Tech talent trends in the Banking and Finance sector

A brief history of banking

Banks and banking have been in existence for centuries, with Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, believed to be the oldest bank, operating continuously since 1472! Prior to the evolution of commercial banking, temples and churches were the safe keepers of gold and riches belonging to the wealthy. Ancient scrolls from Greece, Rome, and ancient Babylon suggest that these ‘places of worship’ were, in fact, the financial centers of their cities, even loaning money to the needy farmer or broke merchant from time to time. It was, however, the Romans, who developed and formalized this highly disorganized system into what we today consider modern commercial banking.

Digital revolution and its impact

Centuries later, banking and finance as we know it is experiencing an existential threat, so to say, and that is because new technological innovations, increased competition, and heightened customer expectations are impacting the way banks conduct business in a significant manner. With digital transformation altering the way banks do business, an emerging trend is seen in the way these financial institutions are reprioritizing their hiring decisions. What does this reprioritizing entail? Well, to put it simply, move over bankers and traders, IT professionals are taking over banking and finance!

With groundbreaking technological advancements in the offing, Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, Digital currencies, Fintech, Mobile, and online apps are the new buzzwords in the banking and finance sector. This recent paradigm shift is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge -- an opportunity for the highly-skilled techies to apply their talent in a new environment and a challenge for the banking sector to attract such highly-skilled technical talent. According to Michael Karp, CEO of Options Group, a recruitment firm, ‘data science is robust and active in financial institutions and momentum has been increasing over the last two years’. This increase in demand for data scientists and even behavioral scientists is because banks are looking not just for highly skilled tech talent to bolster trading desks but also to do more with their reward programs to retain and attract customers.

Growing need for IT professionals

Armed with a smartphone, every other customer now expects to do banking-on-the-go and banks to have to find creative ways to serve their customer better with technology. This is where tech talent comes in. Global investment in the financial technology sector is seeing a significant increase (67 percent) from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016 according to a study by Accenture. The banking and financial sector have emerged as the biggest competitors to tech companies in their hunt for tech talent. According to a recent presentation from Goldman executives, technology headcount rose 8 percent between 2012 and 2015.

Apart from hardcore techies, the low to mid-level talent sector who can help bridge the gap between the bank and the end customer with technology as an enabler has also seen new hiring trends. This type of hire is expected to be tech-savvy but with high functional proficiency in the financial services.

Financial institutions now have their digital transformation strategies firmly in place but are struggling to fill critical positions that are essential to the execution of these strategies. While it is well-known that there is no dearth of skilled tech talent per se, most of these people are not exuberant about accepting jobs at banks, when the likes of Amazon and Google woo them with unmatchable offers and wacky perks like lip sync jam and in-house masseurs!

According to The Peak10 Financial Services and IT study, more than 76% of financial institutions report that they are facing a huge challenge in filling newly created IT roles with more than half of them stating it is either “difficult” or “very difficult” to hire highly-skilled tech talent.

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Traditional banker deemed redundant

While technology taking over banking and finance is bringing about a new brand of highly skilled IT professionals to Wall Street, it is also significantly impacting the role highly trained financial talent played in this industry up until now. It is not to be contested that those who have kept themselves abreast with technology would always remain relevant and essential to a financial institution. However, the role of a traditional banker has been deemed redundant observes an article that talks about Fintech killing banking jobs.

Financial institutions like JP Morgan and many others world over are reportedly cutting overall headcount, while adding hundreds of staffers in tech roles. David McCormack, CEO of recruitment firm DMC Partners, however, rebuffs this recent trend in cutting non-tech talent and says, “Banks notoriously tend to overcut. When they have a good run, they need to hire again.”

There is a lot of murmuring surrounding how technology is already displacing traditional workforce and leading to growing unemployment. However, on careful observation one tends to realize that technology doesn’t necessarily replace a job or role; it merely changes it. For instance, with the high volume of ATMs sprouting at every corner in cities and towns, has the bank teller been rendered jobless? Not really, says a blog by AE Ideas. The advent of ATMs merely changed the role of a bank teller, with their marketing and interpersonal skills becoming more relevant.

IT leadership in banking

Adopting the quickest way to grow -- going digital -- financial institutions are now focusing keenly on the quality of technical hire. In times of much flux and uncertainty, typically associated with a technology-driven environment. a stable tech team is crucial to an organization to ensure stability in said situations. To ensure this much-needed stability, banks are looking to hire highly-skilled talent who can adapt well to the high-pressure environment. Apart from low to mid-level roles, these organizations are also looking to fill crucial leadership roles in the technology domain.

With technology enabling the banking sector to generate higher revenues, most financial organizations now have healthy IT budgets and the confidence to serve their customers through efficient portals and mobile applications. This change is evident in the reprioritizing of strategies by some of the big players in the financial sector, a case in point being a statement by Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, who has invested $3 billion in technology-related growth initiatives in areas of digital practice! Backed by huge budgets, companies like Goldman Sachs are showing increased profitability thanks to its recently launched ‘online savings account offering’ for consumers and their apps for wealth and asset management clients on the iOS app store.

Banks today use technology judiciously and are able to crunch data and optimize several routine tasks that have traditionally been performed in a disorganized manner, a good example of which is First Tennessee Bank that uses a program called Novantas SalesScape to collect data and analytics that helps gauge and enhance the performance of its many branches.

Cultivating talent from within

The digital revolution in the financial sector is still in its infancy and is already causing much change in the way the world does business. With banks facing a tech talent shortage, industry experts predict that competing with the likes of Amazon and Google is not the way forward. Instead, according to Jerry Roche at Cornerstone, banks and financial institutions should proactively train its current staffers in areas that matter, such as machine learning, data analytics, and business intelligence, therefore ‘cultivating talent from within’. Ambitious employees from different departments across the organization who are interested in pursuing a more technology-led role should be provided with frequently updated formal training and certification programs to keep them up-to-date with technology and to empower their effective evolution in a rapidly changing work environment.

With Finance & Banking sector companies like Credit Suisse, DBS, Barclays now quickly moving towards using Talent Assessment software like HackerEarth to recruit excellent tech talent. Other companies need to follow soon to keep up with technologies evloving with the tech talent trends in the sector.

About the Author

Arpit Mishra
Avid book reading advocate. Hardcore travel nerd. Technology freak. Follow me on LinkedIn to get more Insights on Tech Recruitment.
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