A giant leap: attracting the 0.1%

How does an Apollo 11 landing capsule help a Fintech enterprise attract the top 0.1% of talent? Katie Treggiden investigates.

Fintech (financial technology) is not only disrupting traditional financial models with new technology addressing the growing needs of the online retail sector, but also transforming banking in developing nations, often making services available to people for the first time. So it’s no wonder that business is booming – fintech investment has almost doubled since 2014, amounting to more than $30billion globally last year. All this growth needs people – people with specialist skills such as cyber security, big data analytics and artificial intelligence to name but three. Such talents are scarce and, as demand grows, are only getting harder to recruit for. Stradling the financial services sector which typically offers the most competitive pay packets in the world and supercool tech giants such as Google and Facebook, fintech specialists are estimated to be 60% harder to recruit and retain than the average employee . And yet Fintech enterprises, especially smaller start-ups, are winning more and more of this limited talent pool. So how are they doing it?

XTX’s Mike Irwin puts it down to exploiting their niche. ‘We have banks on the left and Google on the right,’ he explains. ‘Banks are restricted and tightly governed, so employees can feel their wings are being clipped. Google is the complete opposite – staff can just float about doing their own thing in very cool offices. In the fintech sector we treat our staff like adults and expect them to behave like adults in return – people are at their best when it is their own sense of responsibility that drives them to achieve, not when they are simply doing what they’re told to do.’ Alongside competitive financial packages, typical fintech benefits might include on-site gyms, yoga classes, GPs, hair salons, bars and restaurants and very cool office design – XTX’s includes a replica of the Apollo 11 landing capsule – but their smaller size means there’s nowhere to hide. ‘In a larger company, you might be in a team of ten – here we have teams of two or three people delivering really big projects. That means you have to pull your weight, but you get full credit when they’re successful,’ says Irwin. ‘Ultimately, you’ve got to be motivated by the opportunity to disrupt the financial markets and be willing to work hard to play your part in achieving that goal – no one should take a job just because of a space capsule.’

But even Irwin admits that the space capsule helps. At their best, well-designed offices provide clues to new recruits and reminders to existing staff about the values of the company. At XTX, sleep pods and computer games tell staff that they are trusted to work hard and rest when they need to. A GP and mental health doctor onsite tells them that the company cares about their wellbeing, even when the pressure is on. The world’s first pentagonal game of life tells them their intelligence and imagination will be stretched and challenged. And a well-designed restaurant tells them that lunch matters – 80% now take at least half an hour to eat with colleagues, creating informal opportunities for collaboration. ‘People feel relaxed, comfortable, respected, and empowered to get on with their jobs,’ explains Irwin. And the space-pod? That’s the part that tells staff they’ve found a culture that fits. ‘Everyone here is technologically minded and outer-space is a keen interest for many, so we went for a space theme with the landing capsule and steam punk vibe – the unknown, exploration, innovation – it just seemed to fit the curious, creative, pioneering mindset of the people we want.’

[1] Global fintech funding tops US$31B for 2017 – fuelled by US$8.7B in Q4: KPMG’s Pulse of Fintech report

[1] 4 2016 Willis Towers Watson Global Talent Management & Rewards and Global Workforce Studies

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