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Skills test: The state of the London FinTech sector

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David Bloxham, Managing Director at GCS, looks at the state of FinTech in London.

New York may be known as the city that never sleeps, but we don’t think London is far behind.

London is an incredibly fast-paced city in many ways, from the crush of the morning rush hour to 24 hour fine dining, and with the introduction of the 24 hour Tube service, it is seriously snapping at the heels of the Big Apple.

What the UK-Korea FinTech bridge may mean for your startup

While London may be known for being the forefront of trends in everything from food to fashion, nothing moves faster in the capital than the FinTech scene, and FinTech employees face a constant challenge to ensure their skills match up to the industry standard and the ever changing expectations of employers.

London is home to some 40,000 financial services firms, most of the world’s top banks and a bustling startup scene, and the competition for roles is stronger than ever.

We’ve witnessed first-hand how rapidly things can change – a role which was much in demand might become obsolete with the release of a new programming language, or a business may update its hosting platform and find the skills of its in-house team to be suddenly lacking.

Programming languages, style sheet languages and scripting languages are often updated over time too, so a developer may be proficient for years and find themselves out of the loop fairly quickly.

Our recent marketing insights survey found that 66% of employers say it is now harder to find good candidates than it was a year ago, and there’s a disconnect between employers and their current staff.

Nearly 80% of employers believe that their staff have the skills required to ensure business targets are met, but only 36% of employees stated that they believe their current employer can help them achieve their career aspirations, which suggests that companies are overestimating how settled and inspired employees feel.

This may lead to more recruitment issues than businesses are currently prepared for.

Changing skills for a changing market

So what are businesses are looking for from their technical support staff? A key finding of the survey was a real focus on specialist skills within the IT support contracting sector. Companies are moving away from hiring generalist contractors, and second and third line all-rounders may find their skills less in demand moving forward.

Within contracting, there is a reluctance from employees to take the traditional first step of working as a helpdesk contractor – many choose to skip this old fashioned rite of passage and specialise earlier, which is a significant change to the job path of old.

A surge in the popularity of Linux systems has led to more subdued demand for specialists in Windows 7 and 8, but those proficient in VMware and AWS, as well as those with existing security clearance, have enjoyed a jobs boom as companies increasingly understand the risk of projects going off course due to security issues and look to bolster cyber security systems and prowess.

Development contractors with experience and proficiency in Ansible, Docker and Kubernetes are in high demand as interest in DevOps continues to grow, and Node.js. developers may find themselves able to choose from a selection of lucrative jobs as the framework experiences a boom in use and the sector moves past traditional JavaScript frameworks including AngularJS and React JS.

Skills in iOS and Android remain in demand and look set to become more and more desirable but the opposite is true for older development languages such as VB6 and VB.Net – clients rarely specify these skills in a job specification these days and those specialising in these languages will need to modernise their skillset.

Permanent staff skills test

The story is similar in the world of permanent contracting, where we have seen continued investment in the mobile application market lead to healthy demand for iOS and Android fluent developers.

Those looking to upskill should certainly consider training in AngularJS as the language remains a leader in both permanent and contract positions.

We’re seeing subdued client demand for permanent developers with SQL and Oracle knowledge, as more and more organisations and companies take advantage of nice CRM and CMS systems including Umbraco.

For developers in the early stages of their career, we’d advise getting up to speed on wearable tech as this is a trend which looks set to grow and grow. We predict renewed focus on cross-device applications but the niche nature of such skills gives developers the chance to carve out a highly lucrative career path – wages will surely rise as demand for such skills outgrows the number of proficient developers available.

Job titles particularly in demand across the board include Python Developer and BI Analyst, with senior salaries for both roles topping £50,000 for permanent roles and up to £800 a day for senior contractual roles in the City.

The FinTech future

The FinTech sector in the City is truly booming and will continue to do so bolstered by government investment – last year’s summer budget saw George Osborne commit to funding to boost the UK’s Digital Economy scheme, and before he left office David Cameron spoke about a commitment to making the UK a world leader in FinTech by the start of the next decade.

Commentators note London’s unique position as a blend of the digital innovation of Silicon Valley, the financial history of New York and the policy heritage of Washington DC, making it a difficult city to beat for FinTech opportunity.

Out of the £8.9bn invested in global FinTech last year, £647.5m came to the UK, according to an article written by CEO and co-founder of Mangrove Capital Partners Mark Tluszcz, and we would expect that figure to keep rising over the coming years.

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