Finance recruitment: the race to hire top engineers and tech talent

Finance recruitment urgently requires top tech talent, but must compete with other industries and popular brands.

In finance, digital change is widespread. Top tech talent has never been more important to this space.

Yet, the financial services sector often struggles to hire the most skilled tech specialists. This is a huge problem, and it must be addressed.

To gain a deeper understanding of the driving factors, we spoke with one of our top finance recruiters, Stewart Mitchell.

Stewart is a recruitment manager for a large global bank and offers more than 20 years of industry experience.

Discover what the financial services sector must do in order to secure the best tech talent in the market.

 

The challenges with hiring technologists in finance

So, why is it so difficult for banks and other financial institutions to attract the best tech talent?

A range of reasons can offer insight.

In some cases, these coveted candidates aren’t always compensated in line with what they could receive at tech companies outside the banking sector. Also, compared to the culture of big tech firms, technologists are not always held in the same high regard.

This can depend largely on the role and skill set.

Stewart explains: “At the tech companies, technologists are largely responsible for driving the organization forward, both technically and strategically. In finance and banking, technologists tend to be viewed more as a function to support the business, as opposed to defining it.”

Skills development can also pose a concern for candidates. Technologists at the likes of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FAANG) work on leading-edge technology. But across banking and finance, they often work on legacy systems.

Stewart says: “Financial services firms are adopting some of these technologies, with a prime example being the use of Amazon Web Services (AWS). However, there has been an evolution of financial services firms developing their own systems.”

In this respect, not only is the day-to-day nature of the bank-tech role perhaps not as appealing, it also triggers a concern that specialist skills could fall behind.

 

In finance, demand for tech talent is accelerating

As the world of finance becomes increasingly digital, top tech talent is urgently required throughout the sector.

While the pace of change continues to accelerate, the big challenge facing this sector is how to attract top tech talent… and how aggressively to go about it.

Plans are already being rolled out at Goldman Sachs, where the trading division plans to urgently hire more than 100 engineers for tech-related roles. (See note 2.)

“You are going to see us very actively in the marketplace going after this kind of talent,” Adam Korn, co-head of engineering in the trading division, told Bloomberg.

“Historically, engineers were not seen as a part of the business. That’s obviously changed.”

This hiring sprint promises to bolster the number of engineers employed by Goldman Sachs. More than 9,000 engineers currently comprise 25 percent of their workforce. (See note 1.)

The appetite for tech talent certainly isn’t exclusive to Goldman Sachs.

“For the larger firms, there is a shift from wanting to be seen as a more ‘traditional’ financial services organization, into a more tech-driven company working on cutting-edge technologies,” Stewart says.

 

In short supply? These are the top tech skills needed in finance

Recruiting for tech talent requires fresh strategies.

To successfully entice candidates, you must have a genuine understanding of the industries you’re competing with for talent. You must be able to identify what makes them so successful at recruiting and retaining tech talent.

You need to be able to take this knowledge to business leaders, with a view towards addressing any barriers to entry facing talented talented tech specialists.

So, what are the skills that are in hot demand within the financial services sector?

There are three primary skills sets that tend to be in universal demand:

  • Pattern recognition
  • Historical context
  • Process automation

Across trading platforms, process automation is huge. Candidates who can demonstrate a track record of delivering improvements in this area are in great demand.

But it’s not always about tenure of experience, with Goldman Sachs alone demonstrating a willingness to hire 2,000 graduates per year. (See note 2.)

Employers are after skilled tech candidates who can reduce trading times. They need engineers who can help process more requests and spit out faster responses to queries. These skills help generate more trades and more business.

 

How the world of finance can secure top tech talent

Digital change is affecting the trading floor with unprecedented speed and urgency. Trading services require much more automation and lightning-speed forecasting.

Digital change also affects every day banking. More branches are closing as customers manage their accounts online or with apps.

With these transformations comes an impressive requirement for engineers and top tech talent.

Financial institutions need to overhaul the way in which they view tech talent. A radical shift in mindset is urgently required.

Here are our top tips for recruiting tech talent in the world of finance:

  1. Hire a CTO and give this person a seat at the C-suite table
  2. Embrace leading-edge technology, not proprietary, obsolete systems
  3. Actively communicate to candidates that the culture is becoming increasingly tech-centric

Stewart says: “This has been an evolution over the last two to three years. There has been growing recognition of the importance technology will play in helping to drive an organization forward, both in terms of personnel and the tools that can help achieve this.”

Giving your CTO the respect of the business, helps set the tone for how fellow technologists are valued. A culture of innovation, embedded with agile leadership and methodologies, conveys the right message.

Addressing these points can help tempt even the most in-demand tech talent.

And if your business is in the early days of becoming tech-centric, use this to your advantage: entice candidates who are keen to be the co-creators of an exciting new chapter focused on innovation.

 

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Notes

1.) Natarajan, Sridhar. Bloomberg. Goldman Plans Hiring Spree in Trading (Only Coders Need Apply) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-21/goldman-plans-hiring-spree-in-trading-only-coders-need-apply Accessed 28 August 2019.

2.) Franck, Thomas. CNBC. Computer engineers now make up a quarter of Goldman Sachs’ workforce https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/30/computer-engineers-now-make-up-a-quarter-of-goldman-sachs-workforce.html Accessed 28 August 2019.

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