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Lloyds, American Express, BBVA Tap Business Schools To Hire Digital Leaders

Top banks turn to business schools to keep pace with technological innovation

Mon Sep 28 2015

The world’s top banks are turning to business schools to help them keep pace with innovation.

Bank recruiters have long scoured the top schools for talent but many financial institutions including Lloyds Banking Group, MasterCard, and Barclays are moving beyond traditional tracks in search of digital leadership.

Several banks contacted by BusinessBecause say they are seeking new skills to drive innovation, and many are still reliant on the MBA talent pipeline.

“Business schools provide a high calibre of candidate for any top tier employer, and we have many individuals within the business who have come from this background,” says Nick Williams, consumer digital director at Lloyds Banking Group.

Recognising the importance of digital and the part it will play in the future of the bank, the UK lender developed a bespoke digital recruitment scheme. It received 1,200 applications for 29 spots.

Nick says: “As technology continues to affect everything we do inside and outside of work, we will also seek different skill-sets, such as design expertise and software engineering proficiency, alongside more traditional commercially minded individuals.”

A spokesperson at BBVA, Spain’s second-largest bank, says: “Business schools are an important part of our search for the brightest and the best.”

BBVA aims to be the best global bank of the digital age, and has invested heavily in financial technology companies to improve its digital offering.

“We believe that fintech represents a fantastic opportunity to improve financial services,” the spokesperson says, adding: “To build the global bank of the digital age, you need the best people, and we take this search [for talent] very seriously.”

Frans van der Horst, senior managing director at ABN AMRO Bank, says: “Business schools and universities are important to us when it comes to hiring new potential talent.”

The Dutch bank works closely with several schools to tap graduates with certain expertise to fill specific roles.

Because customers are banking more with digital, ABN AMRO is particularly keen to hire those with IT backgrounds, says Frans, adding: “Most of them are surprised about the opportunities ABN AMRO offers.”

He says digitization is increasingly important for the company — the ABN AMRO mobile banking app was used 54 million times in June 2015.

“The rise of the smartphone has resulted in fundamental changes in consumer behaviour. Clients are connected around the clock and want businesses to adapt their services accordingly,” he says.

The fight to innovate in mobile payments is spurring career opportunities, as banks look to expand beyond their core areas and develop new digital products.

“We’re seeing some companies that were traditionally considered to be in the financial services space — including MasterCard and American Express — expand their recruiting efforts into the digital, product or innovation space,” says Roxanne Hori, associate dean of corporate relations and career services at NYU Stern School of Business.

Brian Ruggiero, VP of global campus recruitment at American Express, says: “A passion for digital commerce is critical to our success and certainly something we look for in candidates.”

He says there are “endless opportunities” for MBA graduates in digital, for example working on Apple Pay and other payments innovations.

The company is looking for hires who are fluent in code, understand parallel processing, data clustering and statistical analysis. “These skill sets are very different from the tones you would expect from American Express,” adds Brian. “But being successful in the digital payments industry means we are hiring and training differently in order to innovate and grow.”

Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School, says relationship building and communication skills will always be valuable qualities to banks, but there is now an “ever greater focus on digital skills”.

Jennifer Boynton from the MBA Career Center at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, says “new jobs are being created as a result of technology, but not necessarily for MBAs”.

However, she adds: “MBAs are still valuable for strategy roles in consumer banking, developing ways to leverage technology to reduce costs and enhance customer experience.”