In and amongst numerous conversations around innovation and ecosystems across many panels at the Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS), the issue of tech talent was mentioned again and again. Great ideas, customer centricity, new business models, innovative tech are not driven by machines (yet) but by humans.
Institutions (big and small) flagged the issue of tech talent (defined quite broadly) as one of their major concerns and potential impediments to growth. London’s status as a fintech hub (and other hubs across the UK) have been built and powered by people from around the country and the world. According to Tech London Advocates, the majority of tech professions believe biggest threat from Brexit is the impact on access to talent.
Stories from both start-ups and banks at a round-table focusing on access to talent and the development of a domestic skills pipeline at the Innovate Finance Global Summit highlighted some of the challenges. The increased costs of hiring and the opportunity cost of not filling roles for months in an increasingly competitive fintech sector, were noted by a number of firms present and had intensified over the past few years.
The uncertainties around Brexit and what that would mean for future access have created a negative atmosphere and impacted the perception of non-British tech sector employees on working (and remaining) in the UK. One fast growing fintech present noted the increased reluctance of non UK staff to buy homes or join company pension plans, indicating that they did not see their long-term career in the UK. Another fintech firm, which is also scaling up quickly, felt this change in perception also had an impact on non-EU staff as well. This firm recently set up an office in Australia to accommodate a team of developers who no longer wished to remain in London.
This all points to a need to give serious consideration to both the future of skills development and to the broader issues around the changing nature of work and the concomitant organisational and cultural changes that institutions of all shapes and sizes will need to make.
The development of skills over the longer-term will require the collaboration of academia and other education providers, industry and government. Steering the future workforce towards the tech sector is one part of the story, as is tapping into other groups in the labour force; e.g. women who have left the industry, older workers, current employees who would benefit from re-training. Driving diversity and inclusion are clearly not just noble ends in themselves but will be necessary to fill the looming skills gap.
These issues and challenges, in the context of rapidly evolving financial services sector, will be discussed at the upcoming FinTECHTalents Festival at Here East in October, supported by FinTech Futures. Tech and talent move in tandem and the future of skills development and access to talent is what has underpinned London’s success as a fintech hub and will drive its future evolution.
By Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Fintech / Director of Partnerships, FinTECHTalents at VC Innovations