Recently many people have asked me for advice in regards to hiring for fintech startups. We have always been very active in the fintech vertical, working with companies like Nykredit, Unwire, Chainalysis, Deeds Capital, and many more – including building founding teams for fintech startups.
Some aspects of hiring for a fintech startup are similar to hiring for any other vertical – but in many ways, it differs. Let me try to explain some of the differences why hiring talent for fintech – in my opinion – often is a different recruitment process, especially for an agency.
At Advenio we always use a customized scorecard for each recruitment process, as it helps us gauge candidates and align them with the role at hand. One factor we almost always include is what we call “startup scrappiness.” A high score on startup scrappiness tells us that the candidate is used to working with limited resources, and can excel even without a large team to support them. It is a critical factor in building an early-stage startup; your organization must be able to succeed even without abundant resources.
Is this the same for a fintech startup? Yes and no. While startup scrappiness is still a virtue, there are some aspects where building a fintech product is just different.
First of all, quite a few fintech startups operate in a way (and in a regulated industry), which means that they need permission from financial authorities (which in Denmark would be Finanstilsynet / the DFSA or in the EU the ESFS and the USA the FRB and many more) to to operate. Whereas most other startups can get away with “just” an MVP, a fintech startup often has to meet specific demands (which sometimes would also include hiring a financial advisor) to get the approval they need).
For any startup hiring, i.e., a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) with experience from a specific vertical might be beneficial – but for fintech startups, that is, even more, the case. Hiring a CTO or an engineering team with prior knowledge of working in a regulated industry like finance will help you immensely.
Another aspect is startup experience. Startup experience is always important when hiring for fintech startups – and that also goes for startups. But as a fintech startup, you also have to reconcile yourself with the fact that almost every single fintech startup cannot survive on its own, without in some way embedding itself in the financial system. Sometimes the financial system will present a potential revenue stream, and in other cases, it might be an intrinsic part of your offering.
For most startups in other verticals, our recruitment strategy usually doesn’t value corporate experience – in some cases; it might even be a concern. But for fintech startups we often look as much for corporate experience as we do for startup experience. Don’t get me wrong – we do need the startup experience, but having experience with working in a regulated industry, like in a large bank, insurance, or pension company, means that you often can communicate with and relate to stakeholders in a corporate setting. You know how they think, what their reality looks like – and you have a strong understanding of what they would like to accomplish, and which parts of their own offerings, they might need help or be open to collaboration.
You also have an understanding of the restrictions they face within their own organisation, which means you can navigate in those organisations in a way that most other people would not be able to. Both from a technical and a commercial perspective that brings enormous value.
For more on interviewing and hiring, please see our blog:
(How to Hire Startup Talent: The Recruitment Process)