When Should A Fintech Hire A Banker?

“The Revolut Country CEO search took six months. The brief changed 4 times as the company grew from 700 to almost 2000 staff during this time. Customer numbers went from 4m to almost 10m. When a company is growing that fast in a highly regulated sector like Banking, it creates a lot of complexity, meaning hiring becomes complex.” 

dexter cousins – tier one people

Are You Startup Ready?

Often the “Fin” in Fintech would denote a heavy hitter from a bank being a winning hire, right?

In the fast paced environment of Fintech, we have noticed caution on the part of our clients in making such a decision.

The hesitation is bound in stereotypes. Banking is often viewed as a mired in red-tape, compliance (or lack of, in Australia), too many chiefs, too many meetings and nothing getting done. Huge amounts of resources and dollars are thrown at projects that never come to fruition. Whilst their Fintech competitors move with stealth and agility, innovating at much greater speed with minimal resources.

The role of an Executive Search Consultant is to challenge stereotypes and get clients to view each candidate on their merits. The view of not being a team player and rolling up your sleeves is often a misconception in banking, but there are plenty who refuse to conform to the stereotype of a banker. 

Tier One People is bolstering our position as the leading Australian Fintech Executive Search firm. Australia’s growing FinTech sector has seen a rise in the search for C-suite and leadership talent. Counting Revolut, TrueLayer, 10x, Klarna and Transferwise as some of the many companies seeking our assistance.

How bankers can take control of their job search.

A more proactive approach job seekers can take is to look at where your big banking skills can have an impact. Assessing whether a company is at start-up or scale up stage will also aid you in making a successful move to Fintech. Read this article on Fintech Career Advice to gain a better understanding at which stage of growth you are best suited to.

Before embarking on the search it is crucial to take a step back and ask yourself; 

“How would I cope moving from a structured and heavily supported environment to a one of a specialist generalist”

The best advice we can give candidates looking to join a Fintech. 

“Focus on impact. How many years you have worked somewhere doesn’t excite a founder, showing a founder how you can make/save the company millions of $$ does.”

Showcasing your skills in 2020 also requires more savvy than ever before. Looking good on paper doesn’t get cut through anymore. If you are in the market looking to join a Fintech you need to have a plan in place and a goal in sight. You need to utilise all of the tools available, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts. These are all channels where you get direct access to decision makers, people who can hire you.

You can showcase your skills and achievements, bringing them to life and not being blocked by gatekeepers and recruiters.

Do FinTech Need Your Banking Experience?

Dexter Cousins, the CEO and Founder of Tier One People, has interviewed more than 300 FinTech leaders on the subject of hiring. He firmly believes hirers should consider the lifecycle of a Fintech to assess where the best candidate fit is. 

It’s very difficult for anyone to move from a corporate job to an early stage startup. But with the rapid growth of tech companies, a startup can become an enterprise in 5 years. Examples include Stripe, Revolut and Australia’s Afterpay.

It’s a difficult process identifying the right time for a banker to join a Fintech. The right person can definitely make a significant contribution as the company scales. Often times the right hire is made but at the wrong time, which ultimately means the hire is wrong.

Watch our video on job hunting in Fintech

We get inundated with calls on a daily basis from candidates seeking a move to the shiny new world of ‘FinTech’. However, opening your pitch with “hey, I’ve got 20 years experience in banking, I want to work in FinTech” might not be the best way to impress people. 

It’s also important to make the distinction between a Finance business and a Software business. Are bankers better suited to a NeoBank or a platform provider. Fintech covers a wide range of businesses and making this distinction can really increase your chances of securing a move.

Judo Bank, Xinja, 86 400 and Revolut in Australia have all hired highly experienced bankers early in their growth. Judo and Xinja are both founded by highly experienced bankers who were driven to change the industry.

FinTech’s are at the cutting edge of innovation with far fewer resources than any bank. The reality is no founder or investor gets excited by somebody with twenty years experience in banking, unless they can demonstrate previous success in a startup and they have skills currently not in the business which are mission critical to success. 

 

When Founders need help with hiring.

The recruitment process to join a Fintech can be almost as intense as the job itself. If you can’t handle the intensity of the interview process, it’s highly unlikely you will succeed in the job.

The thing to remember is that FinTech founders themselves may not have the breadth of experience in HR or Talent to make critical hiring decisions. Hiring for a startup is often a make or break decision. We’ve watched some companies flourish and others flounder because of it. 

