Hiring Tech Talent: Executive Search vs Talent Pipelining, which is the right choice for you? 

Published 18/06/2021 - 5 min Read

By Andy Ryan

Senior Client Partner

Quick Summary An insight into which talent strategies may help you attract tech talent against newer FinTech corporations.

5 min Read

Over the last year, we’ve seen an acceleration of digital transformation across multiple sectors, with many companies having to play catch-up to more digitally enabled organisations as a response to COVID. Without factoring in the impact of the pandemic, more traditional, conservative sectors such as the banking and finance industry have been experiencing a gradual erosion of their business over time because by and large they have to date failed to successfully execute a digital transformation strategy.


A recent study from Cornerstone Advisors found that only about a quarter of banking institutions had embarked on a digital transformation strategy before 2019 and that 45% hadn’t launched a strategy before this year.


A large number of banking corporations have so far failed to meet the demands of a digital consumer and have left a wide gap in the market. Enter digital banking upstarts like Monzo, Revolut, N26, and Starling Bank. 


These innovators offer services in direct response to a more demanding consumer, who wants cheaper access to more services and who expects a smoother customer experience. These challenger banks enable you to download the app and open an account without stepping foot into a branch, or completing a lengthy onboarding process. Furthermore, these providers also offer services including seamless access to market trading and an easy to navigate open banking platform connecting their accounts. Transactions are recorded instantly in the application, rather than taking a number of days to appear in the account as is often the case with traditional banks. 


So where does this leave the traditional banks? Even among banks that offer digital account opening, 40% still require an applicant to take more than 10 minutes to complete a checking account application. To recapture customers that have migrated to these challenger banks and in an attempt to protect their market share, more and more financial services companies are hiring talented tech professionals to accelerate their digital offering.

How Can Traditional Banks Attract Talent Against Glamorous Digital Start-ups?  

There is a vast shortage of technology talent. Recent government data suggests that the shortage of tech talent in the UK alone is at its highest level since 2008. This means traditional banks are competing across sectors for the same talent, including against established tech giants like Amazon and Google, as well as against high-growth tech scaleups like Cazoo, Deliveroo, and Wise. So, how do you attract strong technology talent in such a competitive market?  


One barrier traditional firms face is that tech talent wants to be innovating, not copying. Therefore, traditional firms must advance their recruitment marketing to highlight the innovative work they are doing, or provide more compelling arguments around the scale and impact of a candidate’s work. In the financial services world more than most others, candidates can work on projects impacting vast numbers of consumers, drive real societal change by proving access to banking services and work with substantial volumes of data. Understanding the talent landscape you operate in, including candidate motivations and drivers, alongside competitor hiring activity, identifying emerging geographies for in-demand tech skills, and assessing your employer brand and employer value proposition, are all key to being able to attract and retain the very best tech talent.


At Armstrong Craven, we have two preferred approaches for supporting clients in their efforts to attract tech talent from a diverse range of backgrounds into the financial services sector. 


The solution to attracting the best talent will ultimately depend on where you are in the hiring process, how much time you have to actively source for immediate requirements, whether you want to create long-term professional relationships with passive talent for future opportunities, and how much budget and internal Talent Acquisition capacity you have available to dedicate to the various steps of the recruiting process.


Talent pipelining vs executive search is a comparison between two different proactive recruitment approaches. Each has its own benefits and limitations, depending on your hiring needs and context.


Scenario: You require help sourcing candidates for immediate hiring  


Traditional executive search provides businesses with end-to-end support, including shortlisting the best talent, interview coordination, offer management, and executive referencing. 

At Armstrong Craven, our executive search service has been designed to provide a research-led solution to securing scarce and senior-level talent to fill key roles. Our flexible and modular deconstructed approach to executive search means that you have the choice to commission each element of the search individually, should your needs be focused on only part of the full search process.


However, executive search is best utilised to fulfil one critical role, or in the deconstructed approach, to take the steps needed to identify and qualify prospective candidates for one specific position which needs to be filled immediately. If you’re hiring for multiple roles with similar requirements, or if you’re looking to engage with talent to hire for both immediate and longer-term needs, then Talent Pipelining is likely the better option.


Scenario: You have a Talent Acquisition team with the capacity to engage with candidates and manage the interview and offer process, but you need help accessing a wider talent pool for a range of upcoming roles


As an example, if you’re aware that your business will be looking to hire a cohort of individuals over the next 6-12 months, then talent pipelining is a great alternative to executive search. Through commissioning a talent pipelining project, the overall cost per hire reduces the more hires you make, as your outlay is for the time on the project to introduce a pipeline of suitable candidates, rather than it being per hire. Not only can you expect to save on costs, but you will receive an active pool of candidates for current and future vacancies, reducing overall time to hire and improving the candidate experience significantly.


Often, Talent pipelining is the preferred approach for businesses where (a) there are a number of hires to be made with very similar requirements and (b) they have their own established in-house Talent Acquisition team but are short on capacity due to high business demands. Talent pipelining in this scenario enables your Talent Acquisition team to add the most value in engaging and hiring critical talent, rather than investing significant time and effort sourcing the volume of candidates required to build a robust pipeline of suitable talent.


At Armstrong Craven, we identify and engage with the talent you need to hire and get them excited about joining your business. We qualify each candidate against your requirements, delivering a list of ready-to-hire talent for current and future roles. By doing the labour-intensive candidate sourcing, engagement, and qualification work at the top of the hiring funnel, we free up your team’s time to focus on interviewing and hiring the right candidates. 


The Future of Work is Digital 


Through supporting our clients in hiring standout technology talent – from developers and data scientists through architects and CTOs – we’ve found that many of the best candidates are not only looking for opportunities where they can work with great technology, but they also want to work with large volumes of data which can translate into actionable insights that positively impact millions of customers, and they want to know that their employer will not run out of cash 6 months down the line. Unlike most startups or scaleups, financial services companies can offer this, though many aren’t marketing this reality to tech talent in a sufficiently meaningful way.

Without a doubt, career development and opportunities to leverage technology are just some of the workplace qualities sought by the next generation of tech workers. Demonstrating this opportunity within the more established financial services world is one of many strategies that banks need to engage in if they want to win the battle for talent.

At Armstrong Craven, we’re experts at delivering talent pipeline and executive search services to support our clients in hiring scarce or senior talent, whether in the context of single hiring projects or support hiring at scale. We also provide the insights that help our clients better understand relevant talent markets, and how to improve their positioning as an employer of choice for the talent they need to engage with. As a Client Partner at Armstrong Craven, my role is to work with clients to craft the right solution to their talent acquisition challenges. Reach out to start the conversation. 

Access the Armstrong Craven Review Vol. 9

The Review is read by over 10,000 HR and Talent Acquisition leaders globally and highlights key trends in HR and Talent Acquisition. Volume 9 of the Armstrong Craven Review examines how global events have caused businesses to rethink leadership and talent strategy. The review analyses how organisations must face tensions for successful talent planning. We ask what’s next for EVP? Before exploring the impact of menopause on female leadership and discovering how to succeed in confronting imposter syndrome.

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