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Banks Compete for Scarce Big Data Talent

Date: 20 August 2014

Investment banks are getting wise to big data – but a demand for staff to help sift through the large volumes of information in financial markets is vastly outstripping supply.

Goldman Sachs, the Royal Bank of Canada, Societe Generale and Barclays are among the banks advertising big data jobs in London, while the Bank of England is also on the lookout for a data scientist to work in a new analytics division, according to its website.

Damian Sutcliffe, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa technology at Goldman Sachs, said: “People have become more aware of the value of data and the insights that can be gained from it.”

Big data strategies involve managing and processing the high volumes of complex data that banks collect and store, to make more data-led decisions across business functions including trading analytics, compliance and client management.
Sutcliffe says “data scientists are key to achieving this”.

Credit Suisse is implementing a big data solution for trade surveillance, according to a job advertisement on LinkedIn. The bank will use new software to process data feeds from as many as 80 systems, the advertisement says.

A study published last week by Thomson Reuters, which was carried out by research firmAite Group, found that while many capital markets firms are still new to big data’s potential, data-related functions have increased in importance.

Half of the firms surveyed for the study said they employed data scientists or planned to hire them in the next 24 months. Toby Babb, a managing director at recruitment firm Harrington Starr, described demand for data scientists as “one of the fastest growing positions in the sector”.

However, banks are coming up against a shortage of the required skills. The most common problem for capital markets firms on big data projects was that they lacked technical knowledge, according to the Thomson Reuters survey.

Clare Cooper, an Associate Director at recruitment firm Selby Jennings, part of the Phaidon International group, said: “There is without doubt a big lack of skilled data scientists in the UK. “Not only must they be strong technically, they need to have strong mathematical skills, good communication and business acumen.”

Carmine Gioia, a visiting associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologywho was recruited by Saxo Bank in December to lead its data strategy, said: “You need a team of people that span mathematics, computer science, engineering, statistics and psychology.”

Sutcliffe at Goldman Sachs said: “Probably the biggest challenge is that many of the best and brightest data scientists don’t think about a career in the financial industry – instead they assume the most interesting data science problems are either in academic research, defence industry-national security, or technology companies.”

To lure candidates from “trendier” technology jobs, financial institutions have started getting creative. Cooper at Phaidon International said some firms have recently set up data scientist “bootcamps” in order to attract talent.

She added: “Additionally, we have seen an increase in the hiring of data scientists working remotely through cloud technology. In this way, several banks can access the Silicon Valley talent pool without needing to relocate talent permanently.”

Bankers and headhunters expect that demand will continue to rise as a growing number of firms flesh out and deploy new big data projects.

Steen Blaafalk, group chief financial & risk officer at Saxo Bank, said: “Demand for data scientists will rise in coming years. More and more companies are coming to realise this. Big data is here to stay.”

Barclays and Credit Suisse declined to comment. Royal Bank of Canada did not respond to requests for comment. Societe Generale did not to comment by the time of publication.