For a founder looking to hire, specialist FinTech recruiters are more easily able to identify those candidates who are the ”right cultural fit.” Assessing if someone will relish the challenge of working in a FinTech environment is very difficult using traditional interview techniques. And a specialist recruiter can provide far greater access to Talent than an ad campaign and direct networks, especially in talent short markets. 

But to achieve these results a client needs to invite us ‘into the tent’.

The key to success is communication

Being attuned to the changing demands of the business is vital to ensure success when hiring. 

“The Revolut Country CEO search took six months. The brief changed 4 times as the company grew from 700 staff to almost 2000 during this time. Customer numbers went from 4m to almost 10m. When a company is growing that fast in a highly regulated sector like Fintech, it creates a lot of complexity. Hiring becomes even more complex.” commented Dexter Cousins.

There is a need for the modern executive search consultant to set realistic expectations with their clients. Being transparent and honest (even though clients may not want to hear what you have to say) is the only way to achieve lasting success. This approach is core to the values at Tier One People. The search for the “blue eyed unicorn” is never a realistic one and usually wastes significant time and business opportunities. 

Fintech careers special podcast

FinTech Australia Talent Market

In response to the rapid escalation of job losses across the Aussie Fintech community Tier One People and FinTech Australia have joined forces to build a Talent Market Place, connecting Fintechers directly to opportunities.

The Market Place is a Private LinkedIn Group where founders and hiring managers can advertise jobs, put out requests for skills and engage talent for contracting.

It is totally free to join for talent and hirers. The only stipulations are you’re FinTech Australia member or you’ve recently been made redundant from a Fintech firm (Australian residents only.)

Who is the group for?

Those who have recently lost their job and are in the Fintech industry.

What’s the purpose?

To keep talent in the industry and connect immediately available talent with Fintech leaders who can utilise their skills.

Who should join?

People from the Australian Fintech industry and out of work.
We will post daily content, videos and Live chat sessions sharing tips and advice on how to maximise your job hunting efforts. You can connect with hirers direct, no recruitment agencies involved. It’s also a great platform to showcase your skills!

FinTech Australia members looking to hire people.

You can post active roles, project work, consulting gigs and engage with talent direct in the group.

11:FS And Tier One People

Our friends at 11:FS invited us onto their Breakfast Show LIVE to talk about the impacts of Corona Virus on the Fintech community.

Tier One People’s Dexter Cousins and 11:FS CEO David M. Brear talk about which companies will hire and fire.

Watch the video to find out our views on who will survive, who will thrive and how the current situation could actually be a golden opportunity for Fintech.

Fintech Career Advice

Fintech is soooooo hot right now and judging by the amount of enquiries we get at Tier One People, it feels like everyone wants to work in Fintech.

Fintech isn’t for everyone. Here are five questions we recommend asking yourself to find out if Fintech is for you.


1. Are you ready to join a Fintech Startup?

What is a startup? Everyone has their own definition. At Tier One People we have identified distinct phases of growth in a Fintech startup. It is important to make the distinctions as each phase is in effect a completely different business.

We have created some typical profiles to give context.

Startup Fintech.

Usually 1 – 50 people with minimal funding or bootstrapped (self-funded). Generating some revenue but not much. Likely to still be working out of a coworking space or innovation hub. The business is still at a volatile stage and uncertainty remains around long-term success.

Scaleup Fintech.

Typically 50 – 300 people big. Likely to be well funded or listed and generating significant revenue. Moving out of startup and starting to become an enterprise. A mix of the founding team and new hires coming from more corporate backgrounds. Potential to hit Unicorn status.

Blitz Scale Fintech.

300 people plus, going global and hiring at a huge rate. Now way past unicorn status. HUGE investors onboard. Examples Revolut, N26, Klarna, Afterpay.

The secret to success when joining a Fintech is to get on board when your skills and experience can make the most impact. When we do see hiring fail it’s usually not because the wrong person was hired. But the right person is hired at the wrong time.

Fintech Startup Hiring Tips

2. What is your risk profile?

Have a mortgage or family commitments? You may want to think about joining a business in blitz scale mode. There is likely a lot more security and a higher base salary can be offered with some ESOP. But you have probably missed out on the opportunity to become a millionaire!

Can you take one or two risks financially if the role doesn’t work out? Maybe you are not quite sure if you can adapt to the demands of a startup. Try a scale up.

If you are slightly bonkers, can handle flexible working ie working 24:7 thrive on uncertainty, fear, challenge and building a legacy while not getting paid much then a startup might be right for you.

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3. What do you offer?

Most people think that Fintechs are one huge innovation lab where people ride round on skateboards dreaming up how to use blockchain to solve world hunger. 

