Building unique staffing pipelines in financial technology

Get the culture right, and the pipeline will flow?
11 September 2023

Sometimes you don’t need a pipeline, you need a way for people to show you their light.

• Financial technology is facing both a skills and a diversity crisis.
• Traditional skills pipelines are unlikely to work in rural communities that don’t have a strong history in financial technology.
• That means there’s a potential to turn the processes of corporate America on their heads.

The financial technology industry, as a sub-sector of the wider tech world, is currently suffering a skills shortage.

It’s also, as the same sub-sector of the same tech world, stuck in a practically eternal, ongoing diversity crisis. If you think of the traditional people who have made up the vast majority of the tech sector, they have been white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, etc. For every point of deviation from this template, the likelihood of you existing in tech is reduced by some significant factor, so that, throughout the whole of the US tech sector, only 28% of staff are women.

That is the very definition of a diversity crisis.

Tightening the diversity crisis in financial technology.

If you then transpose that diversity crisis into, for instance, one of the more rural states in America, you would tend to expect a significantly greater homogeneity in the talent pool and the staffing pipeline, particularly in a specific field within tech, like financial technology.

If you have those expectations, you should probably talk to Outhay Lovan, chief strategy officer at Vizypay, a company bringing connectivity and financial technology to mom-and-pop businesses in rural Iowa.

We sat down with her for a wide-ranging discussion. In Part 1 of this article, she explained how it’s possible to go about bringing financial technology to a community and a region that’s been overlooked and forgotten by bigger players in the market, most of whom are (by all the rules of aggressive capitalism, correctly) chasing big city and big business dollars to maintain the cutting edge of provision in the financial technology market, with, as she put it “all the bells and whistles.”

But towards the end of Part 1, we began discussing the importance of company culture in succeeding at selling financial technology a) in a significantly rural state, and b) to significantly smaller operations, often run for generations by families on a cash-and-handshake basis.

Outhay explained that at Vizypay, while you could have all the right credentials and all the “right” experience, if you didn’t fit with the company’s up-front, tell-it-like-it-is ethos, you probably wouldn’t get in the door.

That made us wonder. In a presumably narrowed talent pool, how does a company dependent on selling financial technology to a non-typical market recruit talent into its operation?

The recruitment process in financial technology – in Iowa.


We said in Part 1 that our approach to the financial technology business was entirely vested in serving the local small business community. We’re not out to sell them what they don’t need and charge them a fortune for the privilege, we’re there to deliver what they do need, because none of the big boys will – it’s not economically viable for them to do so.

The same approach is key to our recruitment strategy. We have an initiative called Look Local First, which falls within that same mindset – how do we spotlight local merchants, and how do we scale that? How do we sustain that? So everything we do is based around that idea.


So what does the recruitment process look like? Who gets to walk in the door and stay? Define the culture for us in its fundamentals?


We go through what might look like a typical three-step recruiting process.

Our first interview is all about talking about who we are. And we’re being honest about it – this is who we are. We’re going to make you uncomfortable, probably. We’re going to say LFG (Let’s *Ahem* Go) – does that make you uncomfortable? If it does, that’s the first sign for you.

We direct people to our website, watch our YouTube channel. If that makes you uncomfortable, then you’re not going to fit long-term. So our first conversation with any candidate is really to talk about who we are. And we hit on our three whys, which we mentioned in Part 1 – our culture, our transparency, and being a voice for small business owners.


No in-depth discussion of the role and its necessary skills?


We hardly go into the detail of the role at all at first interview. The next phase goes into more of that detail. And at our third stage, you’re meeting the managing partners or owners. They’re part of every interview process – and they’re also screening for culture fit.

The discomfort factor.

They’re going to make those individuals get a little uncomfortable in the interview process, because it’s not your typical interview. Stage 3, you’re meeting with the CEO, you’re meeting with the owner of the company, and they’re gonna ask you some interesting questions. But it’s all about you being uncomfortable, and all about you bringing your authentic style. How do you deal with being uncomfortable?

