BusinessDay

Tech talent exodus, glitches frustrate money transfers

Some Nigerian banks have seen their digital banking services, including money transfers and USSD, come under severe strain in recent times, following the exodus of their top tech talents and software issues, BusinessDay has learnt.

Sources say the banks’ inability to fill vacant positions for top technology teams is frustrating the efficient running of their digital banking businesses. One of the tier 1 banks that was trending on social media for days recently is said to be the most affected. BusinessDay observed that a large number of customers besieged a branch of the bank on Tuesday to complain and get their transaction issues sorted. The complaints centred on network problems.

Experts say the talent exodus is huge for banks because holding on to tech talents has become a problem due to the mobility and options available to developers today.

“The tech economy is global with low barriers for entry,” said one of the sources. “Nigerian companies are competing against foreign companies who pay in foreign currency. It’s understandable that talents favour the latter.”

Read also: The Mass Exodus of Nigerian Doctors, in Figures
For a bank to be affected by the exit of talents, it would depend on the position they occupy and how embedded they were in the operations of the bank, one expert told BusinessDay.

“As such, there is the challenge associated with handover and software maintenance. All these could combine to produce poor output for the bank,” the expert who wants to remain anonymous said.

Adedeji Olowe, founder of Lendsqr and Trustee of Open Banking Nigeria, said employees leaving banks has nothing to do with the banks themselves but the realities in the market. The move has more to do with young people leaving Nigeria in droves once they find opportunities abroad and banks are no longer the employers of choice, especially for tech-enabled job functions, he said.

The result of the talent exodus for the affected banks is the difficulty in filling technology roles. In nearly all the banks, the IT teams are saddled with the responsibility of driving digital innovation strategies. In other words, the talent leaving creates gaps in the efficient running of mobile banking services.

The banks’ dilemma is such that efforts to recruit new talents are proving abortive, given that not only are the best employees leaving for tech startups or abroad, but the newly graduated talents are also increasingly turning to smaller companies for better jobs and better pay.

Adewale Adetugbo, executive director and chief technology officer of Telnet Nigeria, said transfer failures are not necessarily about talent but about the wrong infrastructure choices.

“Banks are terrible places to work and so will always lose talent because they don’t think technical talent actually makes them money,” Adetugbo said. “Just look at annual reports of the big five banks over the last five years, identify the highest techie in the management team.”

According to him, making the wrong infrastructure choices and a lack of culture would likely hamper the banks’ abilities to build successful payments businesses in the next three to five years. Some of the banks launched their payment units recently.
Read also: Nigerian banks hit by ‘Great Resignation’ of top tech talent

The tech talent drain in banks has compelled a shift in recruitment approaches in a few banks. Some banks are now using outsourcing models where they have tech employees but are not directly employed by the banks. This ensures that tech employees can be under contract with a particular bank and still be able to work remotely with other companies. These employees are able to dress informally, work remotely, and earn significantly more than their managers or other bank employees with similar years of experience. The downside of the strategy is the growing disaffection by other bank employees who often feel cheated by their tech colleagues.

“Banks need to understand that the market for talent has changed; hence, they need to be less rigid. Second, they may have to actively create a different work track for tech employees. Third, they would need to pay significantly more to attract younger talents. In all these, they face the challenge of appealing to their more traditional employees who would feel short-changed,” Olowe said.

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