Do FinTechs steal specialists from banks?

Photo by Jeffrey Blum on Unsplash

Recruiter’s theft or maybe the marauding recidivists recruiting the best specialists in the financial industry? We are witnessing fierce competition for talent between FinTechs and banks. This trend proves that FinTechs are saturated with specialists in the area of traditional banking and vice versa, employing innovators for giant banks facing the challenges of digital transformation. A conflict of interest blown by the media, a mutual drive to act, or a constant race for talents?

The FinTech industry, thanks to its flexible approach, is a response to the contemporary needs of consumers, which more and more often refer to social issues. FinTech in Poland is developing very dynamically. The last year has been a time full of challenges, especially business ones – nevertheless, a positive aspect can be noticed, i.e. the growth of this sector. The industry currently has about 300 companies, mainly in the field of non-cash payments. According to the UBS Bank’s projection, FinTechs` revenues are to total as much as USD 500 billion in 2030.

Do you prefer to work in a FinTech or a bank?

In September, Chris Skinner, the legend of the financial world, posted an entry referring to a video in his blog in which J.P. Morgan encourages professionals to choose the bank as a place of career development, not the FinTech sector. IT Directors, Mike Blandina (formerly an employee of PayPal and Google) and Eisar Lipkovitz (previously employed at Google and Lyft) encourage young talents to work in the largest bank in the world, arguing that their global impact is scalable just like in Google, and access to data is unlimited.

Skinner, now living in Poland, also recalls his conversation with Bill Wallace, Head of Digital, J.P. Morgan Chase, who told him: “If you work in a cool startup, you might be enjoying it. You can like your job, and have an impact on other people’s lives, depending on the industry, but you need customers so that the magnitude of the impact is significant. Banks have this potential and offer that value. Additionally, if you work with intelligent colleagues, you know that cloud-based technologies and AI, as well as Machine Learning, need a lot of data. We have it”.

Competition or synergy?

Industry specialists talk not only about competition but also about cooperation between FinTechs and banking understood traditionally.

Source: LinkedIn

Agnieszka Kulikowska, Senior Partner of Page Executive and a Member of the Board of Michael Page mentions the diversity of FinTechs. Some of them are organizations that compete with banks or insurance companies, although they cooperate with them as often as, for example, payment companies. “We have garage startups, Polish, where Venture Capital is at stake, but also VISA and Mastercard, which also position themselves as FinTechs,” – says Agnieszka Kulikowska. “Working with both smaller and larger players, we see in Michael Page a lot of cooperation between these entities”. She emphasizes that what FinTechs have in common is the fact that, together with banks, they create product offers, because they often fall into areas unprofitable in the long run for banking.

Maturation of startups

Source: LinkedIn

Specialists, especially those dealing with bank digitization, are extremely valued on the market. The situation is commented on by Paulina Skrzypińska, Chief Innovation Officer from BNP Paribas Bank: We are currently seeing many interesting, cross-sector transfers, for example to e-commerce or startups themselves (not only FinTechs). On the other hand, we also deal with co-founders who leave the startup and join the bank for a longer period. Szymon Malecki, Founder and Managing Consultant at Malecki Executive Search calls the process we are witnessing “the maturation of FinTechs”. They are starting to exit the startup phase, stabilize and grow. Therefore, there are greater needs in the field of senior management than before.

“I would rather say that what we see more, on a scale that has never been before, is precisely a matter of cooperation. Of course, there are frictions in the transfer of staff from one area to another,” – comments Kulikowska. Skrzypińska has a similar opinion: “These types of transfers are not only necessary but also prove the high maturity of both parties. It also bodes well for the development of the Polish economy”.

Particularly desirable areas: Risk and Compliance

Source: LinkedIn

“Like it or not, FinTechs often operate on regulated markets, and thus have to meet the regulator’s requirements,” – emphasizes Malecki. “And they attach particular importance to the area of Risk and Compliance. That is why we see a very high demand for experienced specialists and managers in the areas managed in banks by the CRO”.

Agnieszka Kulikowska echoed this observation and added: “We are observing a growing trend in the field of acquiring specialists to create a product offering, marketing, and digital area, who are taken over from e-commerce. These people are very valuable to financial institutions. Recruitment projects also apply to people in finance and HR, who help prepare companies for further growth. Business Development Directors within various business lines are profiles that are also in great demand”.

Young startups and mature FinTechs drive innovation in banking

At BNP Paribas Bank, as Paulina Skrzypińska says, from the very beginning, they treat young innovative companies as partners and as priority customers. This includes thanks to cooperation with Migam, they can efficiently service deaf customers, and thanks to cooperation with Autenti (in which they have reinvested), they effectively digitize the Bank and enable customers to remotely and securely sign documents online, without the need to visit a branch during many processes. “In addition, as the only Bank in Poland, we have dedicated advisors to service the finances of innovative companies and a lending policy that allows us to support them, also financially,” – she emphasizes.

