Banks are struggling to recruit top software developers, app designers and engineers in a market where techies can pick and choose among employers perceived as cool and unburdened by aging technologies and rules.
A startup called untapt proposes to solve that problem for financial institutions with an automated matching recruitment platform that connects software developers to banks, hedge funds and fintech firms. The solution requires hiring managers to open up about their company's culture through videos they make and distribute on the site.
"Engineers know there are interesting problems being solved at Google and Facebook," said Ed Donner, a co-founder and chief executive of untapt. "There is not a great understanding of the problems in fintech."
The startup, which was founded in October 2013, claims 40 clients two of which are global banks. It has 6,500 engineers using its service, and the company recently completed a $3 million funding round.
The firm is scaling up at a time when financial institutions and more traditional bank vendors are stepping up their branding games and making un-bank-like overtures to developers. FIS, the largest financial services vendor that serves U.S. banks, recently opened up a lab in San Francisco to help retain and attract talent, among other reasons. JPMorgan Chase is selling technology opportunities hard to prospects in a job ad that reads: "By now, it's a cliché that banks will have to embrace technology and innovation if they are to thrive in the years to come." MasterCard has reportedly relaxed the dress code at its headquarters in Purchase, N.Y. Such initiatives attempt to show technical talent that bank work life doesn't have to be so dull.
And institutions are increasingly enhancing the ways they expose their brands to entrepreneurs through methods they are borrowing from tech companies, said Bhushan Sethi, who leads the financial services people and change practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. For instance, they're using social media to illustrate interesting problems they are working on, sponsoring tech conferences and creating incubators within their companies.
Untapt is entering a field with established competitors like LinkedIn and Dice. And there are other digital engineer communities such as HackerRank. But untapt sees itself as different in that it's focusing on fintech opportunities exclusively.
The company was conceived by two ex-bankers who dealt with the hiring challenges firsthand.
"The last few years of my career, I was incredibly frustrated with trying to hire good engineers," said Donner, a former managing director in technology at JPMorgan Chase. "I was having an impossible time."
Every year, Donner said, there are more than 400,000 tech jobs created in global financial services.
"Everyone needs engineers," he said.
Donner is trying to help fill those vacancies through untapt along with his co-founders, Geoff Massam, a former chief information officer at Deutsche Bank, and Max Kantelia, an entrepreneur in fintech and recruitment.
The automated recruiting platform's business model hinges on a contingency success fee. The initial price is $10,000 per hire, which can drop to $5,000 depending on volume.
Untapt's platform draws out relevant specifics about a job seeker's skills and experience and uses that information, along with a proprietary algorithm, to match candidates to employers, and then connects them directly. For instance, developers will share their level of expertise in programming environments, such as Ruby, MatLab, and iOS programming, and knowledge of business areas (e.g. derivatives). Employers will similarly indicate the skills and expertise they are looking for.
But since this is a job seeker's market, untapt's customers are also required to make videos that show would-be employees what their new work life would be like. The best videos, according to the untapt executives, are unpolished and explain the kinds of problems engineers would work on in a down-to-earth manner.
Using video to illustrate roles is a growing trend for even blue collar positions like bank tellers, but off-the-cuff videos are not in the typical bank's skill set yet. "We try to encourage personal video," said Massam.
One of untapt's clients is Risk Focus, a software and consulting firm with offices in New York and London. "We would be bigger today if hiring wasn't so difficult," said Brian Lynch, chief executive of Risk Focus, which has been using untapt to supplement its recruiting practices and plans to source more talent from the platform as it expands into new markets.