Banks Turn to Mind Reading to Source Top Tech Graduates

Want to work at a bank? First you have to let them read your mind.

At career fairs and on university campuses as part of its graduate hiring scheme, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc has been attaching sensors to the heads of potential candidates, to measure brain activity and attention spans.

Students are played a series of images and videos for a few minutes while being monitored. Depending on how they react, they’re presented with a description of their personality type, followed by an area of the bank’s business they might be suited to.

“We are using gamification and online simulation” to create experiences for graduates to be assessed from, RBS ‎Chief Information Officer Patrick Eltridge said in an interview, “but also give them valuable feedback.”

Tech Battle

Banks face an unprecedented demand to hire talented technology employees, due to the increasing need-for-speed from institutional trading to mobile banking, the changing demographic of their customers, and the growing cyber-threat from state-funded hackers to rogue teenagers.

But to convince graduates that working for a bank might be better than joining a startup, lenders are keen to show new hires they are technology companies first, and banks second.

Deutsche Bank AG has doubled the size of its technology graduate pool over the past two years. “The majority of the technology graduates we want to bring in are people with a focus on software engineering,” said Scott Marcar, Deutsche Bank’s IT boss in London.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. last year began ramping up the number of technology staff it was hiring. The U.S. lender already spends $9 billion a year on technology, a budget covering developer salaries to cybersecurity, with roughly a third targeted at new investments. Bank of America Corp. has an annual budget of $3 billion for new technology projects.

Despite the financial firepower from the banking sector, there is stiff competition for those with a technology background. Facebook Inc., Google and Snap Inc. recently announced plans to increase hiring in London, and food-delivery company Deliveroo is considering doubling its 150-strong workforce in its London-headquarters, looking for data scientists and machine learning experts, according to a person close to the situation.

“There’s definitely a challenge in the sector that’s born out of historical reputation and some of the legacy impact from the global financial crisis,” said Paul Aldrich, head of financial services technology at search firm Odgers Berndtson.

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