“The key challenge is there is a distinct talent shortage in these core areas, everyone is competing for the same skills and salaries are rising. The questions are how much further can they go, and what can we do about bringing more talent in for those roles. They are not going to die off in the next few years, so we need to see stronger net immigration.”
User experience, or UX, developers are also in demand, and for banks “it is particularly challenging to get these skills as they are sector-agnostic”, Mr Hanson said. Data scientists and “full stack” engineers, who work at the front and back end of apps and systems, are also highly sought after, and their asking salaries are lifting.
Full stack engineers were seeking $140,000 to $180,000 at the start of the calendar year, but this band has now shifted to $160,000 to $210,000, a rise of 17 per cent. Data scientists working in fintech and financial services more broadly, who had been on $120,000 to $150,000, are now seeking $130,000 to $165,000, Robert Walters said.
Search turns to overseas workers
Banks are competing with about 600 specialist fintech firms in Australia for similar workers.
Start-ups are attractive to many IT workers, given the lack of bureaucracy, more interesting projects, flexible work and access to equity – although pressures on the venture capital sector and tech valuations will make candidates for start-up roles more discerning, Mr Hanson said.
With all the major banks chasing similar talent to bolster technology teams as products go digital and more customers use internet banking, higher staff costs remain a concern for analysts, who peppered bank management with questions during the reporting season last month about inflating salaries maintaining pressures on costs.
NAB, which employs 5000 engineers, has 700 roles open – and plans to hire a total of 1500 digital staff this year. Other banks also have large engineering teams and are keen to expand workforces as they reduce reliance on offshoring and outsourcing and retain more IT talent in-house.
With the jobless rate down to a 48-year low of 3.9 per cent, National Australia Bank CEO Ross McEwan told The Australian Financial Review Banking Summit last week that ramping up Australia’s access to foreign workers to fill job vacancies was “one of the most urgent issues the government should focus on”.
Mr Hanson agreed that the IT skills shortages were too acute to be solved by education alone. He called for changes to skilled immigration requirements, including reducing application times for temporary skill shortage visas (known as 482 visas) and the provision of more certainty about pathways to permanent residency.
“It will be hugely important for Australia to market itself appropriately, make it easier to move to permanent residency to speed up the visa process and to improve recognition of qualifications across border,” he said.
Detail on the extent of IT wage inflation in the banking sector comes as Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic told The Australian Financial Review he would advocate within the government for changes to immigration rules to help solve the immediate shortfall of tech talent. He also wanted skilled migration reform to provide a pathway to permanent residency so talent would be retained in Australia.
“We simply can’t have people turned away if businesses are unable to find talent when they need it most,” Mr Husic said in an interview.
The Australian Financial Industry Association, in a submission to Treasury last year, called for government to address “immediate and urgent skills shortages through targeted immigration initiatives”.