FinTech has become the great disruptor in Financial Services and continues to attract investor and entrepreneurial interest, with $18.3 billion of FinTech investment in the US and $13.2 billion in Europe in the first half of 2019.
Exploiting the dependence of established players on legacy technology, innovative disruptive technology companies are redefining international payment systems, brokerage, peer-to-peer lending and day-to-day financial services and management. Benefiting from the City of London’s Financial Services expertise, FinTech is flourishing in the UK at a time of political and economic uncertainty; and across Europe FinTech attracts substantial investment with a Swedish payment provider recently being valued at €5.5 billion.
Challenger banks and innovative FinTech providers are now much more than a thorn in the side of the established players. As a response, leading Financial Services companies turn to acquisition strategies, which not only give access to disruptive technology solutions but also provide a mechanism for acquiring the talent that is vital to staying competitive.
Through our Search and Board Evaluation practice, Fidelio sees talent becoming a major constraint in Financial Services. For major banks, asset managers and insurers access to cutting edge technology talent is imperative to survival. To date FinTech has been well placed to attract the cream of the crop in terms of technology and entrepreneurialism. But the landscape is changing and FinTech is now also experiencing bottlenecks for key talent:
- As the sector grows and individual FinTechs scale significantly, the appetite for talent increases. The entrepreneurialism and vision of the founders are vital to a dynamic, young company; as companies mature and competition intensifies these no longer suffice. Too often companies espouse the importance of their people but neglect the role of People Director. The ability to target and attract talented employees at all levels of the organisation will be a determinant of success. This requires clarity as to what differentiates the proposition; roles need to be well-defined with a clear linkage to strategy and growth, and the hiring committee needs to be engaged and aligned. With this heavy-lifting done, Fidelio has found a well-crafted Candidate Brief delivers powerful results.
- A second structural shift is taking place. FinTech is playing in one of the most highly regulated sectors in the world, in particular in the UK/European markets. As newcomers and challengers, FinTech may have been below the radar screen but as leading FinTech companies grow and become systemically more important, regulatory and public scrutiny increases with clear implications:
- Corporate functions including Finance, Compliance, Legal and HR need to be strengthened and made demonstrably more robust. Investors and public markets will be looking for an experienced Executive Committee. If an IPO is within reach, prior quoted company experience is highly desirable and, in some jurisdictions, obligatory.
- These senior corporate functions are typically bringing oversight and will need to put structure and rigour in place without killing the golden goose or stifling the entrepreneurial culture. This in itself will require a diversity of mindset in the Executive Team; achieving this may be one of the greatest challenges for highly entrepreneurial founders to overcome.
- At Board level both investors and regulators will be looking for independent Directors who can oversee a successful trajectory, and importantly will also ensure a healthy culture that respects the interests of stakeholders as well as shareholders. The licence to operate can all too easily be revoked.
FinTechs are facing talent constraints due to competition, but also because they need a blend of leadership skills that will promote entrepreneurialism while satisfying the requirements of stakeholders and building a healthy corporate culture. All companies face growing pains but these are more acute in the fast-paced world of technology.
Investors keen to secure high quality exposure to this most interesting segment of Financial Services should look critically at the talent acquisition capability; at Board and Executive level this will be a key determinant of success.
To learn more about how Fidelio is working with leading FinTechs and can support your company in attracting the talent it requires to secure growth and satisfy investors and stakeholders, including regulators, please contact Mark Cumberlege.