Attracting The Talent For Bank Innovation

Recruiting for Innovation

A new study by PwC shows what most community banks already know – it is difficult to hire and retain quality employees that can help drive innovation. Banks are not the primary choice for the top graduates for a variety of reasons, and as such, community banks will continue to struggle to obtain the talent they need to compete. 80% of the financial services polled report having trouble hiring and retaining the people they need for new product development. Only 12% said hiring wasn’t an issue. Banks need to take steps to change this, and we will touch on a few of those ideas.


Difficulty in Hiring For Bank Innovation


The Solution


Here at CenterState, we have been grappling with this same problem and are starting to leverage the following steps to assist in solving this issue:


More Forward Thinking and Projects: Banks need to allow themselves to say “what if” and pursue projects that support innovation. Allowing candidates to manage and participate in industry-changing products alone will serve to attract higher quality talent. Good talent wants to be challenged, and our industry faces many challenges. We just need to give innovation teams the permission and authority to help solve our problems.


More Flexibility: More casual attire, greater flexibility in work hours, and more decentralized decision-making are all trends that community banks have been making over the last couple of years that highly skilled prospects say they desire. The reality is that there is very little gap between what prospects want and what banks offer. The problem is one of perception as many prospects we speak with still have the 1950’s notion of a bank. Banking doesn’t so much have a cultural problem but a marketing problem.


Leverage Higher Ed for Higher Talent: Starting with a more formalized intern program, CenterState Bank has expanded our work with Florida’s top universities to build our brand and stoke recruitment. In addition to interns, getting on campus and recruiting for permanent positions, helping with instruction, providing projects and donating resources are all great ways to stay in front of the next round of graduates. Citigroup recently partnered with Cornell Tech in a similar program that is starting to pay dividends.


Training: Consider that educational and work experience around digital loan processing, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other areas are hard to come by. As such, banks should consider training their employees on these newly emerging technologies. Each bank likely has a handful of employees that would love to take on additional projects and have a research and development budget that would allow them to experiment and to go to non-banking conferences to learn more.


Recruiting: While top talent is drawn to the Google’s and Apple’s of the world, there is the next layer of very capable employees at lesser-known start-ups and early-stage companies that can be easily recruited. Banks, with their stability, budgets, and infrastructure present an attractive alternative for many that have become disillusioned with the startup culture. Banks should consider more actively recruiting from technology vendors and fintech startups to attract quality human capital.




Banks need to have the courage to innovate and tackle tough projects. Bringing your small business loans online and on mobile, for example, is a project that all banks need to do and is the perfect initiative to attract the talent you need. Considering that we have cut our costs by more than 50%, the project can easily justify a qualified employee to head up the effort. This is just one of some forty different projects that are on most bank’s innovation wish list. 


Attracting and retaining talent is always a top concern of bankers. The latest PwC survey confirms this fact and the answer is a more targeted approach, better human capital marketing and a more proactive effort in identifying and recruiting skilled talent.