FinTech vs. The Big Banks

Working in FinTech vs. Traditional Banking

FinTech is currently one of the world’s fastest growing technological industries. The UK’s financial technology sector attracted a record £1.34bn in venture capital investment in 2017, 90% of which was invested into London-based start-ups and early stage businesses, according to Forbes.

Are developers flocking from big corporate banks to the greener grasses of fast, modern FinTech businesses? Or are FinTech start-ups struggling to compete with the hefty benefit and salary packages offered by major banks? Let’s have a look…

This is relatively new territory, as financial technology has only really kicked off in the last few years, so finding candidates who have both a high level of skill in the necessary technologies, the cultural values these businesses are looking for, and also an understanding of the largely different working environments can prove highly challenging. Securing them is an entire different kettle of fish, as most skilled developers will often have many start-ups fighting for their skills and experience.

But does it all come down to these sought after skills? Is experience really all that matters to FinTech companies?

Unsurprisingly, no… There’s a lot more that goes into hiring for FinTech businesses:

The challenge for companies hiring in FinTech

While the financial technology sector is booming in the UK, an ongoing struggle continues for businesses trying to recruit new talent in the field. Business Insider reported that many job listings still remain unfilled after 60 days.

The FinTech sector’s tightening candidate market is a by-product of its rapid growth and for many start-ups and scale-ups in particular, it can be incredibly challenging to dedicate the time and resources to finding such sought-after talent in the current candidate climate.

what is fintech

As if it wasn’t already challenging enough to find applicants in the current candidate climate, the market is often further filtered down for many FinTech businesses, who don’t have the understanding or the budget to exploit international sponsorship options. This can mean they are unable to reap the benefits of the international market.

In addition to this, it can be difficult to pull candidates away from the security of a job in a major bank and the salary and benefits that come with it. This is why it’s so important for FinTech companies to find candidates who appreciate that it’s the culture, autonomy, and learning opportunities that they are buying into with the FinTech industry, and the opportunity to drive innovation at the forefront of advanced technology.

We spoke to the CEO of Acacia and Julian Sawyer, COO of Starling Bank to hear their thoughts on the challenges of recruiting in FinTech:

Stefano Vaccino, CEO of Acacia (FinTech Start-up, Open Banking API)

“One of the biggest challenges is finding talent and retaining it while not having the budget that investment banks or big tech firm have, nor their brands. What you can offer however is a clear problem to solve, a big vision for the company, empowerment and the most advanced technological approach. Smart people are driven by the willingness to learn and grow. 

Intellectual curiosity is what we look for in people. For smart developers, the possibility to use the most advanced technology and develop a unique expertise, is more important than a high salary. The most talented people like challenges and are driven by the willingness to learn and grow.”

So it’s clear to see that the primary challenges for FinTech businesses are finding people with the right mind-set and values, and having the budget to hire people with the niche skills they need for their projects.

So, why are more and more people choosing careers in FinTech?

careers in FinTech

Although many can, some start-ups simply can’t compete with the hefty salary and bonus packages offered by the major banks’. If competition undoubtedly comes their way for a candidate, smaller FinTech companies can’t always afford to throw larger salary offerings at a candidate to win them over. So what’s drawing people to FinTech?

The answer?

Responsibility. A voice. Cross-functionality. Quite simply, a change.

Here’s what Julian Sawyer, COO of Starling Bank had to say about the difference between working in FinTech and traditional banks.

“The key difference is mind-set – the agile organisation spends more time thinking of the customer, thinking how to run the business better and less politics, less stakeholder management and more getting the job done. 

 We have teams that mix and mingle, transparency of data providing people with a consistent view of the business and system performance. Hiring great people, empower them to do the job and forget the traditional structures and hierarchies.”  Chief Operating Officer – Starling Bank 

Choose your path

According to FinTech start-up, Slim Pay, candidates report choosing a career in FinTech due to the wide-ranging pathways and promotion opportunities available. As these businesses are ever expanding, whatever your specialty – you can find a way to progress in FinTech.

