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I’ve spent 20 years in finance tech. I only get contract jobs now

Ageism banking technology

I started working in banking technology 20 years ago this year. My career started around the time the internet got going, when Python was still just a snake and Cobol and Unix were commonplace. I’ve designed and implemented systems from scratch and I’ve worked across fixed income and equities. My career spans four major international banks and I have proven achievements at each. But no one will give me a permanent job.

I’m fairly sure it’s my age. Until I hit 51, I worked full time in a permanent role at senior vice president level. Since then, nothing. I’ve applied and I’ve applied, but it’s been impossible to find a permanent role at a comparable level. Permanent jobs for senior banking technologists don’t seem to exist any more.

It’s a different matter in the contract market. I can get contract work no problem at all. But I don’t want to be a contractor: I want to be invested in the business I’m working for; I want to make an impact strategically and I can’t do that when I’m not on the payroll. Contractors are also being squeezed as banks try saving money. Rates are being compressed and contractors are increasingly asked to take involuntary holidays – in my case, my contract is up at the end of November and I’m being asked to take the entirety of December off and to start again in January. The rest will be welcome. The lack of pay will not.

Of course, this is why banks are hiring me as a contractor. Because I’m not a permanent employee they don’t need to give me holiday pay. Nor do they need to give me sick pay, nor pension benefits. They benefit from my experience, with none of the cost commitment that comes from actually giving me a job. The advantages, as far as I’m concerned are all on their side.

Even so, I can’t help but feel banks are losing out. I have a huge amount to offer in terms of both passion and knowledge. Banks are overlooking my past experience and are focusing instead on young people who claim to be experts in “data” but who have no understanding of its broader context. Without people like me, these data teams have no strategic guidance. The same applies to so-called “tech firms,” which are even more locked into the cult of youth.

I’m 51. My career in technology should not be over. Unfortunately, banks’ recruiters don’t agree. There’s a lot of talk about sexism in technology, but from my perspective ageism is the bigger problem. When you have a technology team full of permanent employees aged under 28, you’re doing something badly wrong.

David Smith is the pseudonym of a senior banking technologist in London

Comments (5)

  1. Good day. I am sorry to hear about your troubles. My background is strategic HR partnership and although I have never worked in the banking sector I am very familiar with the road ahead you are describing. Staying on top of business trends to advise my company is part of everyday life and one of the trends I am reading about relates to your experience. It is easier for someone on the outside to see the forest through the trees and hear are a couple of ideas for you.

    First I would agree that companies are being short sided if experience level is the reason for rejection. Multiple industries can give case studies where the short economic wins for hiring youth are quickly lost through delays in project management, upset customers as no-one understands their business (they are being pushed a product verse engaged with), poor transverse management, lack of agility, etc. If working for a corporation is where your passion is try and re-market your brand as a consultant for a company rather than an executive. I think dynamic companies are at the verge of realizing the value of hiring an experienced employee as an employee based consultant. Another tactic I would deploy is turning your resume, CV as it were, into a financial proposal showing the cost savings a company would gain hiring yourself verse a junior candidate.

    An outside the box idea would be staying in the consulting world where flexibility of time and higher pay tends to be the norm and look at a few options. One option is broker yourself between 2 highly visible firms with an end result of wide selection of opportunity and pay. Instead of being limited to the projects one company brings you can build a diversity portfolio solving problems for many. This will also give you greater financial gains based on the positions offered. You worked hard to get to the level you are at and maybe its time to let work for you instead of you working for it.

    If that is not appealing you can join a large consulting firm that treats its consultants like employees. Certain firms have learned that its consultants are its asset and treat them as such. You would get the advantage of growing a company albeit a consulting one and still get the advantage of diversified opportunities. If you do not find one of these you can always start your own with professionals who are liked minded facing the same market challenges.

    If this is any way helpful I welcome any dialogue you wish to have at jsstorage8@hotmail.com.

    Good luck!

  2. you’re just too expensive

  3. Same in the US. Different location exact same experience.

  4. I like your advice about the brokerage wondering how to approach it. Will companies accept you have split and maybe conflict of interests? Like some agreements prevent you working with the competition. So Iim wondering if this will fly?

  5. If you made it to the SVP level (,particularly if it was at a blue chip firm) have you considered also seeking non executive board roles? I am sure there are boards who are looking for people like yourself to help advise on and monitor strategy.

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