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Totally Missing the Point About Tech Talent

Anyone who has seen me on a panel about technology talent or innovation (or even seen me sitting in the audience when there’s a mic nearby) will know I have strong views on how and where the capital markets (and other areas of the financial services industry, I’m sure) are going wrong in trying to attract and retain tech staff. This is not about offering individuals the ability to wear a pair of jeans to work—a shift in mindset and even policy is required.

It is no secret that banks are throwing increasingly large sums of money at technologists in a bid to attract them away from the big tech firms in Silicon Valley, but this is a losing battle. Money, a relaxed dress code, and a ping pong table are only going to go so far in getting next-gen tech experts through the door and keeping them. Because hiring is only one part of the equation, retention is the bigger challenge in many ways.

I am sick to the back teeth of discussions with C-suite executives during which sweeping statements are made about millennials (as if they were an alien race), who are often mixed up with Gen Z (who were born in the mid-90s), so I want to make it clear that these trends are not limited to either generation—they are reflective of a change in technology development and wider changes in the workplace that will define the future of the market.

Technologists have come a long way over the last several decades in the way they work: Instead of working behind closed doors on secret-sauce projects, these individuals want to benefit from the shared knowledge of the community. The popularity of GitHub is proof enough of this trend. Microsoft’s acquisition of the platform last year reinforces the fact that the industry needs to pay more attention to these newer software development methods. Financial institutions need to understand that interactions and platforms not only provide a means of leapfrogging mistakes made by peers but are also an essential channel via which developers can communicate their tech capabilities and even showboat.

Much as we’d like to think capital markets firms collaborate and share ideas, the truth is, nearly every firm retains a competitive culture that is an anathema to collaboration, even across divisions within the firm. I have spent time breaking down the reasons why innovation programs and chief innovation officers have such difficulty in achieving success, and there are similar reasons why tech talent is so hard to retain—the firm’s culture needs to change. Working in an ivory tower where results are shared with a limited group of people provides little job satisfaction. Feeling isolated from your peers in other firms and even other industries isn’t conducive to a happy staff atmosphere.

Now, there are many reasons as to why there are barriers to open source development and we touch on a few of them in our 2019 top 10 trends, but there are important changes that need to be made to the workplace—beyond the superficial or the monetary—before we’ll see the industry truly beating Silicon Valley in the war for tech talent. That’s if we choose to see it as a war. You know, collaboration could be cross-industry too … Just a thought.