Hunt for best talent in FinTech & technology: international assignment rethink

Amid hunt for the best talent in FinTech and technology, global companies are mulling over changes to the immigration route into the UK as well as wrestling with the implications of increasing demands for remote working arrangements among international staff.

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Think Global People Spring 2022 Issue
This article is taken from the latest issue of Think Global People magazine.
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In March 2022, the UK government published a raft of changes to the Immigration Rules which will benefit and boost growth sectors in the UK which require specialist talent, such as FinTech.
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The Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, published on 15 March 2022, by the UK government, launches several new Global Business routes, including the High Potential Individual route and the Scale-up Route.Both the newly launched High Potential Individual (HPI) route, and the Scale-up route will benefit fast-growing specialist sectors, in particular FinTech, telecommunications, technology and financial services within the City of London.The changes to the immigration rules come as global companies are grappling with the question of how to attract and retain talent while maintaining control over working practices, payroll, tax and employee risk.

New immigration rules to encourage the brightest and best to the UK

The High Potential Individual route is aimed at internationally mobile individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK. It includes graduates of top global non-UK universities, who hold a recently awarded degree, and simplifies their route into the UK without a prior job offer.The Scale-up route is aimed at applicants for graduate-level jobs who are recruited by UK businesses looking for highly skilled workers in growth industries. Under this scheme, individuals will only need to be sponsored for the initial six months on the route.The announcement is part of the Government's plans to boost the economy after the lack of global mobility during lockdown. The changes are being phased in between April and August this year.“The one thing that is common across all geographies and sectors is that remote work has become an expectation of the talent market,” says Marc Burrows, head of Global Mobility Services at KPMG. Speaking at the launch of KPMG’s survey into international talent: Current Trends in Remote Working, he said remote working brought huge benefits in terms of attracting talent and promoting diversity, but it also presented challenges for organisations.“If you have a team that is working across different locations with a massive time zone difference then there are challenges to make that team truly engaged,” he says.“Remote working has been adopted more quickly by those companies that are less traditional and less heavily regulated. So, technology generally has taken advantage of that flexibility.”

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FinTech, which sits between the flexibility of technology and the highly regulated financial services industry, has had to find a unique path in order to attract the best talent which may not be in the domestic market.KPMG’s report found that the telecommunications and technology sector is leading the way with 64% of companies surveyed having moved to the implementation stage, compared to 27% who are still in the consideration stage of remote working. IT-based companies, especially those in the start-up sector, tend to find it easier to make decisions quickly and remote working is often already part of their DNA.“In heavily regulated industries, companies need to think about which roles can be done within a particular market for regulatory reasons,” says Marc Burrows.Agile FinTech companies are embracing this new flexibility in working methods and the labour market in order to source talent across the world and open up a hiring pool beyond local geography.“That is one way FinTech is creating differentiators and advantages for themselves in a competitive talent market compared to some of the more traditional employers,” he says. “The challenge is to do it in a measured, well managed way so that these companies can continue to maintain their compliance profile and the levels of integrity within the business that they need in order to work effectively with the regulatory agencies and larger financial services partners.”

FinTechs boost the economy of London – and beyond

London is a ‘superhub’ of Fintech activity, and along with nine additional high-growth FinTech clusters around the UK, it is showing a growth rate of 16% per year, compared to 1.3% for small businesses overall.This is according to the FinTech Strategic Review which was commissioned by John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and led by former Worldpay CEO, Ron Kalifa, with input from Deloitte.The UK continues to create global category-defining FinTechs and has strengths across the board, particularly in WealthTech and payments, the report found. FinTech connectivity can drive levelling up and equalling out, with the potential to drive gross added value of between £2.4 billion and £3 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs over the next three years.Philipp Buschmann, CEO of AAZZUR, an FinTech API embedded finance platform, says his organisation recruits far and wide and allows work to be flexible in order to attract the best talent.“Just look at what happened at Google and Goldman Sachs – these companies ordered all their employees back and only half turned up,” he says. “Covid has changed the way we work and if you want the best talent you need to be flexible. Our team is 12-13 people, headquartered in Berlin, yet we only have one German employee – we recruit far and wide and allow work to be flexible.”He says that because of the Ukraine crisis, the sector is also seeing more difficulties when looking for programmers. Many programmers are Russian or Belarusian and there is now a hesitancy to employ from that region and potential candidates from Ukraine are distracted by the ongoing war.“There are now lots of platforms where you can hire people from all over the world and because of this, wages are becoming fairer,” he says. Prices in the developing world are increasing and from the west are levelling out, which indicates how the location of the talent is now less of a barrier.“The UK is the leading country for fintech in the EU. The UK is a huge consumer of lending, investment and real estate. Because the British have the most cash and highest borrowing, the industry that serves this ecosystem has to be the most developed,” he says. The UK is also more likely to try something new and innovative as compared to other more conservative countries in Europe.“We need an openness to regulations for continued growth,” he adds. “Brexit will hurt over the next 10 years and scaling will be difficult. Any relaxation of the financial border should be encouraged, and red tape avoided.” 

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Favourable immigration routes benefit experienced tech sector professionals

Rajiv Naik, Partner at global immigration law firm Fragomen, says there is a clear distinction in UK immigration between those tech professionals who enter the UK with an offer of employment and those who want the freedom to embrace the true spirit of entrepreneurialism.“The former will typically result in the individual being sponsored by their employer under one of the UK’s work authorisation visa categories, tying the individual and their work, to their employer,” he says.“For those individuals wanting the freedom to explore multiple opportunities and set up their own business(es), there are a number of options available, however the eligibility requirements and application processes, can be complex.“The planned introduction of new visa schemes, such as the High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa schemes could benefit tech migrants looking for alternative ways to work and establish themselves in the UK,” he says. These routes will build on the Student and Graduate visa options already in place in the UK.He says there is global competition for the strongest tech talent, with numerous national governments utilising their immigration systems to attract the best candidates into their respective countries. There are a number of other countries offering tech and STEM migrants the opportunity to move to and work in their specific fields of expertise, although a number of these require the investing of funds into the country as part of the application process:
  • The US E-2 Treaty Investor visa for example allows certain nationals to be admitted to the United States when investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. It permits work for foreign nationals investing or in the process of investing in the United States for up to five years.
  • Under the Spanish Entrepreneur visa scheme, applicants must demonstrate that the planned activities are of special interest and/or bring added value to the Spanish economy.
  • There are similar schemes available in a host of other countries including Singapore, Australia, Canada etc.
“With the race between companies and countries and companies to secure the best tech talent across the globe, we will likely see the continued use and streamlining of visa categories such as these,” he says.FinTech and telecoms companies, particularly in London, are likely to be the beneficiaries of these open and welcoming markets over the coming years.
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Read more about the Great Return in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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