Why you don't have to be a banker to work in fintech

Sandra Dick discovers how search specialist's flexible approach has successfully introduced fresh expertise to key jobs in the sector

Financial services businesses are increasingly seeking to emulate the fast-paced world of the start-up with a more agile, customer-focused approach that is radically changing their talent attraction and resourcing strategies.

Search specialist Carlyle says established businesses are progressively moving away from the traditional practice of recruiting solely from within the financial services industry.

Instead, they are looking across sectors for senior and specialist talent that can help them design and deliver solutions that are more responsive to customers’ needs, and also keep pace with a rapidly changing market.

As a result, an increasing number of opportunities are emerging for talented professionals who may not have a traditional financial services background and who can bring fresh vision to organisations which often have decades of structure and legacy technology behind them.

Careers in financial services look markedly more diverse than even five years ago – a trend that is set to continue.

This shift has required a flexible response from search firms, who are now attracting talent from a broader range of sectors and backgrounds to support both fintech and larger financial services organisations.

Duggie Carlyle, founding partner of Carlyle, said: “Our world is changing at unprecedented speed.

“Customers’ expectations have evolved and businesses are having to adapt to meet the demand for real-time, flexible and personalised services.

“Large financial services organisations are investing significant time and resources in understanding a consumer base that is growing in sophistication and are now appreciating that they may need to look outside their own sector for the tools and talent to achieve this.”

Fiona James-Martin, partner and head of Carlyle’s interim practice, which focuses on identifying non-permanent “impact interims” to undertake key strategic projects, agrees.

“There is a real focus on creating innovative propositions which pro-actively anticipate and address the needs of the consumer,” she says.

“We are increasingly being asked to identify senior individuals who can bring an entrepreneurial mindset and more agile ways of working to businesses within the financial services sector.”

While on the one hand established organisations within financial services are seeking a more diverse pool of permanent senior talent to drive forward this new customer-centred vision, on the other there is an increased appetite for experienced interims who can make an immediate impact in a business.

As Carlyle points out, when it comes to talent, what businesses need in three months may not be what they need in 12 months, such is the speed of change. In order to thrive, organisations are being compelled to adopt more flexible resourcing models and impact interims can prove a valuable addition to talent strategies.

Meanwhile, as traditional businesses shift focus, at the other end of the financial services landscape there are demands from fast-growth start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) keen to bring on board experienced executives, non-executives and advisers who can take them to the next level.

The result is a rapidly shifting talent market right across the sector, which is creating opportunities for established financial services professionals as well as those seeking to switch careers into the fast-paced world of fintech.

Carlyle explains: “There are key leadership roles and disciplines that simply didn’t exist a few years ago, and real competition across the sector for certain attributes.

“Previously, banks and financial services institutions would hire almost exclusively from within the sector, but now they are increasingly looking to customer-centric industries such as gambling and utilities for the expertise and talent required to succeed.”

Carlyle’s Laura Thorburn, who works across financial services, adds: “Individuals now expect to have multiple careers over a longer period, and senior candidates recognise they can add significant value by sharing their knowledge and experience.

“At board level, we are seeing more non-executive directors and advisers interested in engaging across fintech.

“There’s a real curiosity and desire to get involved with the industry and to help innovative ventures grow and succeed.”

In this fast-moving landscape, Carlyle sees its position as that of a trusted adviser, acting as a bridge between established financial services providers and fintech SMEs, widening access to senior and specialist talent and facilitating collaboration across the sector.

In response to their clients’ evolving needs, alongside their retained and interim search services, Carlyle has developed Parallel Search, which enables clients to fill immediate talent needs quickly with an interim solution while the search continues for the best permanent individual for a role.

“A robust search process can take time,” explains Carlyle.

“Because of the seniority of their positions, these individuals typically have extended notice periods.

“But the pace of change in financial services and fintech dictates businesses often need someone much quicker to start making a tangible impact.

“Parallel Search was developed as a direct response to this demand for greater flexibility, speed and diversity of choice within search assignments.”

James-Martin adds: “As one recent example, Carlyle’s initial mandate was to undertake a permanent search for a business change director.

“During the early stages of the search, it became clear that there was an immediate requirement for an individual who could address critical issues within the organisation.

“Within two weeks, we identified a strong interim executive who was able to undertake the role, easing the pressure on the team and wider business while the permanent search process was ongoing.”

It’s a process that has delivered results for both well-established financial services businesses and SMEs.

Carlyle continues to work closely with Tesco Bank, including its unique payment app Tesco Pay+.

The firm has supported Tesco Bank on a number of key interim and permanent searches over the past 12 months, sourcing specialist expertise from sectors such as gaming, digital agency and utilities.

Carlyle’s client base also includes fast-growth fintech players, such as identity specialist the ID Co, cybersecurity firm ZoneFox and cloud accounting platform FreeAgent, whom Carlyle worked with at executive leadership level and which was recently acquired by RBS for £53 million.

With so much activity across the landscape, it’s no surprise that Carlyle has firm links with CodeClan, the award-winning digital skills academy helping to produce a new breed of technology professionals who have “reskilled” from a variety of backgrounds.

This includes people seeking new career challenges as well as those looking to develop their technology skillsets further.

Carlyle placed CodeClan’s chief executive, Melinda Matthews

Clarkson and continues to support the organisation in its work.

Carlyle also works closely with Entrepreneurial Scotland in its role as a corporate partner, while its established event series continues to bring senior and board level financial services executives

together with emerging fintech companies, providing a space to connect and share knowledge and experiences.

London’s position as a fintech and financial services hub means it is a regular destination for Carlyle’s partners and associates.

Carlyle now has a permanent office base in London, strengthening the firm’s ability to act as a conduit for senior and specialist talent between the Scottish and UK markets.

“Scotland continues to punch well above its weight in technology and financial services,” says Duggie Carlyle.

“However, to succeed in a rapidly changing world, we must ensure that we are effectively harnessing the high levels of collaboration and innovation that exist in this country to ensure our relative size acts as an advantage on a global stage.

“We must also focus on promoting Scotland as a premier location for people to live, work and invest in order to attract the businesses and talent that will drive growth.”


Carlyle created Parallel Search, an integrated search service tailored to meet both short-term needs and long-term goals, as a direct response to client demand for more flexible talent solutions that delivered results quickly.

In a Parallel Search model, retained and interim search processes are conducted in tandem, addressing the immediate talent need with an interim solution while a comprehensive search is conducted for the best individual to undertake the permanent role. This seamless dual approach ensures minimal disruption to businesses, reduces pressure to appoint and offers access to a wider pool of potential candidates, supporting organisations in pro-actively addressing potential talent gaps and developing strong senior leadership teams.

Parallel Search offers a flexible solution for assignments with time-sensitive requirements or which need specialist skills and expertise.


Shifts in resourcing are taking place against a background of evolving financial regulations and fresh open banking opportunities.

Over the past 12 months, Carlyle has seen a significant rise in the requirement for top-level “c-suite” roles focused on information security, financial crime and risk, the majority of which are being driven by increased regulation.

For more information about Carlyle, visit their website