Tier One People launch Fintech advisor service to give founders the support they need, when they need it most.
Getting the wrong people on board can be fatal for any startup.
Access to the right people, investors and partners is the biggest challenge facing any founder.
And hiring is also the one challenge most founders are least equipped for.
When we interviewed 300 plus founders, less than 1% have a background in HR, talent or recruitment.
And of the 300 plus Fintech we have assessed, fewer than 10% have any HR expertise in their business sub 30 people.
Yet over 90% of founders stated finding the right people was their number one challenge. And more than 50% said bad hiring decisions had set the business back.
Recruitment agencies aren’t set up for startups.
The traditional recruitment model is too expensive for startups. We’ve seen so many startups waste valuable capital on recruiter fees.
The results of using a recruiter are mostly underwhelming and we only ever advise clients to use specialist recruiters for specialist roles. We believe startups should do as much hiring as they can themselves.
Here’s the big problem though. Hiring is complex, yet most founders think it is easy, until it’s too late and they have made some really bad hiring decisions.
It only takes one bad hire to ruin the culture.
The reverse is also true. On rockstar hire can be the catalyst to hiring an all-star team, without getting a recruiter involved.
We believe the solution to helping founders scale doesn’t lie in us filling jobs, but in offering our support, expertise and guidance throughout the growth journey.
So, due to demand from the Fintech community we offer a far more affordable solution to using recruitment firms with the launch of our Advisory Service.
How much faster could you grow your business if you had access to the right people?
Tier One People’s Fintech advisor service gives founders the support they need, when they need it most.
It’s been designed to help founders navigate the early stages of growth, from seed round to series B.
On an affordable monthly subscription model, founders get access to all of the experience and expertise we’ve built in helping FIntech scale effectively.
Clients also get to tap into one of the most comprehensive networks in Fintech. We’ll connect you in to the right partners, advisors and investors.
Plus we’ll promote your business on the the FinTech Australia Podcast that is listened to by execs from banks, financial institutions and investors from Australia, UK, US and Asia.
One client recently saved $150,000 with just a 30-minute phone call!
Tier One People Announce An Exciting Partnership with Patona.
Tier One People has partnered with Patona Technologies to offer an affordable tech talent solution, helping Fintech scale not fail. Patona provides highly experienced and skilled tech talent at a fraction of the cost associated with hiring in Australia.
Starting life as a bootstrapped startup, Patona saw amazing success by running the majority of its business from India with minimal investment. Patona now has over 100 staff developing, supporting and scaling Fintech across Australia.
Tier One People is proud to partner with Patona, helping our clients scale affordably. At such a mission-critical time for the industry, we feel cutting costs is essential to keep Fintech innovation alive in Australia.
Managing Partner at Patona is Simon Lee, Co-Founder of Assembly Payments. Simon has built several tech companies and has raised over $70m during his time as a founder. Dexter Cousins interviewed Simon for the FinTech Australia Podcast recently.
“When I was running Assembly, if we hired tech talent with Fintech experience, they would charge us a premium. You go to India and there’s Mastercard, Visa, many of the European Banks and many international Fintech giants. All of them with large development teams of highly skilled and educated people. The reality is Patona offers clients talent with 10-15 years experience at Mastercard at a fraction of the cost for someone in Australia with 3 years experience. The talent we have working for us at Patona have built apps and platforms at scale, several times over.”
Shared Mission and Vision.
Tier One People and Patona share the same values and vision for Fintech in Australia. We want to see Fintech scale, not fail.
A Fintech leaders no1 challenge is people and the unsustainable salaries demanded by Mid-Snr level tech talent. Candidates with a few years experience demand higher salaries than a founder. Even if a startup can hire overseas talent, people quickly raise their salary expectations once they have minimal experience in the local market.
As an example, we approached a senior architect who wanted $250,000 pa to leave their current role, 12 months ago they wanted $120,000. We don’t believe offering skilled migrant Visas is a viable solution right now due to COVID. And we question if it is a long term solution, especially when we see remote working so well for all of our clients.
Helping Fintech Scale Not Fail.
