Market Update: Is Regulation Killing Or Driving Career Opportunities In Payments?

17 April 2019 By Alastair Cleland

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​The payments industry’s exposure to regulation is significant. Major new regulation 2018-19 has drawn the industry’s focus, and a significant portion of its talent bandwidth. So what’s been the knock-on effect for the payments job market, short and long term?

Anyone in the payments industry will attest that regulation – PSD2, AMLD, GDPR, MiFID to name some of the biggest regulatory acronyms – has hit our sector harder than ever in the last few years. Many argue that while PSD2 in particular is aimed at opening up competition and enabling better consumer choice, the overall volume and complexity of regulation across the ecosystem has hindered innovation for many businesses.

Undoubtedly, though, regulation has piled significant short term workload on our industry and changed certain resource requirements for good.

The people impact: Immediate requirements and long-term demand

Whether businesses are still able to innovate, or if they’re caught up in regulatory red tape, there’s no doubt that there has been, and will continue to be, a huge implication for resourcing needs and skills demand.

For instance, in the banking segment - where so many are racing to hit the September 2019 deadline for PSD2 - project managers, solutions architects, data and security experts are all in demand in a big way. And, of course, specialist contractors are busier than ever, with so many needed to fill short-notice gaps and help meet demanding deadlines.

Other segments of the industry show a different story – although some of the same skills are keenly sought after, they are often part of a longer term-plan. For merchants, tech companies, or other financial services companies looking to adapt their position and take advantage of new market opportunities, their project deadlines are purely competition-led. They are racing to be the first to market with new services offerings, or problem-solving solutions.

Payments demands the right personality

Payments is undoubtedly an exciting and fulfilling career path, but the complexity of regulation in our industry means it requires a certain personality to succeed.

Ten years ago, if you asked a random selection of people on the street about their perceptions of job roles in the payments industry, they may have painted a picture of a stereotypical ‘boring banker’. Do the same exercise today, but mention terms like ‘FinTechs’, ‘mobile payments’, ‘contactless’, ‘wearables’, ‘cryptocurrencies’ - the buzz words our industry is now associated with - and you may get more interesting and varied answers.

Regulation, though, introduces a significant layer of complexity and challenge to payments when compared with the wider tech sector. While technical innovations make the payments industry an exciting and fast-paced place to be these days, the extra layer of difficulty added by regulation ensures that payments careers are not for the faint hearted.

Payments careers can prove challenging for those un-used to such extensive regulation. We’re increasingly briefed by employers to source candidates from outside the payments sphere, only to find that the pace and complexity has been too much and they’ve left within a fairly short space of time.

Candidates don’t necessarily need to have direct payments experience to qualify for a job in payments, but it’s important to ensure they have the right personality for the industry. Resilience, the ability to problem solve and to remain calm under pressure; all these are critical skills for success in a payments career.

People who can adapt their approach and find enjoyment in the variety and speed of change and make the most of the fantastic opportunities that provides for learning new skills. These personality traits – whether they are in candidates already working in payments or elsewhere - are essential.

Opportunity immediately ahead - 2019 milestones and beyond

Regulation’s impact on the payments industry over the last year has been significant.

While many payments businesses are focused on transition of some kind, (whether that is to meet their compliance obligations, or opportunity-driven transformation) it is fair to say that the majority have been largely focused on their short-term resourcing needs over the past year.

However, that tide is beginning to turn as many of the key regulations bed in or come towards their deadlines.

Business leaders should now be thinking about what skills and team structures they need in place to take their company forward in the long-term. Those who don’t plan ahead risk tripping up on the pace and falling behind their competitors.

For those looking at their career in the industry – or for those considering a change, it is worth engaging with industry experts to understand the evolving landscape and what opportunities lay ahead. There will certainly be no shortage of them!

As payments businesses of all kinds jockey for position and adapt their business models, the industry be completely reshaped. This will undoubtedly see career options become broader, new opportunities open up and those with the right skills and personality able to take command of their own career path.

Headcount is a payments specialist recruitment agency with global reach. To discuss your upcoming hiring requirements or learn more about our services, contact us today