In reality most Fintech are struggling just to stay alive. If you are dreaming of bringing killer ideas and strategising all day long, forget it.  Having ideas and making ideas happen are very different. In a Fintech you need to bring relevant skills to the table and demonstrate where you can execute on the vision with minimal resources.

4. Who do you know?

Most Fintechs started out by hiring mates or mates of mates. It stands to reason that when it is your business you want to hire people you can trust to deliver.

75% of the Tier One People network will find their next role through a direct contact. If you don’t have any friends in Fintech then you need to make some.

5. How much do you love Fintech?

I am constantly amazed by people who tell me they are passionate about Fintech, yet know nothing about the sector. At Tier One People we live and breath Fintech. But we have to work hard to keep building our profile and build our knowledge base. Meetups and industry events are a great way to get started if you need to gain knowledge and meet people.

Fintech is a tight knit community and you will find many members are quite accessible when you contribute to the community in a positive way. 

What Next?

Join the Tier One People Talent Community. It’s free to join and you’ll get access to exclusive content, videos, opportunities, events, interviews.


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Fintech Hiring Market Update

There is a lot of uncertainty in the market which is concerning for business leaders. A Royal Commission, open banking, a looming Brexit, a general election, Apple moving into financial services, Libra. All of these things are weighing on executives minds.”

Will the platform we are building today be relevant 12 months from now?

Technology and global markets seem to be moving so fast, most executives are struggling to keep pace. Couple that with the changing regulatory landscape and looking further than 12 months into the future is creating indecision. When decisions are finally made, the market has moved on, the goal posts have changed and so the process starts all over again!

Is The Fintech Hiring Market Stalling?

The answer is no if we look at investment numbers. But we are entering a new evolution, Fintech 2.0 and the platform play. The pressure is on for founders and executives to deliver to investors and shareholders. The challenge for scaling Fintechs appears to be plateauing top line growth or even an obsolete product/business model.

Most Fintech to date are apps/features or middle layer software solutions. But with the emergence of ‘Super Apps’ like Revolut the competition is becoming much tougher. And customers expectations are rising.

When it comes to scaling the business two options are most often considered. Grow geographically (Cover Genius and AfterPay have taken this approach) or pivot domestically. To pivot successfully requires two things; new products and people to drive the sales of new products.

Pivots are not exclusive to scaling startups. We see an increasing demand for Fintech talent from corporations pivoting their own product lines. Some are even reinventing their business models. Some examples include FSI’s, Insurers and Software companies.

Based on our assessment of the market there is significant demand for two profiles from Fintech.

Chief Product Officer/Head of Product.

Founders and business leaders seem to be crying out for commercial product managers with the ability to deliver the killer product. Indeed, the EY/Fintech Australia Census 2019 highights Product/Market Fit as the number one challenge for Fintech.

Product areas appear well stocked with those who can project manage. Strategic and commercial acumen seems to be in short supply, leading to months wasted on product development before a market fit has been established. Business leaders dream of applying Lean Startup Principles. While Product teams seem obsessed with following Agile rather than being Agile.

What is the answer?


2019 has seen an increase in Head of Product and a Chief Product Officer searches at Tier One People. We sourced 75% of shortlisted candidates domestically. 25% were international candidates. However, it is a 50/50 split on domestic and international hires made.

Based on the client feedback, it was felt international candidates demonstrated clearer commercial thinking. Most importantly, talent could point to several examples in which they had taken a product from idea to revenue generation, at scale.

It seems the product management community is acutely aware of the problem. Read this excellent blog post by Adrienne Tan https://brainmates.com.au/product-management/cut-out-product-management/

Sales Director/Head of Partnerships.

Revenue growth is hard to come by and the pressure is beginning to show signs. The sizzle of Fintech has attracted a lot of investment. Indeed 2018 saw an all time record for Fintech investment in Australia. And with the additional investment come higher expectations.

I wrote of this phenomenon three years ago, when SaaS businesses went on huge hiring sprees for business development managers.

We are seeing increased demand for people who can bring in new business. Especially significant corporate partnerships that will make an immediate and long term impact on revenue growth.

B2B sales is complex. Deals can take anywhere from 6 – 18 months. B2B2C deals may not take as long, but with API integration to be factored in, there is a heavy dose of project management required to onboard any new client. Deals are fragile and complex with technology and regulatory roadblocks often leading to months of work being wasted.

The market is reacting with an increasing demand for Partnerships Directors. These are rare people indeed. A Partnerships Director must possess the hustle and entrepreneurial drive of a sales person. But with empathy/relationship building and well developed project management skills. If that wasn’t difficult enough to find, strong product knowledge and hands on operational experience is considered essential to the role.

