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The Impact of vILT and Virtual Learning on the Financial Sector

The financial sector is at the convergence of multiple disruptions, all of which are changing the face of learning in the industry.

The journey toward digital transformation is a disrupter that makes it possible for the industry to increase customer satisfaction, innovate faster, collaborate more effectively, deliver more value, and drive revenue—all with less effort. Industry evolution and innovative products from upstarts are causing financial institutions to compete in ways they never have before.

And to top it all off, business changed from being branch-based and face-to-face to portal-based and virtual literally overnight due to COVID-19.

All these disruptions have something common at the core—the virtual delivery of products and services. So, it’s no surprise that the training to address all these changes is going virtual too.

This journey starts well before delivery. Design teams need to be engaged to assess what materials are already in place from the methodology, blend, and suitability. Working in partnership with customers, design architects must map out what a learning journey could look, feel, and sound like for a virtual learning approach while simultaneously looking to solve the new business problem. The key questions to ask when considering virtual learning are:

  • Is content curation required?
  • Could this training be research for our learners?
  • Could it be self-led learning?
  • Could it be e-learning?
  • What is the key reason for bringing people together virtually?

Making the Move from ILT to a Blended vILT Approach

The shift toward virtual and blended learning had already begun before COVID-19 hit. The industry recognized that learners take on information in different ways and that a virtual, blended approach is the best way to provide learning at scale for today’s modern learners. So, the transition from instructor-led training (ILT) to virtual instructor-led training (vILT) had already begun. But the pandemic, which accelerated all the other industry transformations, has accelerated learning transformation, too.

The good news is that technology is meeting the moment. From virtual banking capabilities to virtual training, competent tools for digital transformation are in place.

Based on GP Strategies’ experience in transforming learning in the financial industry, the effects of transformation touch on every area of training, from analysis and design to development, delivery, and beyond.

Learning Strategy

Training in the financial industry traditionally meant a lot of time in the classroom. But industry leaders are finding it’s not the best return for their money. As they make the switch to virtual learning, they are also focusing on which courses to reengineer along the way—which courses create the most value. And the focus of those courses has expanded to include topics along the lines of How to Become More Creative, How to Interview, How to Manage and Lead Virtually, and How to Engage When the Rules of Engagement Have Changed. The goal is twofold: give learners what they need and improve business performance.

Design and Development

Out of both necessity and desire, the industry has switched to more blended learning journeys with multiple virtual modalities, each selected for the impression it makes on learners. But it’s not just taking ILT content and virtualizing it. Everything is being rethought. A 2-day, in-person workshop might become a 4-hour virtual course as instructional designers rethink each element of the workshop, its value, and the attention span of a virtual learner. Course structure that stayed relatively the same for years is revitalized as designers reconsider every aspect, including design, content, and delivery.


Learners respond differently when they are confined in a room with their peers and face to face with an instructor than when they are seated on their sofa taking a course on their phone. Instructor-led delivery should change too. GP Strategies and our clients in the financial sector have been upskilling virtual presenters and building our producer and moderator population to greet a more social and virtual approach. We have created new standards for lighting, sound, and backdrops. There is a new competency and skill framework we use for setting the standard and assessing virtual delivery. And we are hyper-focused on things like engagement and body language. Our clients have also increased their social media training presence, sharing quotes and links that reinforce learning to bridge the gap and stay connected. 


Financial institutions are also focusing on their spending and ROI as all the industry disruption has created uncertainty in the sector. Switching from ILT to vILT and other virtual approaches saves the costs associated with travel to training sites, venue rental, hotel costs, meals, and lost productivity. It’s also more scalable and open to anywhere/anytime learning, providing more bang for the training buck.


But too much of a good thing can be bad. And that is a very real risk playing out in virtual meeting spaces around the globe. People worldwide are dealing with homeschooling on virtual meeting platforms, then attending meetings and virtual training programs on the same platforms, and fatigue is starting to set in. There is less patience with learners who aren’t engaging when others are making the most of the opportunity. There’s resentment for those who are distracted. There are those who are tired of always needing to be camera-ready. It’s a sensitive time, and the industry is looking at ways to combat this fatigue.


One of the brighter spots of all this transformation is that it is causing financial institutions to work even more closely with their training partners to address all of the impacts above. With one client, our customer satisfaction score increased by 22%. So, the result of the added collaboration in conjunction with virtual delivery has created learning that is more in tune with learners and the in-house training organization.

Looking toward a Blended Future in Financial Industry Training

The confluence of disruptions that the financial industry faces is not unlike the challenges that every business is facing in 2021. The difference is in the details. Financial institutions are rethinking everything—from the number of brick-and-mortar branches they’ll maintain to their collections processes. All of these considerations affect their training strategy.

Moving forward, the focus will still be on virtual learning. We estimate that 70% of learning will continue to be virtual in the future. People do appreciate in-person learning, and they want to be back in the classroom. The difference now is that, instead of in-person learning being a default approach, there needs to be a very good reason to go back in the classroom. Classroom training will be centered on the actions required to do the job back in the workplace. We expect more real-life simulations led by managers and leaders in the training room who equip learners for their live environments. This is where the value will be in getting back into a classroom. Our partners will be assessing their office space suitability. The financial industry has demonstrated contact and branch queries and actions can be managed through self-serve or colleagues from home. In a recent survey of one company, 65% of workers would now prefer to work from home. A high percentage saying they would like a blend of 3 days in the office and 2 days at home, will support the employees’ view to challenge workplace and building requirements.

What changes have you noticed in your approach to training over the past couple of years? Are there modalities that leave you scratching your head? Is there a particular challenge you’re facing in your virtualization efforts? GP Strategies would like to hear from you! Leave your comments below and we’ll get back to you.

About the Authors

Nick Williamson
Nick is senior leader in delivery management with 18 years of experience. Nick has built delivery and leadership functions in the Middle East, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, and the UK. His experience spans automotive, communications, banking, and utilities industries. His key skill is the creation of learning delivery teams and governance that supports the consistent approach to having the highest-quality, right-sized faculty in the right location at the right time, to deliver the right course. Nick aims to achieve the right balance between customer satisfaction and business commercial drivers through a relationship and partnership focus.

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