What Fintech founders in Australia have achieved so far is nothing short of remarkable given the challenges and costs of securing highly experienced tech talent. We believe that by utilising high quality, highly experienced, low-cost outsourced tech talent more Fintech jobs will be created onshore. Put simply we expect this solution will see more Fintech’s scale and fewer Fintech’s fail.
Australian entrepreneurs are not short of ideas, attitude, drive or intelligence. But they do face tougher challenges around access to talent, capital and local economics that make success more difficult to attain than their UK or US counterparts.
Enabling founders to focus on execution and not on raising capital should result in an increase of early-stage Fintech scaling and building sustainable businesses. Without the need to keep raising equity and diluting their ownership.
Tier One People has tried many different service models and pricing structures to make hiring developers and tech talent more affordable. But we simply can not come up with a better, more affordable recruitment solution than Patona. It makes perfect sense for us to partner with them and offer our clients a much faster and affordable path to growth.
To discuss how we can help you scale affordably …..
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.
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 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.
Find out just what skills you need in this exclusive interview with Eric Wilson, CEO of neo Bank Xinja.
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.
Tier One People interviewed over 150 leaders in 2019 on how to scale a Fintech. We found less than 1% of founders have a background in HR/People. And only 10% of Fintech startups we interviewed have a dedicated HR/People professional in place.
It stands to reason that with no HR and hiring expertise, startups are at putting themselves at great risk when it comes to hiring, retention, performance and culture.
We have put together the best bits of advice from the 100 founder interviews to help you scale your Fintech startup and avoid the growing pains.
Plan before hiring.
It is a worrying fact that founders put way more thought, effort, planning and commitment into raising capital than hiring. The two are intertwined, without a great team you will struggle to raise the capital to grow.
A well thought out people strategy should be part of your business plan from day one. If you are promising to deliver cutting edge technology and don’t have the talent on board to deliver, you will fail your investors.
Our research shows three distinct phases of growth for a Fintech.
Startup: 1 – 49 People
Scaleup: 50 – 300 People
Blitz Scale: 300 People with global growth
Getting from 1 – 50 people can seem easy. But this is where all future growth and cultural problems are created. So it is essential to get phase one right if you plan to avoid the growing pains and scale effectively.
Each stage requires a different people strategy. But for the purpose of this article we are going to focus on the Startup phase.
And if you are a startup, please don’t just copy the Netflix, Google, Amazon or Facebook strategy. These are some of the largest businesses in the world with unlimited resources, you are a startup.
Finding great people can be easy – hiring them is not.
If you are running a Fintech startup, finding the time to recruit yourself is tough and using recruitment companies is expensive. Technology and social media have made finding potential candidates a lot easier. The challenge lies in engaging, assessing and hiring the right people.
Think of potential hires as customers.
Why would a top performer be interested in working with you? What is unique about you and the business you are creating? Just as you have created a brand to attract the right customers, create a brand that attracts the right employees.
Develop a list of core values.
If you are the business owner/founder, honesty is critical for this process to work. It is important that you look at your values and behaviour, as they ultimately define the company culture.
‘The culture of any organisation is determined by the worst behaviour the CEO is prepared to tolerate, in themselves and others.’
Evan Wong, CEO of award winning Regtech startup Checkbox had this to say;
Culture has the biggest impact on retaining talent, especially if you’re a startup. If you’re a startup with a crap culture, then you are a crap business and a crap place to work. As founders you need to work out exactly what your culture is going to be.
Get your vision, your purpose and your values set early days. The values of your company must flow from the values of the founders. I feel very strongly about this.
A startup business is very different to a scaleup. At each step you require different people with different skills, expertise and experience. Often times the people required to build a business are not the same people required to grow the business.
Early employees will have a shorter life cycle with the business and that is natural. When things do turn bad is usually when people hang around too long because of loyalty. You need to plan how the business will grow and the skills, experience and people you need to deliver each growth stage.
In the early stages of growth it is often better to hire on skills over culture fit, especially in the short term when delivery is critical to the survival of the business.
Create opportunity descriptions – Not job descriptions.