Tier One People have had success sourcing talent from the UK and US markets which are more accustomed to this model.

Design Thinking For Hiring.

Our clients seem to be experiencing better outcomes by adopting a design thinking approach to hiring. Over the last year we have been working with a small group of trusted clients on a new approach to recruitment. It has been so successful that two clients saved close to $500,000.

If you would like to find out more, get in touch to organise a consultation.

FinTech Talent Hot Spots in 2019

 2019 is shaping up to be a HUGE year for FinTech in Australia. But where is all the FinTech Talent to help you grow your business?

Together with our partners, clients and good old market research we have compiled a list of the most in demand skills. FinTech startups can’t match the salaries of well capitalised businesses and often struggle to hire the talent they need. We have excluded startup data from our research and have focussed on companies series A and beyond.

Sales Directors.

Banking and Financial Services Software companies have big plans in 2019. Established banks will look to defend their position as Australia goes Neo Bank crazy. Large international players now see Australia as a major strategic play as open banking puts Australia on the map for innovation.

New banks means new clients requiring core banking systems, lending platforms, security, CRM, Analytics. An endless list!

Sadly, there is a serious lack of sales talent out there. Expect to pay $180,000 as a base salary for anyone with 5 years-experience enterprise software/SaaS sales. But don’t expect too much in return for your money. Most sales people change companies every 12 – 18 months. In an environment where deals can take anywhere from 6 -18 months to complete, even at $180,000 you won’t get a deal closer.

If you are looking to grow your FinTech business by hiring someone who can close deals with Banks and Financial Institutions, expect to fork out $220,000 plus bonus, benefits and LTI, if you want to see results. Take a look at this advert as an example.

Head of Partnerships.

FinTech’s with a B2B or B2B2C model require Account Directors who can win new business and act as the link between the tech team and client. So, they created the Head of Partnerships role.

Part Business Development, part Account Management, to secure the best people for this type of role you are looking $180,000 – $200,000 plus bonuses/benefits.

As this is a fairly new role to the Australian market, talent from advertising and media agencies can often present the best skills match. Alternatively we find talent from the US and UK are accustomed to this model and will often make the best hires.

Chief Growth Officer.

Are the days of the CMO numbered, a slow death by 1000 (job) cuts? Marketing today is all about growth – ROI and the numbers don’t lie!

Sales and Marketing, especially in B2B models is returning back to its origins, one integrated and seamless function. The revenue generating engine room of the business. The challenge lies in finding people with a broad base of experience, that encompasses Product, Sales Pipeline, Digital Marketing, PR and Brand.

$225,000 plus super and bonuses is the starting point for a capable CGO who will deliver results. Expect to pay more depending on the size and scale of the role.

Senior Product Managers.

Judging by the feedback from clients and the market, it seems many FinTech’s are considering a pivot or growth into new markets. We have held a number of discussions over the last 90 days with clients looking for a similar profile. A Head of Product Development who can change Product teams focused on process ( and who seem convinced that applying Agile methodology solves everything) into product development teams shipping product that sells.

The right person typically comes from an engineering background. They break the mould by demonstrating commercial acumen/results and an ability to change the behaviours and beliefs of product teams.

Expect to pay anywhere from $180,000 plus benefits and bonus for this type of person. Our research suggests they will be in big demand 2019, no doubt the figure will rise.

Cyber Security.

As the challenger banks officially launch in 2019, the thing that keeps CEO’s awake at night (apart from trying to get a license) is security. Ironically, the best Cyber Security people I know don’t class themselves as Cyber Security specialists. They are risk experts.

If you are on the hunt for a Cyber Security specialist expect to pay big dollars. Or go to the source, Eastern Europe and hire the people who are your potential threat!

Developers and Engineers.

No change there, each year it gets harder. I heard Google recently paid an engineer in London a $3m salary. Expect to pay what you have to pay to get the right person. It is extreme, but we have plans underway to help the FinTech community access top development talent on reasonable salaries!

Data Science.

AI continues to be the buzzword of 2019. Will it follow the same path as Blockchain? Business leaders are beginning to recognise the limitations of Ai and the potential business issues it can cause.

Instead of replacing humans, the buzzword of 2019 will be ‘augmentation’ as we seek to automate mundane tasks. The emphasis will be on machine learning. Hardly ground breaking, we have been doing that in the workplace since the industrial revolution!

Still, a great data scientist will cost around $150,000 in 2019. And if you want a genuine AI/ML specialist, our research team is scouring the universities and colleges around the world.