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Addressing the Talent Gap: Biggest Takeaways from #BostonFinTechWeek

Posted by Lauren Kendall on October 25, 2017
Originally featured as an article on LinkedIn by Jim Urquhart, Managing Director, FinTech at The Bowdoin Group.

First of all, if you missed Boston FinTech Week last month, you should definitely make an effort to go next year. Besides being a platform for great content (all the events throughout were sold out or overcapacity), the week was an excellent foundation for collaboration. Sponsors and participants consisted of large public companies, mid-sized firms, startups, and aspiring entrepreneurs, all eager to share ideas and learn from innovators in the space, as well as gain exposure to the best investing and growth opportunities in Boston.

Bowdoin hosted “Addressing the Talent Gap in the FinTech Innovation Economy” as part of the series. At the event, we collaborated with a panel of executives from Cinch Financial, HyperPlane, Vestigo Ventures, and TrueMotion to discuss how talent, technology, and culture come together when creating a talent strategy. If you missed out on hearing this dynamic conversation, not to worry, here are the seven key takeaways:

1. You can’t “define” culture. Company culture is grown organically, bottom-up, by bringing in people with varied backgrounds and experiences, and it constantly evolves. It is important to be thoughtful with each hire—what are they bringing to the table? Are they in line with the company’s core mission and values? How will their presence impact the organization? Ultimately, culture is fluid. View each hire as an opportunity to further develop your firm’s culture to be in line with your goals, the needs of your workforce, and the ebb and flow of the industry landscape.

2. Domain knowledge is a double-edged sword. Leaning too hard on domain expertise for every role within the company can stunt growth. Part of being able to bring in the best talent is being open to new perspectives. This will help you remain innovative and competitive in the market. As our CEO Dave Melville noted in his piece on “Hiring the Good vs. the Great,” keeping an open mind can actually provide a greater impact to your organization than sticking with a “safe” hire.

3. Boston needs to step up. Boston has tremendous assets—institutions, universities, investors, innovative technology—but has been historically conservative. It’s time to use the wealth of resources available to define our community as being at the forefront of FinTech, and events like Boston FinTech Week are a great step in the right direction.

4. We need to think globally. There are a growing number of industry associations and innovation groups helping startups get off the ground, and it’s time to add some global ammunition to our local efforts. Larger corporate accelerators with global reach can help to establish Boston as an innovation hub that would bring more startups and entrepreneurs to the scene and invariably grow the ecosystem. We should take pride in our local efforts, but we must remain open to global influence in order to gain traction.

5. Technology can influence culture just as much as people. The ability to use technology to solve real, complex problems is inspiring; it rallies people around common goals. However, if the technology is dated or the problem being addressed doesn’t resonate with your team, it can be more challenging to keep people engaged. Make sure your tech stack is just as innovative as your culture, and keep the two growing simultaneously.

6. The talent market is, and will continue to be, competitive. As technology further permeates the backbone of more traditional institutions like banks and investment firms, they will find themselves competing for the same talent profiles as more “inherently tech” companies, and vice versa. Competition is ultimately a good thing as it will draw more top talent to our city, and being aware of the landscape will ensure your firm isn’t left behind.

7. Companies need to get creative. As institutions, FinTech startups, and larger Internet and technology companies compete for the same people, the talent gap will grow. Everyone will need to adapt new methods to address hiring and approaching prospective candidates. Keep an eye on what top talent are responding to, add that to your strategy, and constantly reevaluate to stay competitive. Conduct an annual – or even quarterly – assessment: what are your competitors offering? Is this becoming an industry standard? What are the reasons top talent turn down your offer? Looking inward will keep you on top of your game.

Boston FinTech is real—and it is here to stay—but we still have room to grow. I think our event was a great start to the conversation, but I’m curious about what else Boston needs to do in order to compete with the likes of New York and Silicon Valley. What are your thoughts?