Financial Technology Skills Gain In Importance, In-House And Otherwise

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Financial Technology, or FinTech, has changed the way banks hire for traditional, in-house positions, and it is making part-time, highly skilled work more attractive to financial institutions as well.

The question of "how to build algorithmic functions into your trading platforms" has become more and more prevalent, says Andy Blechman, co-founder and COO at Accordion Partners in New York. Now an entrepreneur helping to match project-based investment banking talent with banks and other firms needing shorter-term staff, Blechman began his career in the algorithmic trading group at Bank of America.

A recruiter, meanwhile, observes that today, nearly everything at a bank or a hedge fund is done through a tech platform, meaning bankers cannot afford to snub their IT counterparts.

"Previously there was snobbery in the market, a 'them and us' attitude," Ed Ekins, head of the technology division at Twenty Recruitment told the Financial Times recently. The firm recruits for roles across the financial sector, including infrastructure specialists, technical architects and developers.

Ekins said that right now, between 60 and 70 per cent of bank technology hires are focused on compliance and risk, rather than greenfield systems development, with most banks seeking back-office roles.

That could be true, says Blechman, adding that "traders are still more and more needful of PhDs and developers able to construct algorithmic platforms capable of trading stocks and other asset classes, as finance continues to become more and more tech-reliant."

The investment bankers Accordion works with, he adds, need not be PhDs, but should have immaculate Excel skills and be able to work with platforms including FactSet and Capital IQ.

Ironically enough, even as bankers scramble to get the right tech skills on their resumes tout de suite the current technology obsession is making it easier for employers to slice and dice job functions and rely more on an ala carte approach with more remote and contingent employees who have specific, high-end skills.

"Digital communications and information technology have been erasing physical barriers between economies for two decades and making possible whole new ways of doing business," states a June 2011 report from McKinsey & Co.

Asked, "In what way will your company's workforce change in the next five years," more than a third of respondents or 36.5% to McKinsey's survey said they envisioned more part-time workers, 34.3% expected to hire more temporary or contract workers, and 25.5% expected more telecommuting.

Digital video and real-time collaboration tools are making it increasingly simple for employees who sit thousands of miles apart to sit "side by side," the report concluded.

In fact, McKinsey suggests that it is those with the highest-end skill sets whose will be most likely to be disaggregated and moved out of the full-time workplace: "Low-and-middle skill workers may gain employment when higher-skill professional jobs are disaggregated into multiple tasks," says the study.

One upside is that finance professionals may remain in demand (albeit on a part-time basis) well into their 80s or 90s, as companies offer virtual work options to retirees working from home.

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