid the Great Resignation and current hiring frenzy, financial services managers:
- Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees (76%).
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (56%).
- Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (60%).
- Strongly agree employees who have more curiosity tend to be higher performers (52%).
Managers in the financial services industry believe curiosity is a very valuable trait across organizational levels:
- C-suite executives (57%).
- Directors and departmental leaders (57%).
- Midlevel managers (50%).
- Entry-level employees (56%).
When asked in which departments it is especially valuable for employees to have curiosity, financial services managers say:
- IT (68%).
- Research and development (54%).
- Marketing (46%).
- Accounting and finance (45%).
Financial services managers, like their counterparts in other industries, recognize that curiosity is a skill that can address key challenges and concerns.
The top employee challenges managers in the financial services industry are facing are:
- Keeping employee morale/motivation high (59%).
- Retaining good employees (51%).
- Cross-collaboration with other teams/departments (51%).
- Getting employees to push beyond just basic duties (50%).
Managers in financial services recognize the potential benefits of curious employees:
- More creative thinking and solutions (63%).
- Stronger collaboration and teamwork (62%).
- Greater efficiency and productivity (62%).
- Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (61%).
- Greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (59%).
Managers at younger organizations within the financial services industry are more likely to recognize the significance of curiosity in employees.
Regardless of the age of the organization, managers across financial services organizations believe curiosity is a very valuable trait (81% at companies 10 years old or less vs. 74% at companies 11-plus years old) and that employees who have curiosity tend to be higher performers (57% 10 years old or less vs. 50% 11-plus years old).
However, managers from younger organizations are more inclined to:
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (69% 10 years old or less vs. 50% 11-plus years).
- Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (69% 10 years old or less vs. 56% 11-plus years old).
Likewise, it is these managers from younger financial services organizations who are especially likely to consider curiosity a highly valuable trait among company leadership – 66% of managers at younger organizations (10 years old or less) believe curiosity is very valuable among C-suite executives vs. 52% of those at older organizations (11-plus years old).
Financial services managers, like their peers in other industries, note the interconnectedness of curiosity and data expertise and digital integration.
To succeed in the next three years, managers in the financial services industry need employees with:
- Technical skills in artificial intelligence (68%), data analysis (63%) and cloud computing (63%).
- Personal attributes like creative thinking (66%), problem solving (63%) and flexibility (60%).
Focusing on the beneficial outcomes of curiosity, financial services managers believe it is valuable for employees to have this trait when:
- Innovating new solutions (65%).
- Tackling complex problems (58%).
- Analyzing data (56%).
Managers within financial services who rate high in curiosity:
- Use an average of four different data sources in their role vs. three for their less curious peers.
- More often use employee data (63% vs. 48% among those who rate low in curiosity), company financial data (60% vs. 47%) and industry financial data (59% vs. 48%).
These more curious managers in financial services also tend to be more advanced in their company’s integration of digital technology. Overall, half (49%) of financial services managers believe their company’s integration of digital technology is very advanced. However, those managers who rate high in curiosity are more likely to describe their organization as very advanced (64% vs. 29% for those who rate low in curiosity), highlighting how curiosity can help organizations adapt and become more competitive.
Curiosity is integral to workplace success and career advancement – and companies across industries, and in financial services, work to foster this trait in several ways.
Companies in financial services formally include curiosity (or similar traits) in:
- Company training and development (73%).
- Employee performance review criteria (71%).
- Hiring criteria (69%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (68%).
Managers in the financial services industry personally consider or encourage curiosity via:
- Coaching or team development (87%).
- Employee performance reviews (87%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (81%).
- Hiring decisions (79%).
Across industries, views toward curiosity are complex. Many managers in financial services remain hesitant to encourage this trait and struggle with how to identify or develop it.
Financial services managers note they are only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in:
- Job applicants (45%).
- Direct reports (41%).
About 2 in 5 managers in the financial services industry are very concerned about curiosity’s potential to lead to:
- Greater difficulty coming to a final decision or taking action (41%).
- Increased risk of errors or bad decisions (39%).
- Decreased efficiency or productivity (38%).
These managers admit they find it challenging to:
- Develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (50%).
- Connect curiosity to job performance (49%).
- Identify situations or problems where curiosity is most useful (44%).
- Connect curiosity to business impact (42%).
- Identify employees who have curiosity (42%).
More than a third (35%) of managers in the financial services industry go as far as to say employees and applicants today have too much curiosity, highlighting further the complexity between recognizing the value of curiosity in these employees and effectively and efficiently harnessing this skill in the workplace.
