Talent attraction in the banking industry

Talent attraction in the banking industry

Talent attraction in the banking industry


When Dan Makoski left Google in mid-2014 to become the first-ever vice president of design at Capital One, heads were turned.

Makoski was a member of Google’s secretive ATAP group – a band of tech savants who are “some of the most experimental hardware, software, and interface designers and engineers on the planet”, according to Fast Company. Capital One’s ability to lure Makoski was unusual because the industry has struggled for years to attract top talent – particularly technology and digital media talent – to what some see as a technology backwater.

“The banking industry has gotten so much negative publicity through the past several years, it has made it more difficult to recruit people,” says Bruce Livesay, CIO at First Horizon National Corp. Catherine Bessant, head of Bank of America’s global technology and operations team, puts it even more flatly: “It’s handto-
hand combat.”

And yet, attracting top talent is exactly what the banking industry needs to overcome its myriad and systemic challenges in the coming years. The most pressing talent crisis for banks is related to hiring technology skills due to seismic changes in the industry:

  • Banks are racing to adopt mobile commerce and payment solutions, and can only do so with best-in-class technology talent. American Express recruited Nik Sathe away from his role running Google Wallet to become Chief Technology Officer, but this type of poaching from top tech jobs is highly unusual.
  • Financial institutions are also sprinting to keep ahead of IT security threats, which are constantly evolving and growing more sophisticated.
  • Online banking has become a competitive litmus test for banks; they strive to offer an online experience that’s commensurate with what consumers expect, but most still fall far short of the types of user experiences offered by technology, media and retail companies.
  •  Financial service firms are laggards at social media – and understandably so because of industry regulations that limit what they can communicate to customers and prospects. Yet social media has become such a critical channel, particularly for Millennials, that banks now find themselves struggling to use these platforms effectively.
  • Many banks have technology-related “key-person risk”. Key-person risk is when an individual holds business-critical information that cannot easily be replaced. Many global banks use legacy systems that rely on mainframe and COBOL skills – expertise no longer taught in schools. Research from IBM shows 71 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have their core businesses on a mainframe and 92 of the top 100 banks in the US still use mainframes.

In addition to the challenge of recruiting tech talent, banks also struggle to attract top talent in risk management, data analytics and HR/talent development, to name a few. And like many other so-called ‘boring’ industries, banks simply do not have strong employer branding programs to attract, recruit and retain the very best professionals. Long known as a traditional, innovation-poor industry, financial institutions rarely tell their employer brand story in an authentic, engaging way. (It does not help that the industry still suffers from a lingering negative image after the banking crisis.)

Even with all these challenges, banks have a compelling story to tell future employees. In few industries is the role of technology innovation such a differentiator as it is in banking. From mobile banking and online payment tools to new ATM technologies and virtual currencies – the industry is undergoing a sea change in how it interacts with customers. On top of that, the forecast for economic growth is very strong, particularly in regions currently underserved by banking. New populations across the globe are demanding financial products that were once off-limits: mortgages, investment services, small business lending and retail banking.

Each year Universum surveys the professional expectations of one million career-seekers from 55 countries, and publishes dozens of reports on the top issues affecting global talent and the companies that hire talent. In this report, part of our Talent Insights Series, we uncover what university students look for in future banking employers – and how companies can translate these findings into actionable steps for HR, recruiting and C-level leadership. For the financial services industry, the task is both daunting and full of promise.


Talent attraction in the banking industry

What university students look for in future employers and the implications for companies that seek to hire them. Learn more by downloading this special report.