Fintech leaders are often highly experienced financial services professionals. They have a background in the category – many from within major institutions – so they know how the industry works. It’s often thought that digital start-ups are the domain of young 20-somethings with enthusiasm offsetting industry experience. However, in the case of the fintech industry, the average age of a leader is 41. Even though founders have experience and vision, one of their most significant challenges is to attract and retain the right calibre of staff.
In terms of this battle for talent, we observe...
Limited start-up talent pool in Australia... Half (50%) of fintech leaders agree Australia lacks experienced start-up and fintech talent. Attracting suitable or qualified talent is the top internal challenge that they face this year (45% overall and 57% of those trying to scale up and with fewer than 10 employees).
Diversity improving... The employee profile of fintechs operating in Australia continues to show a marked gender imbalance. However, the proportion of females employed at fintechs has been gradually increasing over the last three years, growing from 22% in 2016 to 28% in 2018. While this is a positive shift, those who took part in the research and the industry in general recognise that more needs to be done, with FinTech Australia actively working to address the skew.
Asked how we can improve participation of women in the Australian fintech industry, members of the fintech community suggest: encouraging young women to follow STEM career paths (25%); changing company culture / policies (11%); and promoting awareness of the industry to women (11%).
The return of global talent... Many of those who have been in the industry since its inception talk of the increase in interest from ex-pat Australians returning to the local industry. This return of global talent is important at a number of levels. First, it brings international financial services and fintech experience back into the local market. Second, and most importantly, it brings connection to influencers and business leaders in international markets – a major benefit to local fintech seeking offshore expansion.
Specific profiles more challenging... Of those fintechs that struggle to attract qualified or suitable talent, the majority report difficulties finding engineering / software expertise (77%), design and user experience (36%, up from 24% last year) and sales (33%, although down from 41% in 2017). The issue around attracting specific talent, particularly in engineering / software, will become more pronounced as some of the comparatively newer areas of fintech, like those underpinned by AI and machine learning, gain momentum and grow. This is a challenge for all digital organisations and it will continue into the future.
A shift in recruitment... The main way fintechs recruit talent is still through referrals via founders and other employees. However, this has been gradually decreasing as a method over the last three years. Accessing recruitment agencies is gradually increasing (20% this year) and decreasing the need for network related referral. This reflects a maturing industry with a greater number of players and an expanding talent pool.
Culture vs. deep skills and start-up experience... Long-time fintech industry participants noted that while start-up recruitment is very active, expectations of the skills and experience being requested may be somewhat unrealistic. It may be that fintechs need to temper their requirements, and take a long-term view, looking for the right type of people who can upskill and grow with the organisation as it scales – rather than look directly for people with all the right skills. “Start-ups are no different to larger organisations, the culture and the team ethos are just as important, maybe more so than having the best technical skills on the planet” one industry leader commented.
FinTech Australia membership
Number of employees
Talent pool shortage
Q18B. When you say it has been challenging attracting suitable talent, what kind of talent were you thinking about?
Base: Have faced challenges attracting suitable talent (n=)
Approaches to recruiting talent
Q25. Which of the following is the main way in which you recruit talent?
Base: All respondents (n=)
Lack of experienced startup and fintech talent in Australia
Q27. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? - There is a lack of experienced startup and fintech talent in Australia