How Banks Survive the Great Resignation

Finance has gone digital, but so has everything else. With no end to the engineer shortage in sight, how can banks attract the talent they need?

How Banks Survive the Great Resignation

The US has long bemoaned engineer shortages. Staying competitive and secure in the global economy requires skilled workers at the forefront of science and technology, after all.

But we’re seeing a shortage like never before.

Four million Americans quit their jobs in April 2021, just a fraction of the 41% who plan to do so this year. Burned out from working through COVID-19 mandates and emboldened by the talent shortage it kicked off, workers now find it easy to leave employers in search of better pay and working conditions.

Dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, it’s the reason many industries now struggle to fill empty positions and keep hires on staff. Development teams, and the financial institutions that depend on them, are some of the hardest hit.

However, the dearth of engineers in tech has a longer history. To address today’s hiring struggles, it’s important to understand what contributed to them in the past.

Tech’s Historical Talent Shortages

Even pre-pandemic, 67% of tech leaders reported that a skills shortage was preventing their organization from keeping up with changing technology. Not having enough engineers was already halting innovation, slowing business growth, and weakening competitive edges.

The problem wasn’t a lack of applicants. In 2018, employers reported 43 tech applicants per hire. The problem was a lack of qualified candidates.

Software development roles were, and still are, the most difficult to fill. In fact, 61% of HR professionals in one survey said their biggest recruitment challenge in 2021 is finding qualified developers.

Yet, the number of software developers has grown consistently since 2018, with 24.5 million developers worldwide in 2020. That number is expected to reach 27.7 million by 2023. 

Where are all these developers hiding? Perhaps it’s an issue of demand.

Fortune 500 companies today need to hire droves of engineers just to maintain basic digital products. Job search engines routinely see over 100,000 tech job posts a week. Giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon account for hundreds each.

How The Shortage Bodes Well for Banks

What we’re seeing today isn’t really all that new. Ten years ago, Google, Amazon, and Facebook were pilfering engineers from companies like IBM.

Now, while the FAANG companies compete to staff thousands of positions, global funding for new ventures and tech startups is up over 157% compared to 2020. With competitive salaries and fewer seats to fill, startups and smaller agencies might just have what it takes to lure talent away from established corporations.

Talented engineers want to be a part of the leading edge of technology. With ample funding and less political baggage and bureaucracy, startups and agencies are now luring talent away from the tech giants.

Exciting opportunities to work in crypto, cybersecurity, and especially AI also attract developers when compared to the broad project scopes for similar pay in corporate tech. Fortunately, this puts financial institutions in a good position to attract talent.

What Banks Have to Offer Developers

With exciting projects and narrower scopes, financial institutions attract developers looking for more autonomy in their work. Whether hiring directly or through an agency, banks can easily tap into the best talent pools for high quality engineers.

When it comes to hiring, of course, American banks have to contend with numerous hurdles. They can only hire within the US, for example, taking into account requirements like KYC, security, and risk reduction. This limits their talent pool.

To overcome these challenges, banks should consider what we already know about the history of engineer shortages. They can address the most common issues by: 

  • creating attractive opportunities for engineers
  • changing the way financial institutions hire, train, reskill and upskill developers
  • working with partners who can circumvent hiring hurdles

Using one or a combination of these approaches will help banks hire and keep development talent.

The Way We Attract and Retain Talent is Changing

The Great Resignation forced employers to reconsider hiring and retention strategies. Today’s talent craves flexibility and autonomy as much as it wants competitive pay and benefits.

To compete, financial institutions must find ways to be agile when it comes to sourcing qualified software developers. Outsourcing to companies and agencies like Kunai is one solution. Smaller talent-acquiring units can move quickly and don’t have to contend with the same hiring limitations as banks.

Once acquired, training, upskilling, and reskilling that talent is key to retention. Next up, we’ll discuss how developer education is changing and how banks can get in on the action.



Sandeep: Tell me a bit about the early part of your career.

Tom: I spent a decade helping to build start-ups focused on application and database software. This was where I learned how to sell and do business development. I was fortunate to be part of one company going public and another being sold to IBM.

Sandeep: What is something you learned during this time that helped you with consulting?

Tom: I began to appreciate how different customers achieved varying levels of success with the same foundational technology. This made me understand just how critical getting your team and process right can be.

Sandeep: This is something I only came to appreciate years into consulting, especially after the sale of my first consultancy to Capital One.I saw teams in different parts of the company trying to solve challenges like real-time messaging. Same corporate culture, same technology, same internal support mechanisms. Night and day outcomes.

Tom: We saw a lot of the same thing after selling our practice to EMC (sold to Dell in 2015). This is probably the thing I'm most proud of when it comes to the teams I've helped to build: the ability to perform well in a variety of contexts, sometimes in ways that inspires the client team to up their game as well.

Sandeep: Yes. It's particularly cool to see your team succeed in individual ways after an skills definitely translate into the corporate environment.

Tom: Totally. We have people who've stayed on at Dell and risen up the ranks, while others took the opportunity to become successful executives at other Fortune 100 companies....or to start their own agencies and startups.

Sandeep: We've both been around a while. My first consulting project was a Y2K thing for Cisco back in 1998. You've been around a little longer than that :). How do you think consulting has changed most during the past five years?

Tom: I think because there is so much infrastructure available now, consulting has become more delivery and outcome-oriented. A better blend of strategic and tactical. Public Cloud has also enabled velocity to increase at a pace unfathomable 5 years ago.

Sandeep: What has stayed the same?

Tom: It's still mostly about people. People who thrive on change and are focused on their personal and professional development. I love that this has not and will not's what I love about consulting.

Sandeep: I know you're adjusting your work style to COVID. You're still a dude who clearly prefers to drive an hour for a socially-distanced hike or outdoor meeting over Zoom any day of the week :) But personal styles aside, what is specifically compelling about a remote agency during the era of COVID?

Tom: Kunai has been remote for years, which gives them an inherent advantage. There is something about the communication and management styles that just works in a way that other organizations are still figuring out.

Sandeep: Yeah, I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that remote work isn't just office work over Zoom. it's an entirely new paradigm. There needs to be an understanding for asynchronous efficiency...and this just takes time and effort to develop. How do you approach remote work and family? What are you learning about separating work and personal time?

Tom: No matter what the form of interaction, Focus. Be present. Quality over quantity. The best weeks are the weeks where I proactively schedule work and personal time. Neil (Kunai's Head of Delivery) shared a great quote with me "With discipline comes freedom." When I am proactively addressing the majority of my professional and personal commitments, I find I earn a little flexibility. A little freedom.

Sandeep: Tell us about a business hero of yours that I may not have heard of before.

Tom: Paul O'Neill is someone you may not know. His work in both the public and the private sector created a profound impact

Sandeep: We are both over forty years old :). How have you learned how to work smarter during the past decade or so? What do you wish you knew about consulting when you were 25 that you know now?

Tom: Consultants want to make lasting change. Lasting change is often not the act of a single person. Today I work much harder bringing others along on the journey.

Sandeep: Last question. What are you doing here? :) Why join a small consulting company this late in your career when you could have a cushy job somewhere else?

Tom: I love a good challenge personally and professionally. When I turned 40, I decided I would run a 10K every Thanksgiving weekend and try to have my finishing time be less than my age. With the exception of one year where I did not run due to a health issue, I have met the goal. I also recently completed the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race. So, I guess I'm here because I'm a glutton for punishment :) Jokes aside, our customers have a job to do and I intend to put Kunai in a position to execute flawlessly on their behalf. I love committing jointly to audacious goals for our customers and our business.

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