Recruiting for Next-Generation Finance Skills

The future of recruiting for professionals with the right finance skills isn't really about replacing human beings but about making humans smarter.
Brian PeccarelliNovember 30, 2016

The recruiting wish list for today’s corporate finance professional has fundamentally changed. The long list of credentials with top-ranked schools and companies and the connections to industry groups and peers—once the tried and true measures of candidate suitability—have taken a back-seat to highly specialized skills and technology expertise in areas like big data and cognitive computing. These criteria didn’t even exist five years ago and don’t really shine through on a résumé.

Given that, what are the key criteria that set apart today’s top candidates, and how can companies hope to find them? It’s a question that those of us in the financial technology space wrestle with daily. We’re hiring people who we hope will be able to solve tomorrow’s business challenges; they must be able to also address the practical demands of today’s market.

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The fact is, for every futurist’s forecast that robots will soon replace human finance and accounting professionals, the technology firms at the center or the robo-revolution can’t hire human financial technologists fast enough. For example, in my business we have an average of 34 technology roles open at any given time. On an industry-wide basis, there are currently four open positions for every technologist currently employed in the U.S.

The reason for this, of course, is that the future is not really about replacing human beings; it’s about making humans smarter. To get there, we need technologists with the domain expertise to build new breakthroughs, but also the soft finance skills to navigate corporate culture and identify client pain points as we all move through a period of massive change. It’s a unique challenge that upsets the status quo in recruiting.

The fact is, many technologists have stopped updating their LinkedIn profiles because they are tired of being contacted by so many recruiters.

Creating the Talent Pipeline

financial skill set

Brian Peccarelli BrianPThomson, wealth transfer

That’s why you’re more likely to find our recruiters at hackathons, college campuses, tech meet-ups, and industry conferences than in the office sifting through résumés or drafting job ads. You’ll also find them spending less time talking with candidates about specific technologies and previous career milestones and more about problem solving. This is an important pivot from the way recruiting was managed for financial technology professionals even five years ago.

With jobs in this field so plentiful, candidates can afford to be picky. They don’t want just great pay and benefits; they want to feel like they are playing a part in changing the world. For a business like ours, which is focused on tax technology for large corporations, accounting firms, and state and federal governments, that means focusing on the tangible impact of our work on global trade; advancing property rights in developing nations; and affecting change in the financial system.

These higher order values are just as critical—if not more so—to today’s financial technologists as a benefits package or even a specific job description. Thus, the first priority in creating a talent pipeline in the space is to be able to clearly and consistently demonstrate that the work won’t just be interesting but will also serve a larger purpose.

Today’s X-Factor: Learning Agility

The candidate vetting process has changed too. Referrals, awards, experience—they all still matter, but the magic ingredient we’re really looking for in today’s financial technology professionals is a bit harder to quantify. We call it “learning agility,” and it is a measure of how quickly and effectively a person can learn a new concept and successfully apply it to a business challenge. It requires a combination of deep domain expertise to quickly identify potential solutions, but also soft skills like the ability to communicate and empathize to find the best path to completion.

We also include real-world challenges in the hiring process, incorporating our own programming and development tests alongside traditional interviews to evaluate a technologist’s expertise in true-to-life scenarios.

The collective result of all of this is a much more nuanced, holistic view of both the candidate and our own company, one that weaves the hard and soft aspects of the work into the overall hiring equation. At a time when many companies are suggesting that the rise of technology will decrease the need for people, we’re seeing a very different trend emerge. Technology is indeed changing the profile of the people we’re looking for and dramatically impacting the way in which we find them, but it has not changed the fact that we still need them, perhaps now more than ever.

Brian Peccarelli is president of Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.

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