Talent, Fintech & Compliance

Many companies now expend a huge amount of time, effort and money finding the right cultural and technical fit when it comes to recruiting new members of a team and this is no more prevalent than in financial services and FinTech. In this post we will explore what it takes to source top compliance and financial crime risk management talent for FinTech.

You can have the best business plan, latest systems and whizzy offices but unless your people have the right culture, technical competencies and personal attributes you will struggle to create the effective and sustainable results many businesses crave. While it is not new, it is certainly worth re-iterating from a compliance perspective that people are both a critical part of any business framework but they are also a risk. We will examine insider and conduct risk in more detail in a later post but for now we will focus on finding the right talent for your team.

We turned to our friends from FinTech legal and compliance recruitment company Series B and their founder Will Pedley who has placed dozens of professionals in the sector for his insights:

Question: When you are speaking with clients do they know what they are looking for in a compliance or financial crime hire?

Most clients are pretty clued up on what they need, but always appreciate some guidance. Some, of course, are completely new to the market or the geography and will look for advice, such as level of experience required for their business, salary, benefits, flexibility (including contract or permanent). My advice to any client would be to hire experience first and build a team around them.

Question: In your experience have you had any challenges finding good quality candidates to fill compliance and financial crime risk management roles for FinTech and new payment firms?

If you’re looking for experience, you’ll certainly find a great variety of quality candidates in the market, both contract and permanent. The difficulty is finding the right culture fit. There are a lot of great FinTech companies to work for and the space is becoming harder to define so, depending on what a company is looking for, you can spread the net quite wide into areas such as Media, Regulation, Tech and Banking, in order to find the skills and mind-set your client needs.

Question: Are firms/clients still recruiting generalist compliance roles or are they focusing on financial crime as a specific topic?

It depends on the size of the company and the team. If you’re a start-up with limited funds and it’s difficult to tell what you might need, then you’ll typically go for a generalist who possibly has a strength in a key area. If you have the resources to allow an individual to focus their time on a specific area of compliance, then of course you’ll consider narrowing your search. In the US, for example, licensing experience is important for payments businesses, but in the UK I tend to be asked to look for generalists.

Question: Where does financial crime risk management and compliance feature on start-ups’ priority list?

From my experience, it’s a key requirement that most companies are willing to budget for as an internal function. Occasionally a start-up might look for a contractor to set up procedures and put systems in place. I work with a lot of companies who need a compliance officer when applying for a license in the UK, so it’s not really a choice. Wherever you are, geographically, there are plenty of FinTech events and meet-ups, so business leaders are becoming more aware of what’s required. Strong data and financial security are all features a business should promote, so you should find start-up companies are prioritising compliance alongside product advancement and marketing.

Question: Are there any personal qualities you look for in candidates that make them suitable for compliance roles in FinTech?

Without a doubt, I look for versatility. Value for money is as important in FinTech as it is anywhere else, so I’m always looking for someone who’s actively sought to gain experience in a variety of areas as I think that reflects on their personality and, culturally, is something companies are looking for. With digital and commercial skills constantly improving and the ease in which candidates can find and apply for new roles, you need to be able to stand out and I think a strong work ethic is simply something you have or you don’t. A good compliance professional will see the value in the work they do and actively seek to generate solutions for their company, rather than close doors.

Question: What sort of experience would you be looking for and do you look for any specific qualifications?

It depends on the location of the role and the size of the business. Legal and compliance is becoming more of a dual role, particularly at a senior level, and so a legal background is always a plus. In the US, as I’ve mentioned, licensing experience is great for payments companies and an understanding of NMLS. Generally, you can’t go far wrong with industry experience but, naturally, if you have more strings to your bow then you have more to offer a new business. To counter that, however, as with many roles there are the more mundane, day to day elements that are as important as the varied, exciting projects and cases. I need to be able to find someone comfortable with the day to day, which is a skill in itself.

Question: Generally, what are candidates looking for when they move into FinTech and payments – is it all about the money?

Quite the opposite, it’s rarely all about money. Sure, people need to pay their bills and have a life outside of work, but candidates who really understand the industry realise that there is a real opportunity there. Experienced candidates want excitement and variety and to work with cutting edge products, surrounded by intelligent, forward thinking people. Add to all that the stock options, dress down offices, saunas, table tennis, flexible working hours and company holidays… I’ve seen candidates halve their salary in order to find a good role with a FinTech business.

Question: What excites candidates and how does FinTech compete with the high salaries currently offered in traditional financial services?

Candidates know they’re part of the future by joining a challenger bank or payments company. Of course, banks, hedge funds and the like are all looking into new technologies and creating ‘innovation labs’ and a department of intrapreneurs to better understand the technology, but they’re still seen as a bank or hedge fund. Pure FinTech businesses, particularly the new generation, are nimble, creative and exciting with an aggressive marketing strategy. There are risks, such as lack of funding, but RBS have cut nearly 3,000 jobs this year. The salaries aren’t that bad, in fact they’re very competitive, so with all of the above plus bonuses, stock and additional benefits, FinTech companies have a great offering in comparison with traditional financial services.

Question: Any exciting developments or areas of focus in next 12 months?

Personally I think it’ll be exciting to see how the rise of the challenger banks starts to turn out, both in the UK and in Europe. I was at the PayExpo in London recently and there were some great discussions on what actually makes these banks any different to the ones millions of us already use. Starling have just been granted their license and guys like Mondo, Tandem and Atom are gaining a lot of interest. Will they offer something truly innovative and disruptive? Time will tell; but competition always brings about great ideas and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months brings. And of course, with more companies using digital wallets and holding more consumer funds and data, the focus on compliance, data security and financial crime prevention, increases.