A silhouette of several people playing tug-o-war against a sunset. This depicts the financial industry battling for talent.
Image: © Photocreo Bednarek/Stock.adobe.com

How will the financial industry compete for tech talent?

27 May 2019

Companies are no longer only competing within their own industry for the best employees any more. But how can the likes of financial institutes compete with the Googles and Facebooks of the world for tech talent?

It’s an interesting time for companies that are looking to hire technology staff. With tech evolving pretty much every day and the needs within tech growing far faster than universities can spit out graduates, unemployment within the industry is extremely low.

This is obviously great news both for the economy and for jobseekers. However, it poses a challenge for employers who are desperately trying to fill those roles.

Not only do companies need to make themselves as appealing as possible to potential talent, but they have to compete vehemently with each other in order to get the best of the best. After all, when top talent can take their pick of jobs, it’s up to the companies to really sell themselves.

First-world problems, right? Well, it’s not that simple.

You’re probably visualising a manifestation of companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter battling it out to snag all that top tech talent. But the need for tech workers has gone far beyond the actual tech industry, and this is where the problem lies.

Enter the financial industry

A certain technological side of the financial industry’s business has been brewing on a low heat for many years now. New technology has given way to new services from the widely adopted online banking to the relatively new challenger banks, disrupting the financial industry in a far less subtle way.

With traditional financial institutions now in need of tech talent in order to successfully adapt and transform into digital-first organisations with fintech abilities, they will not only have to compete with the Googles and Facebooks of the world, but they have a lot of catching up to do.

How can traditional financial services firms compete now that virtually every other industry is hunting for the same top talent? When tech workers are looking for new jobs and challenges, what brands are going to come into their minds? When it comes to attracting candidates, financial companies aren’t just fighting to sell themselves as good place to work, but they’re competing on a brand recognition level on a very uneven playing field.

Not only do these financial companies have to compete with the more obvious names in tech such as LinkedIn, Dropbox, Oracle or Salesforce, but the life sciences industry has also spotted this challenge and has been competing heavily, too. How do you compete for the same talent and become a recognised brand in tech when you’re not actually a tech brand?

Additionally, with financial institutions facing additional pressure on regulation and disruptive competitors, their challenges extend far beyond simple brand recognition.

Following what employees want

Randstad’s employer brand research into the financial sector found that where salaries and benefits were once of the upmost importance to employees, work-life balance is now key – again, something the major Silicon Valley players are already fighting to show off.

However, the goal is not to simply follow what other tech brands are doing. The Randstad report also highlighted an interesting gap between what employees seek and what financial industry employers offer. This is where companies can start attracting that all-important talent.

While work-life balance and work atmosphere were both in the top five needs of employees, they were both way down the list of what employers offer. And while it’s important to improve elements such as work-life balance and culture, there are also benefits that financial institutions already have to offer that can help them stand out, such as being at the forefront of changing a traditionally rigid industry. Tech candidates will be able to build their tech skills while also getting to grips with the unique challenges and skills needed within the financial sector, and that is a USP worth shouting about.

While companies such as Metro Bank, Revolut and N26 are all full-service retail banks that provide the same career opportunities as big tech firms, traditional institutions are rapidly adopting technologies and operating models to keep up with the competition.

Improving brand recognition

Aside from attracting talent by offering what they want from a career and culture perspective, it’s also important that financial brands focus on their brand recognition within the sector. If a financial company is on the hunt for tech talent, it will need to showcase its brand recognition. When it comes to cross-industry hiring, this no longer simply means, ‘Do people know your name?’

Big names such as Citi or Allstate may be globally well known, but not necessarily for their tech capabilities and it is this side of the business that they need to showcase in order to attract the right tech candidates.

HackerRank’s 2019 Developer Skills Report showed insights into what developers want from their employers based on more than 70,000 developers. While work-life balance and compensation were important, professional growth and learning were miles ahead in terms of developers’ desires. Also among the top important factors was having interesting problems to solve.

If financial institutions focused less on the saturated battlefield of compensation and more on the career progression and interesting technical work they can offer, it could be the key to getting a serious boost in visibility among tech professionals. Put simply, developers join Google so that they can work with massive amounts of data and on cool, interesting problems. If financial companies can figure out and sell their own USP when it comes to cool tech work, they will significantly level the playing field.

Updated, 4.01pm, 27 May 2019: This article has been amended to remove comments that were retracted.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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