Joe McIntyre is the senior vice president with Robert Half’s technology solutions group, based in Chicago. He spoke with BankBeat about the difficulty banks are having filling tech positions.
What’s your role in matching tech workers with banks, and what’s the climate like?
Joe McIntyre: Our team manages a portfolio of organizations, and banking and finance is within that portfolio. We’re very familiar with the hiring climate for technology jobs in banks. We’re seeing less than a 1 percent unemployment rate for IT professionals, which is creating a real problem for banks trying to hire. The supply and demand is really out of whack. There are simply many more jobs than there are candidates. Right now you have a lot of banks working on digital transformation efforts and business transformation efforts, which creates a demand for software developers, cloud engineers, cloud architects and systems and networking professionals. We see a lot of financial institutions looking to optimize their data, both bank data and customer data, so there are a lot of banks looking for data engineers, administrators and analysts. Those are the types of roles that need to be filled, and those skill sets are difficult to find.
How has the Covid workplace dynamic influenced this search?
J.M.: Covid has changed the expectations of the workplace, and banks are no exception. Obviously a lot of tech work can be done remotely, but you still have teams of professionals that must work together collaboratively. There is still a need for in-person huddles, whether on Zoom or in an office. We’re still in the place where banks allow many employees to work from home, or at least some kind of hybrid. Banks are going to have to retain this flexibility and allow people to be remote. If they do that, they will attract candidates to their organizations and be able to widen the net when looking for talent. A community bank in Kansas City only looking at the employee resources in that city is vastly shrinking the talent pool. The same bank hiring professionals in California or New York can hit all four corners of the country looking for talent.
Do you find small banks have more difficulty being flexible?
J.M.: Some do; some do not. We have some bank clients that have completely adapted to what is happening and seeking candidates nationally and offering 100 percent remote work. Community banks in the Midwest are broadening their search in this way, and those companies are filling their positions. We also see some banks being more stringent and slower to adapt and, as you might guess, candidates aren’t heading down that path. It could be for purposes of Covid, but the trend to remote work is being accelerated by other quality of life considerations as well.
Banks are also widening the scope of the position they’re trying to fill. In technology it’s really easy to want to find the candidate who checks every box. In reality, you’re probably not going to find that. We’re encouraging clients to be open to candidates that aren’t an exact match.
Another way to look at it is who you hire may not retire with you, but you are offering them a career path. One strength of the banking industry in luring people is that it’s not going away. If you work for a financial institution you now have the ability to work for others down the road. Community banks can sell that. They can say, look, you may only be with us for several years, but you’ll have gained experience that can travel in a large industry. This can be seen as a big advantage to a tech worker with no experience in the banking industry.
The alternative to direct hiring is contract workers. Are they affordable?
J.M.: Robert Half and other companies do offer contract services. There is a lot of opportunity to leverage consulting firms. In our instance, we’ll have employees we loan out to banks or other institutions for the duration of a project. Some banks just outsource most of the technology needs almost entirely, which can work. Those are still the main third-party staffing solutions.
As for affordability, this might not be very popular, but the truth is you get what you pay for. In the technology world, if you’re looking for the least expensive solution, I would be very wary of such a solution. In the current environment banks are going to have to find the budget dollars, and we are seeing a lot of them doing that.