GUEST COMMENT: IT opportunities in the turmoil

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You could be forgiven for believing the picture for technologists working in financial services looks increasingly grim, with ever-growing numbers of redundancies and shrinking job opportunities. However, look a little closer: as a result of all this turmoil, organisations will be looking for ways to reduce costs, streamline and improve their processes, and increase the services they provide.

This will create areas where growth will be very much on the agenda. It is becoming fairly obvious that candidates such as business transformation, change management and turnaround specialists will be very much in demand.

Part of the backlash against the City will come in the form of tighter regulation and government controls. As a result, anyone with previous experience with regulatory and compliance skills will soon become flavour of the month.

Outsourcing

Many companies are responding to the tough economy by expanding their use of existing outsourcing agreements and looking at new contract arrangements. TPI data reveals that globally 282 outsourcing contracts totaling €39bn have been signed so far this year - the strongest half-year performance in 10 years.

Growth in the outsourcing market is taking place predominantly in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA): there has been a 10% increase in the share of this market in this region compared with one year ago.

Meanwhile, the economic downturn is likely to hasten organisations seeking to cut the amount paid to vendors by negotiating lower rates with suppliers and by increasing the dependency on offshore suppliers.

Outsourcing providers in Asia are already bracing themselves for the double whammy of reduced headcounts to support at client sites and aggressive renegotiation of contracts to bring the cost base in line with their clients' reduced revenue streams.

There will therefore be a continued demand for people with a strong track record of delivering innovative business and technology solutions and with experience of driving down costs.

Mergers and acquisitions

All the consolidation within the banking space has meant that some IT professionals have been on the receiving end of job cuts, due to overlaps within the organisations.

However, aligning technology after a merger is always challenging - often firms are left with incompatible systems, and in a worst case scenario, the internal politics can prevent the best outcome being achieved.

The silver lining to all this is that there will be increased demand for technology professionals specialising in IT architecture. In particular, we expect to see a demand for skills around applications, data and process integration.

Project and programme management

An efficient project and programme management office is essential during leaner times, and many companies are seeing significant savings by rolling out a centralised base.

There has been, and will continue to be, an exceptional demand for good programme and project managers with excellent business engagement and stakeholder management skills, particularly where technology is being used to drive fundamental business change in complex organisations.

We would also expect to see an increase in demand for some of the softer change skills, to facilitate consolidation in the financial space. People with experience working for a number of financial organisations, and who understand these different cultures, will be key in driving through this change.

Online and e-commerce

The internet is now one of the most powerful tools for both promoting and deflating a company's brand and reputation, as well as a buying tool for online transactions. In a jittery market, the brand is integral to placating nervous investors and customers alike.

As we all know, the financial services industry is heavily reliant on online transactions for the success of their business.

Ensuring the security of both payment transactions and also copyright and trademark infringement have become vital to this sector. We are seeing a growing demand for business consultants with expertise in these areas and expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future.

Yvonne Emmerson-Peirce is sector principal at financial IT recruiter JM Group.

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