Canada’s big banks are losing their ability to attract top talent

Banks face significant competition for attracting and retaining the kind of talent they need to meet the evolving needs of customers in an increasingly digital world.

There is a general shortage of candidates with technical skills and FinTech are snapping them up and the Big Canadian banks are losing out on recruiting the top talent.

Many of the job searchers who would have traditionally opted to work for a Big bank are now opting for jobs in  FinTech companies.

“I don’t think it’s any surprise that we are experiencing challenges finding talent, specifically in digital (Aayaz Pira, vice-president of digital channels at CIBC, Toronto Star, 2016).

Key Top Talent Frustrations

  • FinTechs have a culture and work opportunities that are totally unlike what is being offered by the Big Canadian banks.
  • FinTech companies allow employees to work flexible hours, wear jeans to the office and play beer pong during lunch breaks.
  • The differences in corporate culture go beyond superficialities and FinTech offer a fundamentally different work environment that cannot easily be achieved by the Big Canadian banks.
  • Greater learning opportunities, less red tape and the chance to work on problems they feel genuinely passionate about are some of the reasons why talent ditched jobs in traditional financial institutions for a role at a FinTech startup.
  • FinTech can decide to build something in the morning and it can go live to customers by the end of the day. Big Canadian banks cannot effectively achieve this today.
  • FinTech offer an inspiring environment that is very difficult for large institutions to achieve. Big institutions lose that spark and get buried in red tape and corporate politics.
  • Old school corporate banking environments are so averse to change that frustration reaches a point where top talent have to leave.
  • There are frustrations about how little Big Canadian banks are taking advantage of new technologies.

Key Learnings

In an effort to attract tech-savvy new talent, some of the big Canadian banks are modifying their workplaces to bring them more in line with what one might see in Silicon Valley. Scotiabank and CIBC are leading the charge in Canada.


  • Last year, Scotiabank announced plans to launch a “digital factory” in Toronto that will bring 350 tech jobs, including user experience designers and data scientists, all under one roof.
  • The workplace environment at the digital factory will feel “very much similar” to that of a FinTech company


  • CIBC has sponsored hackathons, launched an innovation lab in Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District and transformed one of its workspaces in downtown Toronto into a digital office, complete with pizza parties and a foosball table.