Scrum down as skills shortage serves up outsourcing opportunities

Michael Shapiro, CEO at Synthesis, cautions that there’s a big fight brewing for the best of breed in the banking and financial services talent pool.

There is a tragic irrationality in the fact that South Africa has a youth unemployment rate of more than 50%, but at the same time has a skills shortage in many areas of commerce. One of these areas is the technology space, where according to Sunday Times’s Business Times, South African banks are forced to “fight over” a small talent pool.

What exacerbates the problem is that South African banks have understood the need to digitise, and that not doing so will places the institution at risk. The rate of change is also a significant factor. The result is that there simply no time to train people for the roles that are required. According to Standard Bank, Group chief information officer, Alpheus Mangale, his firm was particularly struggling in trying to fill positions that did not exist just a few years ago – such as cloud engineers. As a result, Banks can expect to pay a “20-30% premium” when they do find such skills, he said.

The good news is that the banks and other financial institutions need not panic. Along with global trends, these enterprises should adjust their thinking and view outsourcing as a solution to this dilemma. Over the last two decades, Synthesis Software Technologies, has seen more and more corporates and finance houses adopting this approach.

The advantage for them is the talent pool is constantly being upskilled, can leverage off the significant expertise in the field and can provide the best of breed skills with minimal overheads and low barrier to entry. Specialised requirements can be co-sourced into the banks teams with ease.

Banks can expect to pay a “20-30% premium” when they do find such skills.

In terms of the industry as a whole, technology companies contribute significantly to the training, up-skilling and mentoring of the broader talent pool, which ultimately will contribute to the solving of the challenge.

The launch of new industry players, Discovery, TymeBank and others will undoubtedly increase the pressure on the more established tier 1 banks. However, rather than panic and try and “grab” whatever skills come their way, I believe that the outsourcing of skills is an elegant and sensible option.

This doesn’t mean that companies like Synthesis have an endless option of trained people to choose from when looking to employ. On the contrary. At Synthesis we are deeply cognisant of the fact that many of our team might have skills in some technological areas, but not in others. In today’s competitive and demanding environment, this is not enough.

Our team is expected to be able to communicate effectively, have an understanding of ethical standards and morph comfortably from a “tech” environment to the environment of a financial institution. We understand that very few are born with this capability, which is why staff training, mentoring and upskilling is very much part of the culture and not an addition to it.

Broader than the internal capability, we have launched the Synthesis Academy, which provides outcomes-driven onsite training. Facilitators are among the region’s leading technology professionals. In addition to theory, we do provide practical skills to our customers and have social forums for course discussion and mentoring.

Very few are born with this capability, which is why staff training, mentoring and upskilling is very much part of the culture and not an addition to it.

Specialist emerging technologies, such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, change how your business operates, innovates, responds and scales. These are all offered at the Academy.

The skills shortage in South Africa along with the unemployment crises presents both the solution and the challenge. Although we cannot fix the national crises on our own, at Synthesis we are confident that in our own way, we are working to make a difference. One person at a time.

  • Synthesis Software Technologies offers specialised software development, consulting and integration services and technology-based product solutions to banking and financial institutions in South Africa and other emerging markets.