More curious managers in financial services exhibit greater workplace engagement and work to foster this skill among direct reports in several ways.
The Curiosity Index  was used to measure the prevalence of workplace curiosity in managers. Managers in the financial services industry can be categorized as:
- High curiosity (most inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (42%).
- Moderate curiosity (42%).
- Low curiosity (least inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (16%).
Highly curious managers in financial services embrace differing ideas and have a relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. They often strongly agree that:
- It is important to listen to ideas from people who think differently (86%).
- They seek out opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills (85%).
- They continue to seek information until they understand complex problems fully (83%).
Further highlighting the value of curiosity in helping companies address some of their key challenges when it comes to employee retention and performance, more curious managers within financial services are likely to:
- Strongly agree they would continue to work for their employer for as long as possible (70%).
- Strongly agree they feel motivated to go above and beyond what their job requires (72%).
- Say their direct reports’ performance is very strong (75%).
The top methods more curious managers in the financial services industry use to foster and encourage curiosity are:
- Rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (76%).
- Publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (72%).
- Allowing the use of work time to explore passion projects (62%).
- One-on-one coaching or mentoring (59%).
Managers across the curiosity spectrum can be further divided into one of four segments based on how each segment values curiosity in the workplace in various ways.
Managers in the financial services industry can be categorized as:
- High-curiosity collaborators (37% of managers in financial services vs. 35% across industries). The most curious segment. These managers value collaboration, are teamwork driven and are relentless in finding answers. They do this through listening and valuing co-workers' ideas and continuously seeking opportunities to expand skills but are more hesitant when new challenges present themselves. Focused on curiosity, these managers believe this trait leads to greater efficiency and productivity at work and results in greater job satisfaction.
- Flexibility-driven opinion seekers (26% of managers in financial services vs. 26% across industries). These managers embrace challenges, and the possibility of being distressed does not affect their motivation. Curiosity leads to greater flexibility and adaptability during times of uncertainty and can bring more empathy and inclusivity to workplaces. These managers do not believe that curiosity leads to a boost in efficiency or overall team performance.
- Productivity-focused leaders (22% of managers in financial services vs. 24% across industries). These managers believe curiosity can lead to stronger collaboration and teamwork and help increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace. They do not, however, believe curiosity drives inclusivity and diversity of thought.
- Anti-curiosity leaders (15% of managers in financial services vs. 16% across industries). The smallest segment, these managers do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance or the workplace.
 Base note: n=157.
 Base note: n=325.
 Base note: n=204 high-curiosity managers.
 Base note: n=77 low-curiosity managers; results should be viewed as directional.
 The 2021 Curiosity Index: The Curiosity Index score is based on the ratings of eight different attributes related to curiosity in the workplace. The index transforms the attributes’ raw ratings into a 0-100 metric where all the scores are averaged. Managers with a score of 71 or lower ranked “low” in the index; managers with a score ranging from 72 to 83 were categorized as “medium”; and those with a score or 84 or higher were assigned to the “high” category. The thresholds in each category were derived based on the index score distribution and best practices. Questions used in the development of this index were inspired by research conducted by Todd Kashdan and his team on the topic of curiosity in the workplace, “Curiosity has comprehensive benefits in the workplace: Developing and validating a multidimensional workplace curiosity scale in United States and German employees.”
Given its global value and impact, it is evident that curiosity is an increasingly necessary and crucial skill that employees across levels within financial services need to develop, as well as a trait that these organizations must foster to remain competitive. Curiosity has the potential to help address some of the biggest business challenges identified by financial services managers by fostering increased innovation, efficiency and productivity and addressing challenges related to employee morale and retention – key to mitigating the Great Resignation and hiring challenges that many organizations across industries are experiencing. Understanding how to identify and cultivate this skill will be essential as competition in hiring and business performance continues.
However, knowing how to effectively develop this trait among employees is difficult. Many managers within financial services admit they struggle with how to develop curiosity in employees who do not have it naturally and with identifying situations where this skill is most useful. Many also find it challenging to connect this skill to areas like job performance and overall business impact. Yet managers identified as being more curious in our research show increased motivation and satisfaction in their role and actively work to encourage this trait among their direct reports, further highlighting the importance of fostering this skill. This fostering can be done in multiple ways, such as by rewarding curiosity in performance reviews or publicly praising employees who demonstrate this trait. The case for curiosity is clear. It is now up to organizations within financial services to further embrace this trait and for managers to continue to incorporate this skill in their employee development efforts or risk falling behind.