Most interviews in the financial technology world are very structured. There’s nothing wrong with structure as such, but a lot of the generation that’s coming into the workforce now are looking for a genuine way to make a difference. They want a job with a sense of purpose, not the typical 9-5 type of job. They’re looking to belong.

That’s what we bring to the table – we’re changing up that process.


A financial technology business that needs to make money, but feels like a non-profit?


Yes. Yes. Yes. And we encourage our folks to be loud on social media. LinkedIn is free branding, right? Each one of our employees has a profile, each one of our employees can talk about themselves. A lot of companies tell employees to shy away from talking on LinkedIn, because it’s such a professional network, and it has to be about business.

That’s not us. Talk about you. Let people see who you are. You absolutely don’t have to talk about Vizypay, but talk about where you’ve been, showcase those businesses that you’ve been to, bring back that love of that restaurant you go to every day. Share with the world. We want our employees to have their own individual brand.

LinkedIn - free advertising for oyur financial technology pipeline?

Be social on your social networks.


That makes more sense in mom-and-pop rural America than it would in, say, San Francisco or Chicago.

Do you think the approach could be more broadly applied in different areas with similar outlooks?


I think it could. The norm in college is you’re taught to go into interviews in corporate America. You’re go in to your interview and you’re talking about these key areas, your strengths or weaknesses, what you can bring to the table, and you’re having to compete with 50 other candidates who also know the game and are bringing their scripted strengths and weaknesses.

Everybody’s trying to find out whether this person fits the role?

The area nobody pays enough attention to is whether the person fits the culture.

That’s crucial for us, because the skills are entirely teachable. But the attitudes, the culture, those are what we’re looking for.

The skills of financial technology are all trainable.

Bucking the trend of corporate America – sometimes you don’t need the degree.


Hang on, we think our brains are melting. If all the skills are teachable, then your pipeline problem is different to… the whole rest of the industry’s, isn’t it?

You’re not dealing with a lack of skilled candidates as a problem, because it doesn’t matter to you if the candidates are unskilled – that, you say, is the teachable bit. Your only issue is finding enough people with the right sort of mindset?

The inversion of financial technology’s pipeline problem.


Right. Most places will get caught up in a classic Catch-22 situation. I can’t give you an opportunity because you don’t have the skills or the experience – but how do you get the skills or the experience if I don’t give you a chance?

Our mindset is different. We’re willing to give anyone a chance. The role is trainable and coachable. So the person don’t have a college degree, or they don’t have the experience of having done the job. But as I say, the skills are trainable. And the individuals that fit our culture have that sense of resiliency that means we can train them. So it’s the character of people that matters in our recruitment pool, not the qualifications or the experience.

Culture above all.


Which is ingenious, given that you’re based in rural Iowa, selling financial technology to mom-and-pop businesses. There are probably not going to be a huge number of trained and experienced financial technology salespeople beating down your door. But people with grit, determination, and a commitment to improving the local community – those you have in almost ridiculous abundance.


Exactly. It’s kind of strange – we had one guy who came in with all the experience you could want, and he couldn’t really do the job, because he was trained in the traditional way to sell as much as possible for as much as possible.

That’s not going to work in this location, with these people. I said we were straight-up and honest in our dealings – that’s a mirror of the community in which we’re active. Slick sales pitches don’t work here. Honesty, straight talk and understanding what’s needed, not what’s available but redundant – that’ll serve you better selling financial technology in this location, to our customers.

Financial technology requires a particular mindset.

Less what you can be taught, more who you are and what you bring?


It’s almost like re-tooling your regular car to run on electric power – you’ve re-tooled your business to run on character traits you’re likely to find locally and added your own training on top.




Which is how you’re able to continually recruit as needed without being affected by a skills – or necessarily by a diversity – crisis.


Always focus on the people first. Focus on culture. Skills, we can teach. Experience, you can gather. Focus on the people – and on serving the local community with what it needs – and you’ll succeed.

Company culture – if you build it, they will come.


In Part 3 of this article, we’ll deal in more detail with diversity, inclusion, and the benefits of a diverse, culture-based hiring process, even in areas that have been traditionally homogenous.