The person you need to hire is likely to be in a great role already. Moving to a smaller business just to do the same job is not a compelling proposition.
A great way around this challenge is to create an opportunity NOT a job. Rather than creating a job description, listing daily tasks and responsibilities. Try creating an opportunity description, with a set of goals, targets and accomplishments to be achieved within a specific time-frame. For example:
Within the first six months implement a new billing system with full integration of sales systems and no bugs or errors.
Within the first 12 months have hired and groomed a potential successor into your role, enabling your advancement into a managerial position.
Within 18 months have contributed to cost savings in the business of $100,000 by identifying outsourcing and automation opportunities.
Incentivising each milestone with bonus, equity or promotion will make the opportunity even more compelling.
Get absolutely clear on the type of person you want to hire.
You know what the new hire needs to accomplish. Now build a picture of the ideal person for the business. What qualities, behaviours and values will they demonstrate on a consistent basis? What characteristics are required to be a success in the business? What is the dynamic of the current team?
Contemplate where your new hire fits in the business 6 months, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years from now.
Use your networks.
Approximately 90% of Tier One People hires come via our networks. It costs nothing and candidates come pre-endorsed, massively reducing time and massively decreasing the risks of making the wrong hire.
Linkedin is an excellent platform to generate candidate leads. But posting “We’re Hiring. Looking for Rockstar developers” and expecting results is madness. It’s just lazy marketing.
Creating thought leadership content is the way forward. Our own content strategy generates 20 inbound enquiries per day from high-calibre, relevant talent.
Engaging your network via content is the way to go.
If you do decide to ask people for recommendations and referrals, the most effective way is to ask for their opinion.
Rather than ask
“Who is available?”
“If you were looking to hire someone to help you do blank, who is the first person you would approach?”.
Ask your clients.
Everybody loves to help out a smaller business. Contact your clients and ask if they can recommend someone. You get an opportunity to call them about something and subtly advertise the fact you are growing and successful. Great PR and you may find your next hire.
Advertise fulfilment, not the job.
We use job boards as only one possible channel to attract talent. And it isn’t that effective for specialist roles and in demand talent. If you do decide to go down the job board route, the quality copy in your ad will determine your success. Most job ads suck because they just list a heap of responsibilities.
When writing the ad try to put yourself in a potential hires shoes. What would attract them to this opportunity and your business? Don’t advertise the job itself but the opportunity.
While most people will state that work/life balance, money, an equity stake, location, benefits, free bar or ping pong tables as attractions – the biggest attraction is the challenge or opportunity to make a difference.
Present potential hires with a compelling vision to create their legacy.
If you decide to advertise your opportunities on job boards, expect to receive lots of irrelevant applicants. It can be a lottery finding the right person using traditional advertising methods. However, by positioning your ad this way you will increase the chances of attracting the right person.
The blue-eyed unicorn will not come looking for you.
It is highly likely you will need to proactively search if you want great people to join your startup. Tier One People is a Search business. We have to go out and find the right people and tap them on the shoulder. In many searches we may approach 100 people or more before we find the right match. Head Hunting is an art and there are certain steps you can follow that will make you more effective. Here are some of the basics:
Use a CRM tool.
Linkedin’s recruiterlite solution for AUS $150 per month may be a good option. But not everyone is an active user of Linkedin and responses to emails from the platform run at about a 10% hit rate (in my experience). You could use your current CRM or plain old Excel to track potential targets. There are loads of free cheap tools out there like Hubspot, Insightly, Zoho. The best tool we have found for hiring is JobAdder and costs around $150 per month per user.
Get creative with your searches.
Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, any social media platform is a good way to find potential candidates. A plain old google search can bring up some great results too. If you are looking for developers, start communicating with people on sites such as Github. Follow this simple philosophy, fish where the fish are.
Follow up religiously.
If someone responds to your direct approach, make sure you answer back.
What if you approach people direct and there is no response? Send a polite follow-up email three days later. The initial email usually gets a 1/10 hit rate; the follow-up gets a 3/10 hit rate.
Want a 100% hit rate? Go old school, call reception and speak to the person, they will be impressed.
