The current job market for top tech talent is perhaps as good as it has ever been. Investment banks, tech giants and startups are fighting over the same pool of candidates, leading to a highly competitive recruiting environment. While this is clearly good news for tech professionals, some working in banking have grown frustrated with a byproduct of the strong job market. Recruiting wars have resulted in a higher level of turnover, making projects more difficult to manage with a rotating cast of characters.
The core issue for banks is that they are no longer just competing against each other. “I think that years ago the Holy Grail for someone seeking a job in tech as they came out of college was to get into financial services because of perceived stability and good compensation,” said Gina Schiller, managing director at Wall Street headhunter Jay Gaines & Company. “That monopoly has been broken in the current economy and there’s no going back.”
Recruiting battles over tech talent are intensifying beyond the junior level as well. Highly skilled software engineers, data scientists and other tech pros in banking tell us they routinely receive unsolicited inquiries from companies across industries, with recruiters messaging them on social media and even cold-calling them at work. Schiller said that tech professionals today know their skills are more transferable and are far more open to exercising their options than in years past.
But all the movement comes at price, not only for banks but for the tech employees who remain in the industry. “In 18 months, my team has almost completely turned itself over,” said one junior software engineer at a tier-1 bank. “I’ve had three bosses in a year-and-a-half.”
A VP who works at a competing investment bank said the turnover issue is exacerbated by more work being done in the mobile and fintech space as firms are building their own proprietary software. “You’ll get people up to speed, they begin to take ownership, and then they’ll often move on, leaving you holding the bag,” he said. “It’s not as easy as just subbing someone else in.” He attributed many of his late nights and weekends to filling the gaps left by departing colleagues while HR tries to refill the seat.
However, he notes that he’s received more regular raises and bigger bonuses meant to encourage him to stick around. What he hopes to see next is an easier path for tech professionals to make managing director, where the real money is made. Historically, front office employees like investment bankers and traders are more likely to make MD than middle and back office workers.
“Banks have to realize they have to compete to get and retain talent – and that loyalty more than ever is a two-way street,” Schiller said.
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