How to win the war for top IT talent

By emphasizing engagement, purpose and innovation, the financial services industry is showing how to beat Silicon Valley at its own game.


Wall Street and Main Street may not have the immediate tech appeal of Silicon Valley, but industries like financial services and manufacturing need elite technical talent just as much as — maybe even more than — tech startups. Finding that talent, attracting them to your organization and retaining them for the long term is one of the biggest challenges facing financial services CIOs right now, says Shelton Shugar, CIO of Barclaycard. The same can be said for other verticals beyond the Bay Area.

“Our biggest challenge is competing for the same pool of talent that so many other companies are looking for. When we’re looking for highly talented developers and engineers, we’re often competing with a lot of other major companies for that same talent. It’s sometimes difficult to find and retain the type of talent that has the right skill sets for our business,” Shugar says.

Barclaycard’s headquarters in Wilmington, Del., is about as geographically far from Silicon Valley as you can get, but by taking a page from Silicon Valley’s recruiting and retention playbook, Shugar and the executive and HR teams have been enormously successful in attracting and hiring elite tech talent, some from as far away as Seattle and even the Valley itself, Shugar says.

Much of that starts with awareness and branding; first by emphasizing the benefits of living and working outside Silicon Valley, and also by elevating Barclaycard’s brand as an employer of choice, focusing on culture, mission and purpose and leveraging unconventional screening practices like blind coding challenges.

“We do a lot to inform potential recruits about working and living in Wilmington and its suburbs. In fact, a train ride from Philadelphia to Wilmington is less than 30 minutes, so potential employees could easily commute from Philadelphia. We’re also ideally located less than two hours from some of the East Coast’s largest cities — New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.,” Shugar says, which opens up the potential talent pool. An emphasis on the opportunity to work on meaningful projects that have a global reach is also important, says Shugar, as well as Barclaycard’s partnership with OpenBracket, a local not-for-profit that works to improve the perception of Wilmington as an excellent place for technical talent to live and work.

“We’re focusing on branding Barclaycard as a key employer for top technology recruits. We’re working on getting the message out that we’re not just a traditional financial company; we have exciting work going on here. We’re out there looking for talent in different ways — we’re going to local and national meet-ups, getting involved in external recruiting activities, and exploring non-traditional networking tools. Traditional tactics like internet postings haven’t worked for us; so, we’ve modified our recruitment and internet approaches, and applied a more interactive approach to interviewing. Onsite job fairs have proven to be successful, and we’ve also used Hacker Rank to help identify potential candidates that best meet our business needs,” Shugar says.

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