Connect even if you are not hiring.
If you are a Fintech founder, you should always be recruiting. Events and conferences are a great way to meet people who could be future employees. Most people you reach out to won’t be interested in a move, that is just how it is. In some instances, it is just a matter of timing. If you do find great people, you MUST start building a relationship.
Consider it a dating processl. Reach out every three months or so, invite people to office functions, connect on Linkedin, ask them for advice in their specialist area. Make them feel wanted and special, and when the time is right, they will ask you for a job. If you meet people at networking events, don’t connect and forget.
Don’t interview candidates.
When you go out on dates do you go armed with a bunch of questions and start interrogating your date? Or do you start the conversation with the intent of establishing a connection?
Approach recruitment like dating, and you are likely to hire people who are far better suited to your business. The whole aim of the interview is to connect with people on a human level, not interrogate them.
There is research to prove interviews are one of the least effective ways to identify suitable talent. It turns out that the skills required to do well in an interview are often not the skills required to be a success in the job.
Businesses are literally hiring the best ‘story teller’ and then wondering where it all went wrong. I highly recommend reading Work Rules! By Laszlo Bock (HR director of Google.)
You should aim for three interview stages (if it is a permanent hire.) One of those stages should involve potential colleagues/peers, ideally in a social setting. The goal is to ensure that everyone feels comfortable with each other.
In my experience, a technical test, presentation or pitch relevant to the position is the best indicator of potential. Treat this stage as an audition for the job. It takes planning, but it is well worth the effort.
Always go with your gut feel.
The only evidence I can give to support this advice is that I have never met anyone who regretted going with their gut feel. However, I have met hundreds of people who have regretted going against it!
There is scientific data showing gut feel is our brain processing sensory data we are receiving from someone. What we are sensing is not congruent with what we are seeing. In other words, the person is telling us what we want to hear and isn’t necessarily sharing the full story.
Should I take references?
References provide limited insight into the potential success of a hire, unless you know the referee. A reference without context is useless, but a reference with context can be the difference between hiring a dud or a superstar.
If the references are not perfect, it may be that you need to have another discussion with the candidate. They could have concerns too, and it is better to give them a “get out of jail free card” so they can withdraw from the opportunity before it is too late.
And finally – If all else fails.
You could always contact Tier One People and ask for our help.
If you are a Fintech leader, you will probably agree that hiring great people can sometimes feel like an impossible task.
Since launching in 2016, Tier One People has interviewed hundreds of Fintech leaders. These frank discussions on the challenges of growing and scaling a startup sometimes can contradict the popular advice from Silicon Valley. We have researched and analysed the hiring strategies of Google, Facebook, Netflix and other tech firms and see some major flaws in following the strategies for a startup in Australia.
Let’s bust some hiring myths.
Hire for culture fit.
Katherine McConnell is Founder and CEO of Brighte. She is recognised as the Outstanding FinTech leader in Australia and was named in the Top 10 most influential women in Fintech globally.Katherine had this to say about hiring on culture fit.
Today we’re able to attract great people because of the brand, our investors and the fact we are a solid business. But a year ago, no one had heard of Brighte.
Attracting great people to a start-up is very difficult. You don’t have much leverage. Hiring based on values is nice but not always possible. Now Brighte is established we absolutely recruit on values and cultural alignment.
Initially I hired people based on technical expertise. I had to take a gamble on whether the person would work out or not. We just had to build the platform and get it done. The advice I was given was ‘hire slow, fire fast’ but in a startup sometimes you have to hire fast and fire slow. As a leader you have to make tough decisions.
Hire based on proven experience.
Martin McCann is CEO and Cofounder of Trade Ledger, winner of FinTech Startup of the year 2019. Trade Ledger is rapidly scaling with offices in Sydney and London.
We don’t focus on people’s experience or their background, we focus on whether or not they would fit well with the team or will they be disruptive in the team. We prefer to hire people with high potential or high propensity for success.
What we’ve found is interesting. People who are under-experienced, properly motivated and show high potential are a much better fit for this organisation than people who’ve got proven experience.