Source: LinkedIn

Patrycja Skwiot-Włodarska, Recruitment Manager at HRO Digital, a Recruitment Agency focusing on Finance and IT, confirms that: “Providing innovative financial solutions in the context of modern technologies is a standard now. The spectrum of FinTech interests is extensive, including banking, blockchain, and cybersecurity. The cooperation between large financial institutions and FinTechs will continue to evolve due to the transformation of the industry that is driven by them”.

She emphasizes that a recruiter from this area must be constantly aware of the importance of broadening the spectrum of skills. She adds that the team she manages is up to date with FinTech novelties, and follows trends related to new technologies to support the customers for whom they are recruiting employees in partnership relations.

In turn, Agnieszka Kulikowska admitted that we see synergy in terms of cooperation between FinTechs and banks, although competition for candidates also occurs, hence recruiters and headhunters in this industry have a lot to do.

What is the advantage of working in FinTech, and what professions are rewarded?

“FinTechs are very attractive to candidates,” – says Malecki. “They offer a non-corporate environment, interesting challenges, and often a much greater impact of a given person’s actions on the result than in traditional financial institutions,” – sums up Malecki.

When asked about trends, Agnieszka Kulikowska mentions several variables. “Certainly, there is a great demand for people in the field of technology in FinTechs, as well as in banking and everywhere else on the market”. Everyone is looking for IT specialists wherever they can. People involved in R&D, software development, security, and infrastructure are appreciated. When we talk about the profession of the future, the expert drew attention to competencies related to the area of ​​AI, Big Data, Machine Learning, and designing cloud solutions. She emphasizes the fact that not every person from a large bank or insurance company who has been managing by delegation so far will find a job in a more startup or hands-on environment. However, she adds that in her career she has encountered cases where someone did not have this experience but found himself/herself well in such an environment – it is a matter of attitude and willingness to “roll up your sleeves”, working close to people and processes.

The Page Executive expert notes that the demand of foreign organizations for Polish staff is significantly increasing in the case of roles with regional and global responsibility. “This is a very important trend that has been developing for several years – and is now definitely getting stronger. We recruit people for positions such as CFO, COO, CMO, or their subordinate functions with responsibility for many markets, looking for the best staff in the European market at the same time. Candidates from Poland are increasingly winning these executive search processes. These are people employed for strategic positions, with responsibility for making decisions, not only their operational implementation. This is a great development opportunity for our native managers,” – she emphasized. “At the local level, we are looking for Country Managers for scaleups and startups”.

Patrycja Skwiot-Włodarska, asked about the profession of the future, claims that: “With the growing interest in FinTech, a lot of job offers have been created, we are looking for fraud specialists, FinCrime data engineers. As professionals of the future, I would classify blockchain developers (very much in demand on the market today), cloud specialists that allow for the storage of extensive data, and robotics specialists, which are increasingly used in banking operations,” – she says. As for the specific competencies that customers reward when looking for candidates for FinTechs, Skwiot-Włodarska mentioned: flexibility in action, analytical thinking skills, digital competencies, multitasking, and communication skills.

Synergy and competition at the same time: drive for both entities

In the area of the interests of traditional banking, it is to acquire the most innovative solutions that FinTechs are working on because without this drive, banks would stand still. Yes, they are giants, they have resources, and they have a lot of data, but “synergy”, which is often buying solutions that would be unprofitable for a bank to implement from scratch, is the only solution for traditional entities that want to digitize and equip themselves with the most desirable technologies.

On the other hand, as Agnieszka Kulikowska said, cooperation is possible, although there is fierce competition for candidates as well. One thing is certain: the race for talents and the best specialists never ends: it is them, not banks or FinTechs, who are in the best position. They can talk about attractive pay packages and choose the best solutions for their career advancement at the moment. However, a possible economic slowdown may affect the situation in the market in the coming months.

Nothing stands in the way of maneuvering in their career between giants and the enormity of opportunities, and then in an informal atmosphere try to scale the most abstract and innovative solutions and offer them to entities from which they came out. Exactly like Blandina and Lipkovitz, mentioned at the beginning, who finally settled in J.P. Morgan. Then the knowledge of the industry and the needs of huge banking giants is appreciated: such a specialist knows best what the needs of both FinTech players and traditional banking have.

Let’s face it: startups or larger FinTech companies are dependent on the resources and scalability of giant banks. If only for these reasons, “synergy through competition” is in the interest of both entities.


The topic of the relationship between the FinTech sector and traditional banking will be an important part of the debates of the financial community during the Annual CEE SME Banking Club Conference in Prague, which will take place on November 25. Magazyn Rekruter is the media patron of the event.