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The Right Stuff: A Good IT Manager Is Hard to Find

CIOs are struggling to keep their departments staffed with talented technologists who understand the business. Finding senior-level workers with the right stuff will continue to prove difficult.

Why It's Important: IT skills are hard to find, and technology managers are prime targets for intra-industry poaching. The securities industry continues to move toward more electronic trading, spurred by regulation, competitive forces and the search for alpha. But meeting these challenges still requires people. Research indicates declining graduation rates among U.S. students majoring in computer sciences, and the cost of identifying, attracting and retaining individuals capable of impacting the bottom line can be exorbitant. "The market for top-tier talent is always tight," notes Kristin Wait, a consultant with Spencer Stuart. "The players with proven track records in key functional areas will always have multiple opportunities in front of them, thus bidding up the market price for these true specialists."

Where the Industry Is Now: While whispers circulate about firms buttoning up their budgets in preparation for an economic recession, hiring trends illustrate the strength of the national securities industry. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the securities industry entered the fourth quarter of 2006 with the highest number of jobs since February 2002. The industry has recovered more than half of the jobs lost between the March 2001 peak and the October 2003 trough, and is trending toward growth in 2007.

Focus in 2007: CIOs are projecting strong growth in hiring through 2007. According to CIO survey results from Robert Half Technology, 17 percent of CIOs in the financial services industry intend to increase IT staffing. New emphasis will be placed on injecting the IT organization with some business blood, as a strong business acumen and proven bottom-line results will become increasingly important next to pure technology skills for management positions.

Industry Leaders: The talent pool is shrinking, and demand for technology managers is soaring as a result of regulatory pressure, emerging technologies and new service offerings. Employers are losing control of the market. Attracting talented managers to an IT organization necessitates that the firm be as attractive to the prospect as the prospect is to the firm. The winners will be those firms that avoid operating as an IT factory, and instead create an environment in which IT managers are encouraged to focus on results and bottom-line implications of IT projects. Worthy candidates can quickly assess the value of technology to a firm; if it is not a critical function that demands the attention of the C-suite, priorities will be shifted elsewhere.

Further, emphasizing alternative sources of talent, such as user communities, will allow firms to identify top talent. For example, several large investment banks and brokerages, including UBS, have mined TopCoder -- an online software development competition administrator and community -- for talent.

Technology Providers: Even the largest financial institutions in the world turn to executive recruiters when in need. Some recruiters with a presence in the securities industry include Korn/Ferry International, Spencer Stuart and Russell Reynolds Associates.

The Price Tag: Top talent costs top dollar, and while salaries are rising, benefit packages featuring unique perks -- including employee development programs, tuition reimbursement and flexible schedules -- can be a major selling point. According to research from Robert Half Technology, the positions that will see the highest salary increases in 2007 include application developers (5.1 percent increase), Web developers (4.2 percent) and data warehouse managers (4.2 percent).

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