How Nationwide plans to attract the best tech talent to its new London hub

Nationwide Building Society will hire 750 new technology staff in London as it bids to better compete with larger incumbent banks and nimble fintech competitors


Nationwide Building Society will hire for 750 new digital roles at the beginning of 2020 to fill its new office in London's Holborn, focusing on cloud infrastructure, devops and digital experience design skills.

The building society announced earlier this month that it had secured a new London site at the Post Building in Holborn to house 1,000 digitally-focused staff. This will include 750 technology roles, most of which will be net new. This will also complement an expansion of its Swindon headquarters, which will house the existing digital team in a more modern office setting.

"We are competing for talent in a tough environment and creating a physical environment to attract those people that go to We Work-like spaces is important," James Smith, director of digital at Nationwide explained to Computerworld.

"We needed the ability to recruit in London, which is one of the most important hubs in the world to access technology talent, so this is related to addressing that balance," he added.

Nationwide plans on starting its hiring spree early in 2020, where it will advertise for hundreds of new roles, with the aim of gradually reducing its reliance on contractors and external partners.

Broader investment

These moves all form part of an additional £1.3 billion in technology investment earmarked by the financial services firm, which was announced in September 2018. This brings total technology investment to £4.1 billion over the next five years for Nationwide.

Speaking on that broader investment, Smith said that the building society realised "two things: the way our members engage with us continues to change and secondly that the most important thing we need to do is invest in technology that allows us to be agile and nimble, while keeping levels of security where our members expect it to be."

Considered in-housing

This recruitment drive signals what Smith described as a "considered in-housing," where the building society is "recasting" what its relationship with partners will look like. This includes Nationwide taking back control of some activities it had previously outsourced to the likes of Accenture, Sapient and IBM, to name just three.

Like many of its peers in financial services, Nationwide has long worked with IT outsourcing firms. "Our partners are important and will continue to be, but I think having a core set of skills, especially in the digital space, is a core competency of being a retail financial services player," Smith said. "This is about creating a kernel of capability to build out the next generation of digital assets that will be as important as our branches and contact centres are in the future."

Keeping up with the fintechs

The building society is currently re-architecting its backend systems around the streaming data technology Apache Kafka – in what is internally called a 'speed layer' – with the help of enterprise vendor Confluent, in order to speed up its access to transaction data and increase resiliency.

"Part of the strategy here is to give us an architecture to help us engage with [fintechs] more easily," Smith said. "The reality is once we have a cloud infrastructure and can consume and expose APIs better, our ability to be able to do cheap proof of concepts becomes more straightforward," Smith said.

Read next: Nationwide's 'Speed Layer' is built to compete with challenger banks

Nationwide is already working on a brand new digital-first business banking proposition after being awarded £50 million in Pool B of the Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) scheme in May, which will provide more transparent banking to business customers by offering a range of "borrowing choices based on clearly presented options, including price quotes and eligibility indicators, all without leaving a footprint on their credit records."

"We have looked at this market a number of times and it has never really been one we felt ready to enter, for a number of reasons ranked against other priorities of our member's needs and how it impacts the broader IT estate," Rob Angus, chief proposition and finance officer at Nationwide for Business, told Computerworld earlier this year.

He also highlighted technology improvements as a key driver: "We want to leverage the latest cloud-native microservices stack to come to this market and build it separate to our core IT estate."

"We believe that by starting from scratch we can build the best technology and SME banking products in the marketplace," he added.

Read next: Why SME lending is the big battle for the future of business banking

Other digital priorities for the building society includes smarter money management tools within its mobile banking app and closer integration between its digital customer journeys with physical branches. This means "creating experiences where members can use digital to get as far as they can and then interact with someone in-branch", without having to start from scratch when walking through the door.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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