49 (144) 2021


IT in banking – development and tech trends in the age of Covid-19 pandemic

Łukasz Grzeszczyk, Executive Director, Head of IT Perm Recruitment at Hays Poland
Header  ukasz grzeszczyk

The new reality has initiated a series of questions and considerations about its effects on the labour market. During the first months of the pandemic, losses in each industry could only be estimated. There were also opinions that banking will be one of the most severely affected sectors. Such forecasts were based on the potential difficulties in paying off loans and credits, as well as by sudden closure of many businesses, which could have contributed to the deterioration of the condition of financial institutions. However, it soon turned out that it was quite the opposite. The banking sector handled the crisis really well, and IT, which is on the rise, supported the industry in many aspects. The ever-closer collaboration between finance and IT has provided new solutions that will be present in the global market for good.

One of the most noticeable banking trends in the pandemic was the growing interest in mortgage loans. Contrary to what it may seem, the long repayment period did not demotivate clients from taking mortgage loans, even in such an unpredictable moment. Comparing the results from May 2020 to those from May 2021, there was a 66% increase in the number of potential borrowers, interest in mortgage loans. Due to this demand, the number of submitted loan applications was one of the highest in recent years.

The restrictions related to the pandemic and the dynamic growth of interest in mortgage loans resulted in a rapid development of online banking. It has become an even more important channel of communication and operations performed by clients of universal banks.

The growth of IT service centres in Poland

At the turn of 2020 and 2021, investment banks that have been present in Poland for many years through their support centres, started to develop their structures. They were expanding existing areas of activity as well as adding new functions. Our estimates indicate that IT service centres located in Poland, belonging to global investment banks, grew by about 15% in the last year. They had already existed before the pandemic, but their popularity increased significantly during the crisis. One of the main reasons behind this trend was the global shift from the real world to the world of IT and technology, and investors’ growing interest in remote work. Polish IT centres are now a place for the development of many areas of banking and allow banks to better adapt to the new reality.

The growth of IT service centres is noticeable in all major Polish cities. The locations where such business will develop most are Wroclaw, Kraków and Warsaw. Excellent examples of this are – already successfully operating – two of the larger service centres: HSBC in Kraków and UBS in Wroclaw and Kraków. The reasons why they are becoming more and more visible on the banking map are primarily the need for digitisation, the emphasis on competent data processing, a strong focus on security and data, as well as the desire to improve trading systems used in stock exchange operations.

These elements are the basis for the operations of all IT service centres, and these in turn – support banking systems around the world, such as electronic banking and software. Hiring the best specialists in these fields is the most important step in opening such a business, although in many cases employers suffer from the consequences of the global digital skills gap.

Major challenge: the acquisition of IT talent

In Poland, especially in larger cities, the available talent pool of IT specialists does not always meet the expectations of employers in regards to the number of employees they have to and could employ. Candidates present on the Polish market are certainly characterised by the high quality of their knowledge and skills. This is a factor that positively distinguishes Poland from other European countries where investors are willing to seek talent. Moreover, many foreign banks have also noticed other advantages of investing in Poland, such as value for money, high qualifications of employees and well-developed infrastructure.

UBS may serve as an example. For many years, UBS has been investing heavily in its centres in Wroclaw and Kraków. The company had been finding in Poland what it needs, namely excellent people, stability and security of further development. Due to the way in which the country dealt with the pandemic, Poland is perceived as a stable market that constantly provides effective solutions. International financial institutions and banks, thanks to their previous long experience of operating in the Polish labour market, are now aware that IT specialists employed to implement and maintain technological solutions are a guarantee of their effectiveness and reliability. As a consequence, the banks themselves can count on achieving better results in a much safer and predictable environment. Foreign organisations will be more and more open to recruitment conducted on a global scale and the experience of people from other countries. Therefore, they invest in the best possible teams and working tools to increase the efficiency of remote work.

Not only banks, not only IT specialists

The decisions to locate offices in Poland also apply to other financial institutions. These include all FinTech organisations and start-ups that are dynamically developing and open for cooperation. Recent months have shown that they prosper much faster than was estimated at the beginning of the pandemic. Interestingly, even an increase in salaries and all additional costs of running a business does not demotivate foreign investors to cooperate with Poles in the IT and banking market.

This is due to particular steps that have made a good impression on foreign investors. An example is the enhanced responsibility for cybersecurity, characteristic for Poland; strong care for information processing and the development of digitisation, which is already a common and global standard. These aspects of the Polish market are currently developing dynamically and will remain on the market even longer, which can be seen, for example, by the increased interest of companies in recruitment for IT positions.

Currently, some of the leading jobs are related to programming and cybersecurity. Moreover, the profession of ‘quant’ – quantitative analyst – is experiencing an upsurge in popularity. In banking, such experts are increasingly sought after, and their role is to properly interpret vast data resources and obtain information from them, allowing businesses to make good decisions for the future or immediately react to changes taking place on the market. It is a function that is appearing more and more often in IT centres – especially those being a part of large international banks.

The rise of remote work – an opportunity

Another trend that most likely would not have emerged without the Covid-19 pandemic is banks’ growing openness to home-office model. Institutions that have so far been conservative on the topic of remote work will increasingly look favourably at this model. This is largely related to increased technological possibilities. Nowadays, it is becoming easier to manage various systems, including banking systems, without having to be present at the office. As a result, international cooperation will continue to be available, and the probability of the emergence of new Polish IT service centres in cooperation with large banks – may well be on the increase.

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