The changes in what a bank technologist must know and the need for innovation are creating skills gaps and even talent shortages, something that would have seemed unimaginable in the layoff-heavy environment of the past few years.
Opportunities reside in categories that are catching on rapidly such as mobility, open development, cloud computing, social networking, analytics, and advanced data management skills. Most of these skills weren't a part of traditional enterprise technology training, which was heavy on the knowledge needed to manage internally installed core systems.
"Over the course of time, all tech professionals need to focus in reskilling themselves to adopt to new technologies. This is evident in the technology in play in the banking industry," says Wayne Busch, managing director of Accenture's North American Banking Practice.
The overall job market for banking and bank IT appears relatively strong if not spectacular. Claymore Partners' most recent executive talent survey for financial services and consulting organizations, issued around Labor Day, says 44% of retail banks are planning strong or selective hiring for 2013, up from 40% in January and 29% in September 2011. Other financial services categories include consumer finance and payments, where 51% of companies plan to hire in 2013, down from 55% in January, but up from 42% in September.
For IT, 53% are planning slight or major hiring; up from 51% in January and 44% in September. Risk management/compliance - a category with ties to IT - is also strong, with 61% planning hiring-up from 59% in January and 53% in September.
"The overall market has been going up, but in a careful manner," says Steve Landberg, a partner at Claymore.
An unscientific search of bank IT jobs in the U.S. on November 12 found numerous listings for IT professionals with programming, security and data management expertise. Chase, for example, had a handful of Java programming jobs listed, as well as positions for client experience support, mobile app development and data warehousing application developers. Citigroup's listings at the same time included an IT project, technical specialists and a number of jobs in fraud prevention and information security. Bank of America's listings include a number of jobs for Java developers, as well as project management.
Landberg says one note of caution is the fair amount of outsourcing of tech jobs at banks, "so there's been selective hiring at banks. I would say that the areas that are strong are IT areas related to risk management and compliance...We're seeing a fair amount of hiring for social media, as that seems to be the next platform for growth at most of these institutions."
John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, an executive search firm, says that with President Obama's victory over Mitt Romney in this November's presidential election, Dodd-Frank will likely remain intact, which will keep the job market hot for bank IT compliance professionals.
The ramifications of Dodd-Frank are still evolving, which is requiring banks to quickly respond to new regulations that grow out of the law. That means systems have to be updated or changed entirely, and often quickly, which will lead to major IT projects across financial services. Other regulations such as Basel III are also on the radar at practically all banks, which will add to the IT burden even more.
"The requirements are only going to grow. Banks already have such deep and sophisticated systems to track and make [compliance] reports, and the new data they are required to capture is only going to increase, and that will mean more jobs for people in areas like systems development," he says.
Accenture's Busch says the architecture and programming language that accompanied legacy systems, which is up to 40 years old at some banks, is different than the language driving the real-time processing technology that accompanies new channels such as mobile banking. This will require different programing language skills for new IT hires. At the same time, the development process is also changing, which means new technology job opportunities will require new project management and software development skills. "Banks are moving toward agile development lifecycles versus waterfall."
Ramesh Nair, a vice president and Booz & Company, says the move toward "big data" is causing CIOs and general technologists to augment skillsets. In an interview last month with BTN, BNY Mellon CIO Suresh Kumar mentioned that "big data" projects require a change in the IT culture as technologists are required to collaborate and utilize shared development techniques more than in the past. The findings of tech experts at Booz & Company bear that out.
In new research, Booz & Company found that the amount of information available from all recorded data sources is greater than ever before, and that CIOs must educate themselves on the best way to use big data, because the business leaders who can bridge the gap between business and technology will take the lead.
The company also says the role of the CIO could get bifurcated into a role of a chief strategic information officer who is responsible for information assets and a chief technology officer who is responsible for tech assets.
"Big data" refers to the greater sourcing of information, including unstructured data from alternate sources such as social networking, combined with increasingly sophisticated analytics.
"Big data" joins the cloud, social networks and mobility as four major areas where enterprise technology professionals need to develop skills.
"In big data, we hear a lot about data science as a core skill that people are missing, but it's not just about that, there's also a whole range of other skills that we need to have," says Nair.
Nair says added skills are also needed to pull all of this new technology together into a cohesive strategy that favors broad skills over niche expertise.
"We are recommending that instead of hiring point expertise in mobility or data centers or social networks, try to build the team holistically so you can bring in point experts that are complimentary to each other. So someone who knows the architecture also knows how to bwork with the new end user tools," he says.
The tech job market is growing steadily, but new skills are required to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
This article first appeared on the Bank Technology News web site