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How great would it be? – Issue 10

“As a fintech you have to look for people from other parts of the world, which is not necessarily straightforward.” Yoni Arbel, Head of Treasury at TransferWise talks to Findexable about talent, opportunities, and where to find them.


1.      What are the key challenges for fast-growing fintechs like TransferWise?

Competition for talent is a big challenge for fast scaling fintechs in a place like London for instance where we compete for key skills with the likes of Google, all tech companies essentially, as well as with banks. The other is the quality of talent – it is hard to find experienced people in the roles we’re looking for, ie payments and fintech – how do you find leads, how do you recruit experience and what kind of experience is transitional? This is everything to do with product, engineers and analysts – also the more classical roles such as compliance or accounting where knowledge of the industry and working within changing frameworks are important. It’s a different approach to, for example, the classical compliance role. We need people, both with the experience and the flexibility to relearn their approach to the topic. And this brings another dimension, which is training, and finding the right training providers to give you the training needed to bridge the gaps.

There’s also a space problem when a fintech grows quickly. When operating in one location you tend to run out of space or in multiple locations you get into collaboration, communication and cultural preservation challenges. In my team and other teams we employ people from all over the world from China to South America and often these people weren’t recruited while living in London, so you’re having to move people around. This is not new for the tech companies but banks have never had to do this. As a fintech you have to look for people from other parts of the world, which is not necessarily straightforward.


2.     How can better data help bridge the talent/proximity dilemma?

If you think about recruitment you usually look at recruitment around the person, the role and the requirements for the role. For a start-up or a growing ecosystem the statistics of a role becomes important, i.e. how often does specific requirements show up in a given role or influence people into taking on a role. The same applies to job specs or titles, which of course become a factor in marketing. For example, do you advertise for a senior developer when what you really need is only a developer so you can get stronger CVs?

Information is important if you want to normalise recruitment across the industry. At TransferWise we have already hired 500 engineers across the company which means that we have this information to refer to, but if you’re a small start-up and you’re looking for your fourth or fifth engineer, you don’t have this kind of knowledge and you have to hunt around for job descriptions and the basic requirements for roles you want to fill. For smaller fintechs it would be useful to have a source that provides an industry benchmark, also when it comes to salary expectations – useful for companies as well as candidates, especially when crossing geographies.

What I know from London needs to be translated when I want to open a development centre in Paris or Frankfurt. Companies need a set framework when looking to advertise and communicate based on the ecosystem in which they choose to base their centres. An example is that a job requirement for a developer in the UK would often be a BA or BSc in Computer Science while in other regions such as Israel this is not the case. It is often a cultural thing.


3.     Could you talk to us about diversity and why this is important in fintech?

One has to look at diversity from the customer’s point of view. If you develop a purely UK product, UK talent may be enough. If you build a global product, a mix of skills and international talent build better products. While there may be cultural challenges, it is negligible at entry level. For the digital native cultural gaps are smaller and easier to bridge. Experience is more difficult ito onboarding and cultural adjustment. The same is true if you come from a start-up moving into a corporate, and again, the same applies if moving from a B2B to a B2C environment or vice versa. The more senior people you recruit, the more delicate the cultural adjustments become and the harder it is to find the right person.

When we look at the Glassdoor approach, it’s been proven that having data on a sector together with reviews are valuable. But I’d also like to see sector insights and peripheral data, i.e. the wider ecosystem such as ranking a city, median salaries for roles, the number of schools, easy access to other offices (eg international transport links). If I want to open a European office, I would want to choose a place with an international airport, it’s as simple as that. I may want to choose a city where other tech companies are based and where there are suitable work spaces, a university, a friendly visa policy, where it’s easy to do business and the cost of living is not too high.

These are the indications that would influence a fintech’s decision on whether it should set up a development centre in Mexico or Vietnam.

Most companies shortlist the easy options but they may be missing out on better options or opportunities – a company from the US wouldn’t immediately write down Estonia or Latvia on that shortlist but if they had the data, they could make a more informed decision.

While an office opening might be a dramatic decision, there are other considerations like where are suitable, accessible locations to hold offsites, training camps, events or customer demos.

A strong data pack such as this with a solid source of information provides a type of insurance, even if one can do one’s calculation yourself. Imagine if one can get an index to the point where people can back up or reaffirm their own hunch or analysis. Interesting spin-offs on this may be when you are making a business trip to eg Amsterdam, it would be useful to see what other businesses are in the near vicinity or same neighbourhood that you can pop in to see while there. Shoreditch in London is commonly known as a location for tech/fintech companies – it would be good to have this mapped for other centres – potentially mapping them physically with a strong visual aide to trigger curiosity. Tel Aviv’s tech companies are located in three neighbourhoods, and this is the same for Berlin, Lisbon and other cities. I would love to see a tool that gives me a map and tells me that I should try to meet these guys when I’m in a certain city – it’s another layer of this data.

The challenge is to take the information – which in itself is not complicated – but communicating it and making it of value. And keeping it up to date.


The Global Fintech Index by Findexable launches worldwide on 4 December 2019
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