Big-name banks, tech giants losing skilled staff to flexible fintechs

Tight job markets are facilitating in-demand workers to change jobs, seeking higher salaries and more flexible routines.

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Staff at major banks and some of the world's biggest technology giants are increasingly leaving for fintech start-ups, new analysis shows.

Bankers, engineers, data scientists and sales staff from Wall Street, the City of London and Silicon Valley are among those joining an exodus that picked up speed during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data compiled by Revelio Labs, a workplace intelligence company.

Departures from traditional banks, such as Goldman Sachs Group and HSBC Holdings to fintech companies including Coinbase Global and Revolut are up 75 per cent since the start of the pandemic, Revelio said.

Monthly job changes peaked at 72 in March this year - the highest figure since records began in 2011. Significant numbers of employees are also moving from tech firms such as and Microsoft.

The growth in highly qualified staff switching to roles in new sectors comes as tight job markets allow many tech employees to change jobs, seeking higher salaries and more flexible routines.

"People have stopped and re-evaluated what is important to them," Ms Lisa Simon, economist at Revelio, said in an interview.

She cited a better work-life balance, improved pay and better career prospects as key drivers. Goldman Sachs saw 37 staff move to Coinbase, the largest US-based cryptocurrency exchange, from January 2020 through April 2022. Another 21 Goldman employees joined corporate credit card start-up Brex, while 18 went to SoFi Techologies, the fintech firm led by former Twitter executive Anthony Noto.

To be sure, the numbers of staff leaving for fintechs and start-ups are small in comparison with the overall numbers employed in major financial services firms or Silicon Valley tech giants. Goldman employs 45,100 people worldwide. 

Elsewhere, some 28 workers have gone from Morgan Stanley to Coinbase and 12 to Wise, which has almost 400 jobs available, according to a company spokesman.

Some 38 HSBC employees have gone to Revolut and 21 to Monzo Bank. Challenger bank Monzo has also hired 32 former employees from Lloyds Banking Group and 27 from Barclays.

In e-mailed statements, Barclays' chief operating officer Mark Ashton-Rigby and a spokesman for Lloyds - which was recently ranked second in a LinkedIn list of the UK's top 25 employers - each pointed to the importance their banks' place on workplace culture.

"The number of people working in technology roles at Barclays has grown by more than 10 per cent in the past two years which is testament to the compelling proposition we offer," Mr Ashton-Rigby said.

"There is a war for talent," said Mr Christian Faes, co-founder of LendInvest and chair of the industry group Fintech Founders, citing high levels of regulation in traditional banking as well as "legacy processes, legacy people and technology".

"We are literally hiring people out of Facebook and Amazon, really high-tech engineers, and they don't naturally gravitate towards banks with coding systems from the 1980s," Mr Faes said.

Coinbase alone has snagged 197 staff from Amazon, 97 from Alphabet, the parent company of Google, 73 from Microsoft and 72 from Meta Platforms, Revelio's data show.

A spokesman for Coinbase said the company is "pleased that so many employees from top banks and tech giants want to rebuild the future of the crypto economy".

Despite the shift into fintech, there are already signs the trend is easing off. Inflation is darkening the global economic outlook, and a major tech sell-off has put future funding rounds in doubt.

Against that backdrop, the pace of staff movement from banking to fintech already appears to have slowed. In that environment, some employees will choose stability over change.

Crypto firms are looking especially risky: Coinbase's market value has plummeted in the past six months, with the stock down more than 60 per cent from its IPO price in April 2021.

That is leading some to stick up for the key benefits of a mature, stress-tested financial sector. "The basic story is we have customers and they don't," Mr Zack Anderson, chief data and analytics officer at NatWest Group, said in an interview. "If you want to have an impact on 19 million customers in a substantive way, you go to a bank."

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