The intensely competitive hiring and retention landscape has payments firms large and small evaluating all of the tools at their disposal to snag potential employees.
The Great Resignation’s momentum has yet to wane: The quit rate is the highest it’s been in years, and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell last week deemed the labor market tight "to an unhealthy level," Fortune reported.
Nearly one in three workers have received a pay bump by switching to a new employer, CFO Dive reported. But it’s not just better pay workers are looking for. Some have left for improved work-life balance or more appealing benefits. Many don’t want to give up the flexibility they’ve become accustomed to during the COVID-19 pandemic and are ready to ditch an employer not promising to keep options like working from home.
That confluence of factors has made hiring and retention a more pressing issue than ever for many companies in the crowded payments space. "It’s legitimately one of the top two priority areas for us as a company, and the market’s never been more challenging," said fintech Ramp's Chief Business Officer Colin Kennedy.
The frenetic pace of growth in fintech and payments – propelled by the massive amount of venture capital funding flowing into the space – benefits the industry when it comes to hiring, company leaders said.
Buzz around things like crypto and blockchain in particular means payments "has a sex appeal to it," said Marwan Forzley, CEO of global payments platform Veem. "People want to be in places where big changes are coming."
What top brass think candidates want
Prospective hires want to see a company’s growth, but they also want to get beyond the elevator pitch and understand how their specific role is related to the company's vision, Kennedy said.
Candidates are interested in talking with Ramp employees and learning how they would contribute at the company. That level of substance during the hiring process has "probably been the No. 1 request, as I think about what employees have asked for and what they valued," Kennedy said.
In an extremely competitive market, well-known names and the latest technology can give companies an edge. Steve Ehrlich, CEO of crypto trading platform Voyager Digital, said having a notable name among Voyager’s cofounders – Oscar Salazar, Uber’s founding chief technology officer – captures the interest of prospective employees and keeps them. Salazar is an adviser to Voyager.
"From a technology perspective, it definitely helps lure talent," Ehrlich said, adding that it aided Voyager in landing its current CTO.
Being a public company has benefits, too, in terms of offering employees liquidity if they choose to exercise stock options. "That’s a distinct advantage for us when we compete against private companies in the startup world," Ehrlich said.
Job seekers want to be involved in interesting projects and feel they have the ability to make an impact, executives said. "That actually trumps compensation and flexibility," Forzley said.
When competition is fierce, payments firms look to stand out from the crowd by touting company culture and enhancing career development programming.
"We really want to be able to put our arms around not only hiring great talent from the market, but once they’re with us, developing, retaining, growing, focusing on career development and growth," said Marqeta's Chief Human Resources Officer Sunaina Lobo.
When it comes to pay, "there’s only so much we can do," Lobo said. Creating a sense of belonging, driving purpose and supporting employees are the game-changing factors when trying to draw in and keep talent, Lobo said.
Card company Discover Financial Services aims to position itself "as a well-established player in digital banking and payments while creating an environment that feels like a small company," Andy Eichfeld, the company’s chief human resources and administrative officer, said in an email.
Britt Zarling, Fiserv’s senior vice president of corporate communications, noted the company’s investments in career and leadership development and its embrace of a culture where innovative ideas can originate anywhere within the organization. The payments giant has about 44,000 employees around the world.
"We’re continually focusing on how we differentiate ourselves from everybody else," Zarling said.
Payments companies planning to scale amid this tight labor market are pursuing multiple paths to find job candidates. Voyager's internship program plays an instrumental role in helping the company hire four out of five interns, Ehrlich said. "It helps us build pipelines through people you know and through trusted sources," he said.
Fiserv has increased its focus on things like early career development programs for students and recent graduates, Zarling said.
For Veem, existing employees often lead the company to potential hires. "That’s probably the most reliable source of access to new employees," Forzley said.
As the pandemic has proven the durability of remote work, many companies have opened roles to workers based anywhere. That’s expanded the potential candidate pool and drawn in more diverse talent, Lobo said, which "has been really game changing" for Marqeta.
The size of Marqeta's workforce increased from 530 employees to almost 800 in 2021. It now has about 850 employees globally and continues to hire. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the headcount target for this year.
Retaining employees isn't easy
Attrition in Discover’s payments division and across the company "is a little higher than the past," and the company is working to counter that by touting its culture and value proposition for employees, Eichfeld said in an email.
According to Discover’s annual 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company had 16,700 employees as of the end of 2021, compared to 17,600 in 2020.
Especially in "hotter talent segments" such as engineering, analytics, digital marketing and recruiting, Eichfeld said Discover has updated its human resources models more often in the last year, examining pay and considering contract work versus a permanent hire.
Marqeta and Fiserv said attrition rates have been in line with company peers. "Our data is not concerning us in that sense," Fiserv’s Zarling said. Fiserv’s annual filings showed no change in total employee count from 2020 to 2021, staying consistent at about 44,000.
Leaders from payments firms large and small said they keep a close watch on the market to ensure they remain competitive when it comes to compensation. Ehrlich said Voyager looks at compensation semi-annually.
Marqeta revises pay bands every year, Lobo said, and that’s crucial given the tech competition in the San Francisco Bay Area where the Oakland, California company is based. Marqeta's also considering updating its philosophy around reviewing compensation through the year, and examining its pay strategy based on where remote candidates live.
As expectations around benefits have evolved rapidly in recent years, executives said new lures – such as more paid vacation time, fertility services and/or generous parental leave policies – are essential for payments companies striving to keep workers from jumping ship.
Buy now-pay later provider Affirm, which has doubled its workforce to about 2,000 employees in the past year, touts its monthly stipends, including $200 for technology expenses, $220 for food, and $250 for lifestyle and wellness, said Chief People Officer Jude Komuves in an email. Each employee also has access to a $20,000 lifetime "wallet" for family planning needs such as fertility services or adoption.
Investing in employees and keeping them happy is critical when retention is so challenging, payments leaders said.
Flexibility has become the No. 1 priority for many employees, Ehrlich said, so he's not forcing an office return for Voyager staff, because showing employees they’re being heard is essential to keeping growth on track. "You’ve got to listen to the employees," he said.