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“Banks’ technology teams are a bureaucratic nightmare”

Businesswoman is cut Free from bureaucratic red tape.

I walked into my first job in banking. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m the sort of person that banks are desperate to hire. I can lead digital projects, I know most major development languages and I’ve launched products in other industries that banks are only really just starting to think about. But, two years into my banking career, I’ve had enough.

It’s not about dressing down in the office, writing on white boards, agile working or keeping us stocked with free fruit. Banks are making all the right noises about attracting technologists, but there remains one huge shadow looming over the industry that it consistently fails to get from under – bureaucracy. It’s not something they can easily strip away. Bureaucracy is part of banks’ DNA, its runs through their veins and is central to the way they operate.

I look back on the past year’s work that I’ve managed to push through and just sigh with resignation. If I’m honest with myself, I’m pretty sure that my ‘results’ over the past 12 months could have been achieved within four weeks if I’d been working in another industry. It’s kind of depressing, and although the money’s good here I’m not sure I can handle the lack of progress on projects any more.

I get it – banks are huge multi-national organisations that are subject to more regulations than anyone cares to think about. This means they’re really careful about what gets the nod, but to a technologist used to the pressure of deadlines, the pressure of simply getting multiple people to agree to that something should be done is a completely alien and frustrating concept. Banks are kings of multi-layer management – even the smallest decision has to be signed off by multiple people, which is a huge waste of time and money. We’re being paid, I think, to actually get stuff done, but we end up either spending countless hours pushing paper around and waiting for management get their act together, or sitting on our hands. Even once something gets approval, there’s always the chance that the decision will be reversed.

People within the bank are split. They’re either eagerly chasing down this paperwork, frantically trying to convince management of the urgency of the project. Or, they sort of give up and stare at their screens all day or play Candy Crush on their phones, waiting some work to land on their desk.

This is a problem for banks who keep saying they want to attract the best and brightest technologists. I know a bunch of people who have simply quit and gone into fintech companies. It’s a riskier move and the pay is not as good as a big bank, but at least they’re at the coalface of a project again, tackling problems and creating products. Banks really need to change the way they work if they don’t want to lose all their best people. For me, a brief foray into the banking world is over – I’m sticking in technology but will be working in any other sector.

Graham Mansfield, a pseudonym, recently left his senior technology role at a large investment bank in Canary Wharf 

Image: Getty Images

Comments (1)

  1. The bank has an idea on what they want/need to deliver without ever knowing how to do it. The may set up a team, more often then not with a PM who has no domain knowledge and then they hire contractors and external consulting companies. There are 3 types of people within this bracket:
    I. contractors who are pragmatic and are delivery focused
    ii. contractors who are not delivery focused and interested in either to have everything spoon fed to them or elongating the deliver
    iii. consulting company staff who have no clue, no SME knowledge or have the tools to undertake the task whilst at the same time trying to score points over the contractors
    iv. contractors are then expected to hand hold the so-called experienced consultants, although the consultancy daily rate far exceeds the contractors

    As a result:
    i. the PM is too blind to see or does not have the confidence to shake the boat
    ii. begins to develop favorites who offer the path of least effectiveness

    This leads to frustration, long delivery times and dislike amongst team members.

    At the same time hugh amounts of the banks budgets is being wasted and there is no one who is held accountable. The banks are a supreme example how not to run an organisation. The management rely on super glossy useless PowerPoints created by PM and programme managers without ever asking ‘What have you delivered for the funds that have been provided’. The PM move to another project and no lessons learnt.

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