Compared to other European countries, the Austrian FinTech industry could be considered on the smaller side. That said, it has the potential to be mighty and must not be underestimated.
Although traditional banks and consumers were slow to jump aboard the digitalisation train, governmental encouragement has since increased, and regulators have become more supportive of FinTech innovation.
The notable success of Bitpanda as Austria’s first (and only) FinTech unicorn in 2019 put a spotlight on Vienna as a tech hub. It prompted international startups to open Austrian branches and made it paramount that FinTechs secure and retain high-quality talent in a developer-deficient candidate market.
Let’s dive into an overview of the latest FinTech market trends in Austria and their impact on talent acquisition.
The Evolution of Digitalisation
The Austrian FinTech industry had a somewhat slow start in the race for innovation for three main reasons.
Firstly, consumers generally had little trust in digital solutions and stayed loyal to the big banks until the likes of N26 proved their value. Now, the Austrian digital payments market is projected to reach 7.81m users by 2027!
Secondly, financial firms were hesitant to integrate digital technologies into their business plans. In 2019, 1 in 5 had failed to do so, and this snail-like adoption pace gave smaller, more innovative commercial banks the chance to get ahead. Now, larger firms are suffering the consequences, with many downsizing and making redundancies.
Thirdly, Austrian regulators are stricter than most. The Austrian FMA is highly bureaucratic and, until recently, hadn’t “evolved much since the monarchy days”. While the FinTech market had already blossomed elsewhere, the Austrian FMA only granted their first FinTech licence in 2018. By this point, many Austrian entrepreneurs (like the founders of FinTech unicorn and Europe’s largest challenger bank, N26) had already decided to build in Germany with a larger consumer market and more innovative regulators. But what does this mean for talent acquisition?
Upskilling and reskilling opportunities
To make onboarding processes and ramp-up times as fast as possible, FinTechs often prefer to hire candidates with FinTech experience. However, when traditional banks make redundancies, it adds a special kind of candidate to the talent pool.
Although some impacted candidates will choose to remain in traditional banking, others will be open to transitioning to the FinTech industry. These candidates are incredibly valuable as they have unique insights that could help startups gain further consumer buy-in in a tough market.
This poses a challenge to Austrian FinTechs; to take advantage of these candidates, they must provide sufficient tools and training to help them reskill and upskill. Candidates must also go the extra mile to showcase their willingness to learn and active interest in the FinTech market, as during interviews, hiring managers will be tasked with uncovering how well-informed candidates are and how much they know about potential risk management strategies.
The Austrian government seems to favour providing reskilling and upskilling opportunities to finance professionals. To encourage current and future talent to stay updated with digital development, they’ve established two funds totalling €150m, which are dedicated to creating jobs and supporting the workforce with software that facilitates professional training.
Although FinTechs can often reduce headcount and cut costs by automating processes and relying on tech, these initiatives are still expected to grow the number of IT, data management, and product management opportunities in Austria.
Further Challenges for Austrian FinTechs
Whilst consumer support is increasing, banks are becoming more receptive to innovation, and regulators are supporting entrepreneurs with initiatives like the Regulatory Sandbox Scheme, the challenges aren’t over yet.
In 2019, Bitpanda was the first (and only) Austrian FinTech to reach Unicorn status and has since taken the world by storm. Their success spotlighted Vienna as a tech hub, prompted other entrepreneurs to enter the market, and encouraged international startups like Klarna to open branches in Austria and take advantage of their proximity to Eastern Europe.
This has put Vienna on the map and increased the overall FinTech ecosystem, but it’s also caused several concerns. Firstly, early-stage FinTechs face increased competition from larger players, so it’s more challenging to source and attract high-quality candidates. Secondly, as artificial intelligence is booming and Europe is flailing slightly behind the rest of the world, FinTechs are struggling to hire highly skilled developers, particularly those specialising in AI and machine learning.
High Competition Equals High Demand
With more Austrian FinTechs being founded and more international startups opening Austrian branches, sourcing and attracting high-quality talent becomes even more complex. Talent acquisition teams must diversify their sourcing methods and explore lesser-used channels like micro-communities to locate and engage with candidates.
A Candidate-driven Market
Candidates with highly sought-after skill sets have much greater negotiating power. To secure the best talent, Austrian FinTechs must offer truly competitive compensation packages that include equity. Plus, they must optimise their hiring processes to prioritise a positive candidate experience and strengthen their employer brand to ensure that they can attract top performers.
Relocation and Remote Work
A potential solution to Austria’s shortage of skilled developers is to source talent from elsewhere.
Relocation is a credible option thanks to the country’s high-quality infrastructure, excellent quality of life, and compulsory 13th and 14th salary payments. Vienna is particularly attractive given its frequent high ranking as a “smart city” and salaries that are, from our research, 17% higher than the rest of Austria.
Building remote teams is also a potential solution, particularly for developers who often prefer a work-from-home setup. FinTechs choosing a partially or fully remote team will need to prioritise a culture that encourages and rewards high engagement and productivity whilst cultivating a sense of belonging for all employees, regardless of their location.
Pressure to Get it Right
When facing a shortage of highly skilled developers, Austrian FinTechs need to maximise their chances of a successful hire. They’re therefore more likely to invest in specialist training for their in-house talent acquisition teams and seek external support from a specialist recruitment partner who can introduce them to the best talent in the market and help them create a candidate-friendly hiring process that supports their employer brand and boosts their reputation.
With more money spent on hiring initiatives, specialist support, and highly competitive compensation packages for top candidates, the cost of a poor hiring decision increases significantly. There’s a huge pressure for hiring managers to get it right.
A particularly troublesome part of the technical hiring process is the interviewer’s ability to assess technical skills accurately. In-house talent acquisition teams may be given a detailed brief from the hiring manager but lack the deep understanding needed to probe each candidate’s knowledge, build a quality but candidate-friendly technical test, and uncover each candidate’s actual ability and potential. For this reason, we anticipate a continued rise in FinTechs leaning on specialised technical recruitment agencies for support.
Retention is Key
With high competition and a small talent pool, Austrian FinTechs must prioritise employee retention to avoid a high (and costly) turnover. To do this, Founders may offer employees equity, cultivating shared ownership and a shared vision and encouraging longer tenure. They may also integrate initiatives that focus on improving work-life balance, such as a 4-day work week, unlimited PTO, or highly competitive benefits packages that go above and beyond to improve the quality of life for all employees and their loved ones.
The Future of the Austrian FinTech Industry
Although the Austrian FinTech industry had a relatively slow start, growth forecasts look promising. In 2019, FinTechs occupied 50% of the “best startups in Austria”, and there are now around 300 Austrian FinTech companies, according to the Austrian Central Bank.
In 2021, Austria ranked equal to Germany with 7 FinTechs per million capita and received €46m in FinTech funding per capita, ahead of Germany and France. Austrian funding also grew by 110x between 2019 and 2021, and the payments industry is expected to dominate the market alongside FinTechs integrating AI developments into their products and services.
With growth set to continue and more international FinTechs opening branches in Austria, businesses must have a hiring strategy that sets them apart from competitors to attract and retain top performers. We anticipate many will lean on specialist technical recruitment agencies to source and accurately assess highly sought-after developers in a candidate-deficient market. To learn more about the current hiring trends in Austria, download our full EMEA 2024 Salary Guide.