People with high potential fit the way we work. They want to get ahead quickly, they appreciate the opportunity to be able to contribute and to learn. And they understand the value it creates for them as an asset that differentiates them in the market.
Create a culture where there is no fear of failure.
Vincent Turner is Founder of Uno Home Loans. He is a Fintech veteran now on his third startup. Vincent spent five years in Silicon Valley, setting up the Valleys first ever Fintech Meetup.Vincent had this to say about failure.
We are a consumer focused fintech, so our culture is driven by discovery and big ideas. You can conduct focus groups, give customers a prototype, let them observe it, but that customer will act differently when you ship the product. To get to something that works is an act of discovery
The team is encouraged to come up with extraordinary ideas and to test them out. Then we make a frank evaluation of what worked and what didn’t. We don’t talk about failure at uno. Failure is when you are reckless in the way you try things. But an experimentation-led culture, where you can call out what works and what doesn’t, is the absolute mainstay for any customer centric business.
Millennials are hard to motivate.
George Lucas is CEO of Raiz Invest and ASX listed investment platform that helps people save and invest automatically. The app has been a big hit with millenials and George applies the same approach to customers as he does managing his team.
Raiz has gained a lot of traction with Millennials, more than 900,000 people have downloaded the app and we are managing more than $250 million in funds.
We have developed a lot of loyalty within our customer base. Engagement is key and we are always listening to our customers. If you look at our product development releases to date, some examples being Raiz Kids, Raiz Rewards, My Finance and most recently Raiz Super, it has all been driven by our customers.
Maybe the difficulties other finance companies experience tapping into the Millennial market are self-inflicted? Let’s face it, Financial Services in Australia is heavily dominated by middle-aged men. We have seen several instances in the last twelve months where young people feel the people in power are out of touch with the modern world.
Rather than lecturing our customers on whether they should spend their money on Avo and Toast, we are providing them with the tools to save for a home deposit, or a holiday, or their kids school fees. Millennials are no different to any other customer. Just listen, give them what they need and treat them with respect.
We have adopted the same approach with our people who seem to enjoy the challenges of a FinTech startup. I listen and provide my team with the tools to do their job. Then I let them get on with it. Its a very laid back environment, we don’t manage people, no one comes in to work in a suit and tie, we’re not that type of financial services organisation. We have a mutual respect for each other. And I am learning so much from our people. It’s a very young business, most of our people are under the age of 30. And they seem to be laughing a lot, so they can’t be that unhappy!
Startups can’t compete for exceptional talent.
Alex Badran is Co-Founder of Spriggy, Fintech Startup of the year. By adopting a Lean Startup approach to hiring, Spriggy has managed to assemble a diverse group of highly talented people, while bootstrapping the business.
We have brilliant people in the team and a very eclectic mix of backgrounds. My co-founder is a physicist and an electrical engineer. Our CTO has been building apps ever since apps were around. Our CMO is a software engineer, one of our software engineers has a medical degree and our customer success lead used to be a geneticist.
We have managed to hire remarkably talented people who are great people, not just intelligent. They work hard, they care about what they do, they care about the people around them and they care about our customers.
This might sound simple, but talented people want to work with talented people who share the same values and ethics. That’s it. Sure, our people have flexibility, equity and all the advantages of working in a startup, but they are not the key motivators for joining.
Our people really buy into the Spriggy mission too. I love coming to work, and I learn so much from our team, every day. They are just amazing to be around. I am sure it will become harder to hire exceptional people as we scale, but right now, hiring talent isn’t a challenge for us.
So, what is the best approach to hiring for a startup?
We wish there were a rule-book for hiring, but every business is different. The one thing all of our interviews have in common? Each leader took their own course and made their own decisions. None followed ‘the Google way’ or ‘the Amazon way’.
Our advice is to go with your gut feel. Instead of focusing on finding the perfect match, focus on the business problem you are trying to solve. You may find there are alternative solutions to hiring. Or as we find in most instances with clients, the person you think you want is not the person you need to hire.
If you are in the process of hiring and want to get some advice contact Dexter or Joanne, email@example.com