Financial Technology
Solving the Stunning Talent Shortage in Finance and Technology

Financial Technology
Solving the Stunning Talent Shortage in Finance and Technology

Garrett Baldwin

A Q&A with GFT’s Head of Business Development Sonia Whang

June 1, 2015

Last month, we dove deep into the business-human resources discussion with our exploration of a possible Robot Jobs Apocolypse. As noted, new industries and skill sets must emerge as technology reduces the need for workers in traditional sectors. That story centered its focus on what investors can do to hedge their investments against the possibility that a robot takes his or her job.

It also dispelled a number of myths in the process.

But what about the solutions needed to teach individuals these new skills, and what about the stunning lack of talent shortage in the IT industry today? Today, there are nearly seven million young adults unemployed in the United States; however, there are 3.6 million jobs unfilled, with a large share of these jobs requiring backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Where can these individuals obtain the skills needed to fill so many STEM-related positions, particularly in the financial sector?

That’s the center of a new effort by GFT, a financial services firm that works with 9 out of 10 of the world’s largest banks and well-known hedge funds. The company has partnered with Code to Work, a new non-profit focused on closing the IT skills gap by sourcing and prequalifying diverse technical talent from non-traditional sources for large companies. The two are working to train more local and traditionally over-looked candidates (many of who may be first generation Americans, first in their family to go to college, or from inner city schools).

This week, we caught up with GFT’s Head of Business Development Sonia Whang to discuss the partnership, its goals, and offer some optimism on job training at the intersection of finance and technology.


The Alpha Pages (TAP): What Prompted This Partnership Between GFT and Code to Work?                                                                          

Sonia Whang (SW): There’s a lot of discussion right now about this idea that there’s a tech shortage in this country – more than half a million technology jobs in the U.S. are currently unfilled, and companies in NYC are reporting difficulties finding people to fill their entry-level roles.

However, when you look at the numbers of colleges that are teaching computer science and technical skills, and the number of students who are graduating in these fields, the lack of entry-level talent is puzzling.  

What we instead notice is that there’s a tendency, particularly within the financial services industry, to only recruit from the same top-ranking universities. These companies end up overlooking the vast pool of talent that exists in their own backyards.  State and city schools, online universities, and specialty training programs are not only graduating more students than ever, but they are also teaching some of the most current, job-relevant skills. 

GFT and Code to Work are teaming up to try to solve the ‘tech shortage’ with a demand-centric approach; through Code to Work’s programs and GFT’s deep relationships within the financial services industry, we believe we can help identify the hiring needs of the industry and help firms fill these open roles with high-quality talent, while extending opportunities to a more diverse group of individuals.

TAP: What Do You Hope to Gain from this Collaboration?

SW: As a company, we see our partnership as instrumental for two key reasons.  First, we feel strongly that it’s important for firms to be responsible members of their local communities.  Besides having an office in midtown, many of our employees are New York locals and have their own children who are currently going through the city’s school system.  We feel it’s incredibly important to help support the local markets and ensure that tomorrow’s workforce is prepared, stronger, and diverse.

Additionally, one of Code to Work’s goals is to help school systems become better at identifying which skills are in demand in today’s workplace, which benefits both our clients (who are able to have a wider pool of qualified applicants), and of course, new graduates who are able to find employment and start paying off increasingly high tuition fees.

Second, this collaboration allows us to give our employees a chance to participate in this exciting initiative – helping mentor students, develop tech assessments, and offer pro bono consulting to Code to Work to help them optimize their operations and increase their brand recognition.  For us, helping inform universities of the demands of employers as well as providing students technical employment opportunities is an important part of giving back to the community, and we’re honored to be able to help.

TAP: What roles are you looking to place in the short-term and long-term through this program?

SW: Right now, Code to Work is finishing its successful pilot program, where they placed eight students in paid summer internships working with JP Morgan’s technology organization. 

In the short-term, Code to Work is helping fill technology employment gaps by bridging the communication and opportunities between local universities and large financial institutions.

While developers and technical analyst roles are the current focus, in the long-term, the plans may expand to include other roles like governance, business analysts, and creative roles, which are all key functions in the software development lifecycle.

TAP: What sort of mentoring is taking place? What skills can candidates learn?

SW: GFT is going to be offering technology mentorship and training around professional conduct.  From a technical perspective, Code to Work participants will be able to join select GFT-internal business and technical trainings and learn about the innovative solutions and technology that GFT often applies in our client engagements. 

Additionally, we’ll be helping mentor students on fundamental workplace skills - for example, interviewing and networking tips and suggestions for how to integrate into a company’s culture. 

TAP: What is the greater significance around this collaboration for the industry?

SW: The importance of helping the broader New York City community develop a robust and diverse technical workforce can’t be overstated.  We feel strongly that taking part in initiatives like this sets us on a path towards a stronger economy and a more resilient industry.  GFT is proud to be helping Code to Work expose a broader pool of talent to financial services firms and expand our own capabilities at the same time.


About Sonia Whang

Sonia whang headshot gft

Sonia Whang is the Head of Business Development, Capital Markets for GFT USA. She is responsible for managing the Capital Markets portfolio, which includes client relationship development and ensuring client satisfaction. Sonia’s responsibilities include upholding GFT's mission, values, strategic marketing and operational plans. She is a member of the GFT North American leadership team and is based out of the New York City office.

Twitter: #GFT; @gft_en


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