Recruitment and challenger banks - Q&A with Tyzack's Stuart Hall

Rarely has a sector come under so much scrutiny as financial services has since the recession. That spotlight has led to other organisations venturing in to areas like banking and these co-called challenger banks have their own set of requirements when recruiting senior-level talent.

According to Stuart Hall, Partner at executive search firm Tyzack Partners, challenger banks are viewed as attractive employers because they’re new to the market and have no legacy issues attached to them.

Speaking to Executive Grapevine, Hall expanded on the issues surrounding challenger banks securing the talent they need to increase their share of the market.

What differences are there recruiting for a challenger as opposed to a more mainstream bank?

Within the c-suites of large organisations there is always somebody that will do things for them. Large organisations are generally complex and matrixed, consisting of different departments. Challenger banks don’t have the same infrastructure, money and ability to provide the ‘bells and whistles’ large institutions have, which creates demand for a candidate with more skills and layers.

For example, if recruiting for current accounts, you want someone who understands the current accounts landscape, so typically you’d go to the big retail banks. But then, you have to find someone who understands the base process, what the product is, what the customer wants, how to get that product in front of the customer and what the customer experience might look like etc., so you need far more from one person.

You can find someone who is head of current accounts easily, but finding someone who can operate in an environment that doesn’t have the supporting functions, and no legacy of how things are run behind it is more difficult.

Does this mean there is a specific skills set challenger banks are looking for?

Obviously the candidate must have knowledge of financial services, analytics and numbers, but we look at what the person has done before accounts, and whether they can convert that knowledge.

Personality is important too – the candidate has to be a bit of a risk taker, to want to leave a secure role and go into a small organisation that may or may not work – someone who can understand risk, quantify it and live to that level of risk.

They also need to be able to cope with the fast pace of change and customer service. We do a form of psychometric tests to look for both entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial characteristics.

How do recruiters ‘sell’ challenger banks to executives?

Aside from monetary gains, employees won’t have to deal with the same levels of bureaucracy found in large organisations. I’ve seen a higher percentage of those at the upper end of financial services who don’t want to work for a large bank because bureaucracy has gone mad – it’s too dictatorial.

What are the risks for the challenger banks themselves?

The risk is that you hire somebody who’s done very well at a large institution and then comes into a challenger bank and fails.

They fail because they can’t deal with rolling their sleeves up and doing things for themselves. They’ve always had support that has done it for them previously, which holds them back – they can’t change or develop new products quickly enough. It’s also a question of can they succeed quickly enough to not fail.

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