As the historically conservative financial industry in Malaysia becomes increasingly open to fintech developments, a shortage of talent is seeing firms scramble for talent in a limited pool of candidates.

Financial institutions in Malaysia can’t hire fintech talent fast enough to keep pace with the growing demands of consumers, according to recruitment specialist Hays.

A lack of technical specialists means that across the board, employers in Malaysia are prioritizing hard skills over soft skills in their recruitment efforts, according to the 2019 Hays Asia Salary Guide. Banks and fintech firms alike are short of talent including software developers, cloud engineers, network engineers, cybersecurity engineers, project managers and data scientists.

The survey said that 60 percent of hiring managers are more inclined to employ staff based on their technical aptitude. Hiring managers said the top technical skills they are looking for are statistical analysis and data mining (voted by 55 percent), project management (52 percent), and computer skills (44 percent).

Digitalization has made strong inroads in banking, and banks and financial institutions are partnering with fintech firms to bolster know-your-customer (KYC) processes, anti-money laundering and digital identity management. Banks might also be gearing up for competition as virtual banking is fast becoming a reality for Malaysia – Bank Negara plans to issue licensing guidelines by year-end, or as soon as the industry regulations are finalized.

The majority of those currently making their way into fintech in Malaysia are in the first 10 years of their career or straight out of education. However, a large amount of this demographic, the techies of the future, do not see the industry as one that is beneficial to their careers, said Hays consultant Ashraf Rafiuddin.

As such, employers are using self-promotion and training to entice younger talent, and are also hiring candidates from outside the field, including those without an IT background. This increasingly open-door policy that has been seen in the past 12 months is expected to continue into the next year, Rafiuddin said.