People who work for technology companies are hot commodities in the financial services job market as banks and other companies expand their Internet capabilities.
"The Internet is so hot it's really remarkable," said Kevin Connelly, director at headhunter Spencer Stuart in Chicago. "Everyone's scrambling to put together their electronic banking teams."
Mr. Connelly said banks, brokerages, and mutual fund and credit card companies are all in the market for technology experts to help launch their electronic commerce strategies.
As financial services companies cast their nets, they hope to land professionals from industry-leading, consumer-oriented technology firms including Microsoft Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Gateway 2000, Hewlett-Packard Co., and Novell, Mr. Connelly said.
However, banks have had mixed results recruiting from the tech industry, said John Platte, managing director of executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, New York. Mr. Platte said he hasn't seen demand for senior-level technology executives recently, but "there is still a very strong demand for technology people across the industry."
Often a banking company goes outside the industry, but some have stolen talent from competitors. For instance, NationsBank Corp. two and a half years ago hired Janey Place from Wells Fargo & Co. as an executive vice president to head its strategic technology group.
Ms. Place, who has a staff of 85, said technology is clearly a major focus at NationsBank and finding people is sometimes a challenge. Fewer than half of her hires are from other banks. "There is certainly a lot of competition for the type of people we're looking for," Ms. Place said. "We're looking for them, technology companies are looking for them."
Huntington Bancshares of Columbus, Ohio, is also intent on hiring the technology-savvy. It hired Chester "Chet" Thompson from H&R Block's Compuserve unit and named him senior vice president and manager of electronic commerce in February. Mr. Thompson is responsible for enhancing the company's Web site and helping sign up 100,000 subscribers by yearend. The company now has 30,000 subscribers.
Since February, Mr. Thompson's staff has grown from fewer than 10 people to 30, and it continues to grow. He said he believes banks that are not planning to be on the Internet are going to miss the boat. "People will demand it," he said. "If you're not ready, you're going to lose customers, and no one wants to lose customers."
Mr. Thompson said joining a bank was a natural move for him. More of a marketing person than a technology expert, Mr. Thompson said he spent 20 years at International Business Machines and five years in all at Prodigy Inc. and Compuserve. These experiences prepared him well for his current challenges, he said.
Huntington continues to seek technology experts for all kinds of jobs. There are 800 technology-related employees at the $25 billion-asset company, and the number continues to grow, said spokeswoman Hillary Jeffers.
The company is having trouble finding support and mid-level technology employees as well as more senior-level people. Huntington has even resorted to advertising job openings in its monthly bank statements. With a low unemployment rate of 2%, Columbus employers are having a very difficult time filling positions.
Dennis Burnette, a recruiter with Sanford Rose Associates in Atlanta, said Internet banking is so new that it's often hard to find experienced talent. "For every 100 jobs, there are 50 qualified people," said Mr. Burnette, who works with community and smaller regional banks. "It's difficult to find bankers to work in the Internet and personal computer environment."
Mr. Burnette has tried to find potential technology employees for banks at other financial services companies, including credit card and indirect automobile lenders. The bottom line, he said, is that banks are scurrying to establish their strategies. "Everyone's trying to get into the game in some fashion."