Home / Banking Strategies / Hire with fire: Taking a page from the FinTech playbook

Hire with fire: Taking a page from the FinTech playbook

Dec 14, 2017 / Technology

In theory, moving a traditional bank from present and into the future sounds pretty straightforward: You redefine goals, embrace emerging demographics, emphasize tech and freshen up the brand, among other tasks. But most of all, you hire the right people and …

Wait a second.

You mean the “right people” who might shudder at working for Suit-and-Tie Savings and Loan? The strategically-tattooed, craft-beer-craving, caffeine-stoked, angst-as-an-accessory, up-all-night, coding-from-birth millennials who have the skills and savvy to lead your bank into The Next Big Thing–but flock instead to ecommerce start-ups and FinTechs?

Yeah, those guys—like recent University of Florida graduate Thomas Vance.

“I admit I shy away from some of the big names when I see job openings,” says Vance, 23. “And I have a degree in business from a huge school. so it’s not like I’m anti-establishment. I just don’t think a legacy company is necessarily for me.”

So what would change Vance’s mind? “The right pitch,” he says. “If I can see myself doing some interesting things, it can be FinTech or an old-school bank. I’m skeptical but I’m not stupid.”

The right people … the right pitch … but where do smart banks kickstart the rest of this talent-gleaning process?

‘You’re hiring for now’

If you want to attract maple-water employees in a Diet Coke environment, you’ll need to make some changes—not just in process but more importantly in thinking, says Patty McCord, author of the upcoming book “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility (Silicon Guild, $26.95) and former chief talent officer for Netflix.

“Hiring the right people isn’t about selling long-term plans and some rose-colored version of the future,” says McCord, a recent speaker at BAI Beacon 2017 in Atlanta. “You’re hiring for now because people are looking for the jobs they want now, not 20 years from now. So you have to create a working environment that sticks to that plan.”

Here are some suggestions to help strengthen your pitch to your potential new workforce:

Lead with their strengths, not yours: “You may think banking is banking is banking—but your potential employees don’t see it that way, so why would you promote yourself like that?” asks Doug Rickart, vice president of recruiting with staffing agency Robert Half. Instead, Rickart suggests traditional banks can attract top talent by putting their new initiatives at the forefront of their recruitment effort.

“Larger banks need to present themselves not as checking or savings account and lending institutions. since they’re really far more than that,” Rickart says. “To effectively communicate that to potential employees—particularly those millennials—is absolutely essential. If you look at any of the large banking institutions today, significant amounts of time and institutional investment capital are spent in the mobile marketplace and the online marketplace.”

And as goes for drawing consumers, so goes for plucking ripe talent. “How these traditional banks effectively communicate with their clients electronically–bringing that to the forefront of the marketplace–is a must to attract the same talent that ecommerce and FinTech firms effectively attract.”

Think small (and not stuffy): Don’t be afraid to segment your staff. New hires may feel more comfortable in open spaces with shared desks and tables. In fact, Small Business Labs predicts that by 2020, more than 3.8 million American workers will labor in shared workspaces. That doesn’t mean you need to move new employees off site—but you might want to rethink those cubicles.

“It’s the Starbucks approach,” says Jonathon Young, a tech-firm consultant in San Jose, California. “Provide a working environment, whether that means workspace, hours or dress code that puts your new workers in the best possible position to succeed.”

Rickart agrees. There are certain aspects of banking where that formal nature is never going to change,” he says. “If you walk into the executive suites, everyone’s going to be in blue suits. But you’re not staffing the executive suite. You’re hiring developers and project managers, a lot of the creative types who want to be part of an innovative company that’s more like an ad agency or e-commerce company. You’re not putting them in the stuffed-shirt environment. They need to know that.”

Promote movement, training: A PricewaterhouseCoopers’ study, “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace,” focuses on hiring, development and retention strategies for today’s younger workers. Two key takeaways focus on varied roles and consistent training. According to the study:

  • Millennials often thrive when working on temporary jobs with rotational responsibilities. Companies can attract potential employees by promising a variety of experiences and challenges with an emphasis on creativity.
  • Millennials look for as much training as possible. Point out that your organization doesn’t exclusively train its veteran workers but opens up educational opportunities to all. Promote the accessibility of training outside of current career focus.

Promote mentoring: While it may fly against the all-about-me reputation of many millennial workers, Brian Weed, CEO of Avenica (formerly GradStaff), a Minneapolis-based job-placement service for recent college graduates, says potential employees often look for situations where they’ll gain guidance from other employees or their managers.

“The boss may not have a Twitter account and may find technology challenging,” Weed says. “But don’t underestimate what he or she can teach employees. Every industry has important ‘tribal’ knowledge that gets handed down to new hires and industry knowledge is absolutely essential to career success.”

Rethink benefits: The thinking goes that traditional employers offer traditional benefits. But if you want to attract top talent, you may need to rethink that …thinking. It might be time to move beyond the dog-friendly workplace policies and back-massage Fridays that seemingly hooked in yesterday’s young hires. Today’s potential employees will more likely want customization in their benefits packages than artisan coffee in the company kitchen.

MetLife’s annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Study gave a strong indication that employers will need to customize their benefit plans if they want to attract and retain top employees. According to Todd Katz, executive vice president of MetLife, “It’s not about just medical, dental and vision anymore.” Instead, sought-after benefits can include:

  • wellness plans
  • pet wellness plans
  • financial advice
  • rainy-day savings
  • emergency cash
  • consistent training opportunities
  • fertility assistance and more.

Tech up: Potential employees weighing a FinTech against a traditional bank won’t settle for yesterday’s technology. To attract motivated workers, you’ll need the appropriate tools in place before throwing out your nets.

“It’s not something you fulfill once you staff a department,” says Young. “You don’t hire scientists and then give them baking soda and vinegar. Your tech needs to be up to speed before Day One. Your new hires grew up with iTunes and Google. They were raised on Amazon and Uber. They don’t have time for you to get up to speed.”

Which, when you think about, applies just as much to workplace culture as WiFi speed.

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Marco Buscaglia has been writing since the early 1990s, with a focus on topics that include employment, healthcare and small businesses. The former general manager of the Tribune Content Agency, his stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald, along with other media outlets. He lives in Chicago.