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
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