June 28, 2010

"You don't just go and hire a company for a $100 million, three-year deal for infrastructure outsourcing," says Banerji. "These decisions involve an awful lot of complexity, and it has created an entirely new category of executives who can put these agreements together, and another category that understands how to manage [these relationships]."

Another growing opportunity involves working for the outsourcing firms themselves. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," suggests Banerji. "Plenty of those organizations are hiring. If ... you've got the domain expertise, you can very easily get hired by one of these guys."

He adds, "Working for a provider, you may not get paid as much as in the banking industry. But for career advancement opportunities, in some ways going to a provider is as compelling, if not more compelling, than working in-house."

The switch to offshore development has also changed the type of work done by software firms. "Building software was a lot more promising -- at least in the United States -- 10 to 20 years ago," says a senior director at a financial software company who requested anonymity. "Now it's more of a management and requirements-gathering process, which makes it less exciting than it used to be.

Bank IT Staff Compensation

"When you had team members colocated, working through all the details and collaborating each day to get things done, built and delivered, that created a lot of job satisfaction," he continues. "Now it's more cost-effective to use offshore resources, which takes some of the excitement out of the job."

Russell Reynolds' Banerji suggests that financial IT developers still can get their hands dirty by working on projects that enable combinations of business functions across departmental and institutional boundaries. "For the people who are hardcore technologists, whose passion and dedication is more along the lines of the technology itself than perhaps being a business unit CIO, those people really need to continue to focus on things like services-oriented architecture [SOA] and extending business platforms through multi-tenancy solutions."

HOT SPECIALTIES ABOUND

Other areas in technology have a similarly bright future in financial services. "There are certain skill sets and functional roles where we're seeing double-digit salary increases compared to a year ago," relates John Reed, district director, Robert Half Technology. "Even if you had the hotter skills in 2009, you didn't have as much negotiating power because projects were put on hold and initiatives just weren't happening. But now the pent-up demand is moving those projects off the shelf into execution."

According to Reed, the hottest area at the moment is information security, ensuring that none of the many recently reactivated initiatives lead to a high-profile security breach. "Financial services companies are willing to invest in security," he asserts. "That's an area in which they're making sure they have the right people ... to protect their data."

The second hottest area is database management, Reed says. "Firms are seeking people who know how to build a database, take that data and use it to fuel business intelligence decisions," he explains. "Companies have massive amounts of data, and so the ability to manage it properly has become very important."

But even those who have the right specialties and job longevity have to be prepared to compete for recognition. According to a database analyst and developer who works in the business intelligence and analytics department of a large bank, internal competition has intensified. "Everybody wants to shine in this environment, because you don't want to be cut," he says.

His bank has given employees the opportunity and responsibility to manage their own career development through a large catalog of online training courses in the latest software and titles. "It's very effective and targeted," the database expert says. "You can get answers more quickly online than from someone standing in front of a classroom."

While most banking IT staff surveyed by InformationWeek Analytics would find technology-specific training (70 percent) to be valuable, less than half of IT managers (48 percent) agreed. IT staff also sought certification courses (39 percent), while banking IT managers were more likely to seek training in business skills (30 percent), people-management skills (22 percent) and project management (20 percent).

However, a full 41 percent of IT staff and 33 percent of IT managers received no additional training or certification in the past 12 months, whether company paid or out-of-pocket. You would think that people in finance would recognize the value of a good investment. n

Ivan Schneider is a writer and editor living in Seattle who specializes in financial technology, interbank networks and IT outsourcing. Leah Kaminsky is a writer, writing tutor and consultant in the greater Seattle area.