Tech-friendly industries

How to get a job in financial IT

IT practitioners with the right mindset -- analytical and dogged -- will find themselves welcome in the resurgent financial services industry.

It's been a rough few years for people seeking work in the financial services industry. Its growth-by-acquisition strategy over the last decade meant that companies needed fewer new workers, and its contribution to the economic meltdown of a few years ago soured it to a lot of potential employees.

And salaries haven't exactly skyrocketed either. Data from a recent survey by HR firm Mercer in conjunction with Gartner shows salaries for several IT positions in financial servicese are on par with -- but no higher than -- those positions for the IT profession as a whole (see table below for details).

Even so, signs indicate that the financial services labor market, including IT jobs, is heating up again. While salaries may be comparable, total compensation (including bonuses) was considerably higher than the national average for three of the four financial IT positions cited in Mercer's survey results. Additionally, Robert Half Technology ranks financial services among the top five fastest-growing industries in six of the nine U.S. regions it tracks.

An industry in resurgence

What's changed on the hiring front in financial services? In a word: technology.

According to IT and HR sources at several different types of financial services companies, there's -- logically -- a greater need for IT practitioners who understand security, but also for people who understand how to make all those merged systems work together and how to analyze and act upon big data for both commercial and investment banking. And -- again, no surprise -- there's a need for mobility experts.

All of which means technology is in essence driving the financial services industry. "We now think of ourselves as a technology company that sells banking services," says Andrew McCartney, senior vice president for staffing for Charlotte-based Bank of America's Global Technology & Operations group.

IT professionals considering jobs in the financial services industry must be committed to delivering technology that's reliable and unassailable -- after all, vast sums of money are involved. As one IT vice president says, "We become ineffective the minute the business doesn't trust us to be proper stewards of their information, or if they can't verify the accuracy of the data."

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Financial IT salaries: Only average, at least for now

finance IT salaries
Source: Mercer/Gartner IT survey of the 2013 Mercer Benchmark Database, with responses from more than 2,100 midsize and large organizations across all industries reporting compensation data for more than 318,000 employees in 363 positions.
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