Drive at the forefront of innovation

fintech jobs in london

The digital revolution has affected so many global businesses, so profoundly that it has found itself to be an entire industry in itself, and the work of people inside these businesses are directly affecting the digitalisation of our economy and societies. It is exactly this that excites tech experts looking to become part of something so innovate!

Be challenged, learn, and grow!

Talented people have an innate longing to better themselves and learning is a fundamental part of this. FinTech businesses look for developers who strive to continually extend their technical knowledge to create never before developed technology and systems.

Jobs in FinTech vs traditional banking

FinTech companies pay far more attention to soft skills and values than your typical banks. FinTech is a fast-paced, agile environment where employees need to have the flexibility to adapt, change direction quickly to amend problems, and have the capability to work across functions.

What can prove a major challenge for up-and-coming FinTech businesses is that who have been pigeonholed into a particular function in a traditional bank must adapt to the fast-paced, ‘all hands to the deck’ ethos of a FinTech business. For candidates looking to work in FinTech, an understanding of how they will have to adjust from slower waterfall processes to a quick-moving agile approach is essential.

Set in their ways?

graduate Jobs in FinTech

Although traditional banks often offer higher salaries and bonus packages they generally hire candidates to carry out a specific function to solve a particular problem – especially if you offer a niche set of skills. The danger here being, that many candidates can find themselves trapped in a specific role for many years, with little exposure to other areas of the business or the opportunity to learn new technology or drive innovation within such a large company. With this comes a long chain of bureaucracy and slow-moving processes that major banks must abide by, but FinTech businesses aren’t often restricted by.

Where does culture come into it?

fintech recruitmentOverall, FinTech appears to offer a far more integrated workplace environment, where employees cross paths and work together on different projects frequently.

There is also a notably greater social component to a career in FinTech, as smaller teams often mean that you see more of your colleagues throughout the week, but the cross functionality of your role means you will get the chance to familiarise yourself with other people from other projects.

FinTech tends to focus more on flexibility and getting the fastest, most efficient solution for a client and less on process and bureaucracy. Candidates are given a voice to offer their own solutions to problems and are encouraged take responsibility for their projects, through a fail-fast, learn-quick approach. FinTech often boats a young, fun, agile and multidisciplinary culture where employees must have the drive to continually learn and succeed.

You often have better equity opportunities with a start-up FinTech business and, unlike working for a traditional bank, you will be working directly with the CEO/COO. Your ideas will be listened to, and as they grow, you will be in a stronger position within the company to drive change.

fintech recruitment agency

FinTechs can also operate in shared spaces (e.g. Level 39 in London – pictured above) which is a great networking environment where you can work with like-minded people!

ISL’s top tips for candidates considering the move to FinTech:

  • Explain to Hiring Managers that you understand the cultural differences between FinTech and traditional banks early on, and why you think you’d suit the FinTech industry.
  • Show excitement for being at the forefront of advancing technology and the longer term career benefits that are available.
  • Emphasise your ability to adapt and work flexibly across different environments – and most importantly, your willingness to earn.

ISL’s top tips for securing talent in FinTech:

  • Consider offering flexible or remote working as candidates are placing greater value on work-life balance nowadays – it doesn’t all come down to salary!
  • Consider offering equity, relocation packages, and remember to sell on progression opportunities – what do you have over your competitors?
  • it’s important to move quickly in this candidate-driven market – if you don’t act fast enough to offer someone, somebody else will!
  • Be flexible with that you’re looking for – can you train the skills that you need?
  • Explore sponsorship options – we can help with this! (See brochure below)

If you are looking for advice on hiring plans within the Fintech sector and would like our help securing that top talent, or alternatively, if after reading this you are interested in finding out more about a career in FinTech, we recommend that you speak to our specialist consultants, Jon Holland and Emma Metherell.

You can contact them using the details below:

Jon Holland

Head of Technology Recruitment (FinTech, London)

E: T: 0117 4280600

Emma Metherell

Specialist FinTech Recruitment Consultant (London)

E: T: 0117 4280600

Want to learn more about a career in Fintech?

Download our dedicated guide to Working in FinTech here

Visa Sponsorship.

If you would like to find out more about visa sponsorship options we have attached our VISA sponsorship brochure below, which you can download for free now!
visa sponsorship options


Engineering, Information Technology