The Dutch FinTech industry has had a unique journey so far.
In 2017, 95% of consumers had “never heard of the term FinTech before”, but in 2019, the country had the highest FinTech consumer adoption rate in Europe, with 73% accustomed to the digital era. The notable success of the likes of Mollie and Adyen has certainly helped. Amsterdam has been coined one of the best tech cities in Europe, and the Dutch are seen as entrepreneurial drivers of innovation.
There’s one big challenge, though. Since 2019, Dutch FinTechs have emphasised their struggle to source and hire qualified talent, which could be detrimental to their success. Let’s dive into an overview of the latest FinTech market trends in the Netherlands and their impact on talent acquisition.
Since 2017, the FinTech industry has risen in popularity. Traditional banks in the Netherlands adopted digital processes and offered innovative products and services to stay ahead of the curve. Dutch consumers followed suit; in 2017, 95% had “never heard of the term FinTech”, yet digital payments users are projected to top 14 million by 2027.
Keystone B2C initiatives iDeal and Tikkie (both developed primarily by traditional banks) revolutionised online payments and encouraged consumers to evolve. The success of Netherlands-based FinTech Unicorns Mollie and Adyen inspired older generations to pay more attention to the digital era and younger generations to play their own role in FinTech success stories. But what does this mean for talent acquisition?
Agility Requires Broader Skills
With continued industry growth, businesses must remain agile and respond quickly to consumer and market changes. Take the pandemic, for example; digital payment platforms suddenly needed to work seamlessly and be stable, reliable, and secure.
FinTech employees, particularly in early-stage startups, need to thrive in fast-paced, ever-changing environments. They need a broad skill set to wear multiple hats and support across the business as demands fluctuate.
This rings particularly true for Developers. Previously, Dutch FinTechs had one team focused on building and another on maintenance. Now, leaders prioritise candidates who can build, understand technological trends, and conduct operational work. Our research showed that DevOps Tools is one of the most in-demand tech skills.
Identifying and engaging top-tier technical talent is tough at the best of times. With an already small talent pool, finding candidates with an even broader skill set becomes incredibly challenging. Furthermore, Dutch FinTechs constantly have open technical vacancies with an average time-to-hire longer than 12 weeks. We therefore anticipate a rise in businesses leaning on specialist recruitment partners for guidance.
Technical skills are notoriously difficult to assess during hiring processes without negatively impacting candidate experience. Throw a broader skill set requirement into the mix, and the challenge multiplies. As bad hires are so costly, it will become paramount for internal acquisition teams and hiring managers to undertake specialist training that helps them adequately assess technical skills, team fit, and hands-on ability.
Lack of Available Talent
In 2019, 85% of Dutch FinTechs wanted to increase their headcount but couldn’t due to a shortage of talent with sufficient digital skills. One roadblock is team size; 52% of Dutch FinTechs have <10 employees so leaders lack the capacity to train and monitor junior employees, especially in Software Development where speed is mission-critical and errors can be detrimental. Instead, they need to focus on mid- to senior-level technical hires but struggle to find qualified and interested candidates.
Whilst our research found FinTech experience to be their lowest priority, Dutch FinTechs ranked education and experience as their second highest hiring priority, which could cause bottlenecks. To avoid open vacancies, leaders may need to widen their requirements and be open to reskilling leaders from other sectors or professions.
Competing with traditional banks
Another hurdle is securing and retaining mid- to senior-level talent. These candidates have likely grown alongside the industry, so aren’t as excited by the prospect of FinTech as the younger generation. Whilst it’s an attractive path for some, many prefer the good labour conditions and security that traditional banking offers. Plus, with many banks investing in digital initiatives, they can still be part of an innovative organisation without the risk.
An obvious solution could be to fill in-demand positions by offering hugely competitive salaries. Over-inflated salaries may solve a short-term inconvenience but often lead to obstacles further down the line. Dutch FinTechs seem to understand this, as our research shows no significant variation between Developer salaries and their peers in Sales and Compliance.
Critical employee retention
Data science and commercial hiring needs are starting to follow a similar pattern, so employee retention is critical for Dutch FinTechs. In 2019, 36% found it relatively easy to retain employees but anticipated a challenge when millennials joined the workforce expecting a high salary, work-life balance, and continuous incentives.
To effectively retain employees, Dutch FinTechs must encourage a culture of shared ownership and shared vision. The government seem to support this through employee equity schemes; they capped share offerings at 20% of fixed salary to avoid businesses minimising cash flow by making equity-heavy offers.
Furthermore, they must implement clear and achievable development pathways and foster a culture of inclusivity, engagement, and productivity.
The Netherlands as a Tech Hub
With a high level of English literacy, a strong digital infrastructure, an ideal location, and an attractive culture, it’s not surprising that Amsterdam is ranked one of the best tech cities in Europe. Combined with the global success of Dutch FinTech Unicorns, this means that candidates from across the globe are increasingly eager to relocate to the Netherlands. In fact, there’s already a relatively large international community of software developers in Amsterdam!
Although employing local talent could be more cost-effective, Dutch graduates tend to lack relevant practical experience, especially if they’ve completed a technical degree. There’s a large knowledge gap for leaders to fill.
Large tech firms in the Netherlands have tech teams comprised of >70% non-Dutch employees, and FinTechs are likely to follow in their footsteps. Research has shown that Dutch FinTechs will continue to invest towards attracting local talent whilst recruiting and relocating talent from abroad to keep up with demand.
Relocating new hires comes with pros and cons. Whilst it widens the talent pool significantly, it’s costly both in time and money. Plus, hiring processes are typically longer. Despite this, relocation could help with employee retention, as those who move their family to a new country for a job opportunity are likely to be dedicated to the long game.
The rise of remote work has also opened doors for Dutch FinTechs by making it easier to hire global talent. Remote-first teams or departments are challenging on the retention front, so leaders must prioritise building a truly inclusive culture that rewards employees equally, regardless of location or setup. Dutch FinTechs seem aware of the importance of a positive and diverse culture, as their top hiring priority is gender diversity.
Increased entrepreneurship (and competition)
With a “springboard to Europe” and access to European customers, it’s incredibly attractive for entrepreneurs to build new FinTech ventures in the Netherlands. More FinTechs are being founded and funding is pouring in for both early- and late-stage Dutch FinTechs, so it could become even harder to source and attract candidates with highly sought-after skill sets.
Increased competition will likely encourage improved employer branding, lucrative compensation packages, and a host of other benefits being offered to help employers stand out from the crowd.
The Future of the Dutch FinTech Industry
In such a futile industry, it’s difficult to look too far ahead, but as the fourth leading FinTech ecosystem in Europe and a growth rate faster than the UK, Sweden, and Denmark, the Dutch FinTech industry seems set to continue growing for the foreseeable future.
The country’s current hiring challenges could become a bottleneck, so the Dutch government must focus on curriculum development and offer more hands-on experience at the university level whilst businesses position themselves competitively to attract, engage, and retain highly sought-after candidates.
In the coming years, we expect to see an increase in international hiring efforts from Dutch FinTechs, an emphasis on hiring talent with a broader and more diverse skill set, and more initiatives to bridge the overwhelming gap between the technical education and labour market. To learn more about the current hiring trends in the Netherlands, download our full EMEA 2023 Salary Guide.