Banking experience not needed as SocGen plans 2018 Hong Kong tech hiring

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Finance sector experience is now “a nice-to-have, not a perquisite” for working in banking technology, says the man tasked with expanding Societe Generale’s tech team in Hong Kong next year.

“Banks are competing for the same talent pool and it’s become more difficult to find technologists who also have strong banking skills,” says Charles Gillet, Asia Pacific chief information officer at SocGen.

SocGen develops its platforms and software internally, which means Gillet is “constantly” on the lookout for new developers. “If you came to me now with five developers, I’d consider hiring them if they were good enough,” he says.

Gillet also believes that a “fundamental shift” in the industry over the past two years, as banks embrace new technology and incorporate agile working practices, has forced them to prioritise technology skills when they hire. “My team already employs people who have banking backgrounds and we already know how markets work,” he says. “So now we’re focused on hiring people who have a passion for technology, an innovative mindset, and can work in a collaborative way in a fast-paced environment.”

Jobs on offer at SocGen in Hong Kong in 2018 will include C++ developers, Java developers, project managers and business analysts, says Gillet, without providing headcount numbers. But while many other banks in Hong Kong are focusing their tech hiring on retail banking and wealth management, SocGen primarily wants people to develop capital markets products, the bank’s sweet spot in Asia.

“We’ve had our capital market business in Hong Kong since the 1990s. In contrast to many other banks, which are buying vendor software, we’ve built an in-house system for our business partners and clients from the ground up,” says Gillet. “I think banks that give technologists the chance to develop their own software have a competitive edge when it comes to recruitment and retention.”

But why base tech jobs in an expensive city like Hong Kong? “A key reason is that Hong Kong is our regional headquarters in Asia Pacific. It’ also a place with good diversity and access to talent,” says Gillet. SocGen, for example, hosted a 36-hour fintech hackathon in July, which attracted 110 participants, including students from local universities.

Gillet has also been helping to lead a drive to introduce agile working – a collaborative software development methodology that is becoming a popular alternative to the sequential ‘waterfall’ approach –  at SocGen in Hong Kong.

“When developing our approach to being agile, we looked at the way technology companies – such as Amazon, Spotify, Google and Facebook – operate. About 75% of our roles in Asia are now agile, while the nature of some other jobs means it’s not required,” says Gillet. “Agile represents a huge change for the banking sector, and for the way my team and the business work and deliver solutions. Over just two years, we’ve seen a significant improvement in quality, turn-around times, and feedback from our partners.”

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