November 20, 2008

See related feature: Caught Between Record Layoffs and Hiring Freezes, IT Execs Face a Buyer's Market

Even before the financial crisis severely worsened in September and thousands of IT workers were left looking for work, community banks apparently had little trouble finding skilled financial technologists. According to a June survey by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), just 12 percent of community bankers rate IT recruitment as a problem.

This was the first time ICBA asked about recruitment in its now biannual Community Bank Technology Survey, to which some 1,300 community banks responded. When the results came out in October, says Cary Whaley, director of payments and technology policy with ICBA, the recruitment reply, which contradicts the consensus view that it is hard to find financial technologists, caused a stir. "The technology folks I work with were floored," he relates, adding that when asked if they had a problem "attracting, developing or retaining IT professionals," respondents "cited this as not being a challenge whatsoever."

Whaley theorizes that while IT professionals generally move around a lot, easily commanding a higher price in each successive post, in the rural localities where some community banks are based there may be few career options. "If you want to stay in the community, you stay in your job," he says, noting that it's not uncommon for people to work for 20 or 30 years in the same bank. Some are also drawn to work for a community bank because it's likely to offer more job security than a big bank, Whaley adds.