With the fintech sector constantly evolving, companies need to recruit the right people for the job, according to Hays Recruitment’s Gero Knüfer.
The changes resulting from the growth of digital and mobile technologies witnessed over the past five years have had a far greater impact on the economy and society as a whole than those of the past three decades.
To cope with this fast-changing environment, financial services companies should look at other sectors and adapt by developing a more flexible recruitment policy and workforce.
Digitalise or decline
The so-called ‘digital disruption’ we are witnessing today will bring in many business opportunities, but it is also a threat that every company should be taking seriously. The figures speak for themselves. Since 2000, 52pc of Fortune 500 companies have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased, according to Capgemini Consulting. MIT said that 32pc of companies’ revenue will be at risk by 2020.
As yet, companies such as Airbnb or Uber own no assets, but they are now some of the biggest players in their respective fields of hospitality and cabbing. Think of self-driving cars for instance; they are being developed by the IT industry, not by the traditional car industry.
Every rule is being rewritten and no sector is immune. Not least the financial sector, where innovation is also driven mainly from the outside. New, collaborative business models such as crowdfunding and innovative technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies are spurring the growth of fintech.
Meanwhile, the attitude of the public towards digital currencies has changed, with some European countries even wondering if it makes sense to become cashless societies, like Sweden. The country’s central bank, Riksbank, said cash transactions barely reached 2pc last year.
This is fast becoming the new normal for the youngest generations.
Wanted: Out-of-the-box thinking
Two decades ago, before the advent of digital media, it was more difficult for people to find information. Companies grew profits based on the fact that they had access to this vital information that the general public or their customers did not. That was how they could add value.
However, now, with the internet and social media, customers can do everything themselves. Not only do they have the means to do so, they also now have the knowledge required. That is having an increasing impact on the profitability of financial services companies going forward.
In this context, I believe companies have to be prepared to think more and more outside of the box, not only in their business models, but also in terms of who they recruit.
They need to adjust to the market by changing their attitude to their employees, providing more flexible conditions, letting them innovate and explore more, and generally being less compartmentalised.
Just like the world’s largest tech companies – Apple, Google or Facebook – financial services companies also have to learn to develop an attractive brand to attract the best candidates.
Banks need to recruit more agile minds
We are already observing a trend of companies looking to recruit individuals with a less traditional profile than in the past. This echoes what happened decades ago in the consulting industry, when it started to hire people with degrees in philosophy, history, geography etc.
In financial services now, rather than a background in business or maths, companies are hiring candidates with totally different skills.
For example, think of a candidate who has studied social sciences – his or her approach to the customer is a totally different one to that of a mathematician. This could become very valuable for organisations as the customer is now at the centre of their offer, and not just a passive receiver.
What really matters is that companies hire the best people and rethink their recruitment strategy. Is it so important that the candidate has a finance degree? Maybe what is needed is a new mindset, fresh opinions and a totally new approach to things, with candidates ready to learn on the job.
Candidates, meanwhile – especially students finishing their degrees – need to realise that their studies are just an entry, a pass to the world of work. Throughout their career they will have to learn new skills. Agility is the key word here.
By Gero Knüfer
Gero Knüfer is division manager of Hays in Switzerland. He has a wide range of experience in the recruitment industry in both Germany and Switzerland.
A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.