Identifying and developing talented employees will be the primary focus of human resource (HR) executives in the financial services industry over the next 12 months, according to a poll conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson. The poll also found that an equal number of executives will emphasize developing more effective managers and performance management programs to better position themselves for a stronger economy.

According to the poll, more than four in 10 respondents (44%) chose identifying and developing talent as the primary focus of their organization’s HR division over the next 12 months. One-fourth (25%) said they would focus on updating their HR technology over the next year. Roughly one in 10 said their primary focus would be on compensation and benefits, workforce planning or employee engagement initiatives. The poll of 60 senior HR executives at leading financial services companies was conducted on May 7, 2014, at a Towers Watson conference in New York.

“Given the dramatic changes that the financial services industry is undergoing from both a regulatory and business perspective, it’s no surprise that HR leaders will be focused on talent management,” said Ravin Jesuthasan, global leader of talent management at Towers Watson. “The landscape for talent has been changing steadily, driving financial services executives to identify what skills will be needed for them to compete effectively, and develop programs to attract and retain the best talent for their organisations.”

Respondents were also asked which talent management initiatives will receive the most attention at their organizations over the next 12 months. Just over four in 10 (42%) cited both manager effectiveness (assessing and developing managers’ ability to manage the work environment, develop people and energize change) and performance management (developing the processes and programs that link performance to compensation and other talent management programs) as getting the most attention. Relatively few cited career architecture (12%) or competence development (4%) as talent management areas that would receive the most focus.

“Identifying, developing and managing talent in an industry as global and complex as financial services is a constant challenge,” said Chris Fabro, global leader of Towers Watson’s Talent and Rewards financial services practice. “Industry staffing levels have changed dramatically over the last three years, with companies increasing staff before the crisis hit, reducing staff as the crisis unfolded and rebuilding staff again as the recovery gained ground. What’s more, many organizations are increasingly concerned about their ability to attract top talent in particular. All of these changes and new realities will demand that companies have an innovative and robust talent management strategy in place to succeed in the future.”