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Fintech Executive Search: Finding Visionary Leadership For An Emerging Sector

Fintech Executive Search

The world’s economic and financial landscapes are rapidly changing as a result of, among other things, improvements in digital technologies. The emerging sector of financial technology, commonly shortened to “Fintech,” presents a variety of new opportunities and challenges to consumers, financial institutions, new entrants, and regulators alike. 

The importance of Fintech cannot be overstated, and the growth of the sector has brought with it a growing global demand for fintech executive search services. Established executive search firms and fintech executive search consultants stepped up to meet this demand, but not all self-professed fintech executive recruiters are created equal. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the emerging fintech sector and outline the unique challenges of executive search in the fintech space. Finally, we’ll discuss our own approach to executive search and explain why Ellig Group is a superb choice for your fintech executive search needs.

Overview Of The Fintech Sector

“Fintech” is a portmanteau of the words “financial” and “technology,” and the sector indeed lies at the intersection of these two industries. Fintech companies leverage technology and sometimes business models from the tech industry to provide customers with financial services and goods. These goods and services often mirror those offered by traditional financial institutions: banking, insurance, investing, and so on.

In fact, while “fintech” is a relatively new term, the concept is hardly new in and of itself – after all, the finance sector has a long and robust history of adopting and leveraging new technologies. However, the sector is currently experiencing explosive growth due to increasing reliance on the internet and adoption of mobile technologies by both consumers and businesses alike. According to The Brainy Insights, “The global fintech market is expected to reach USD 936.51 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 26.2% from 2022 to 2030.”

As mentioned, fintech appears to be a fresh wave of technology innovations, but the idea itself has been around for a while. The earliest credit cards, which debuted in the 1950s, freed consumers of the need to carry cash in their daily lives, and are thus often considered to be the first fintech products made accessible to the general public. The development of fintech led to the adoption of bank mainframes and online stock trading platforms. One of the first fintech businesses to operate exclusively online, PayPal was established in 1998. This innovation has now been further transformed by mobile technology, social media, and data encryption. We now routinely use social media-hosted payment choices, blockchain networks, and mobile payment apps as a result of the fintech revolution.

Fintech makes financial transactions simpler for individuals and organizations, increasing their accessibility and often lowering their cost. It can also be applied to businesses and services that enable extremely secure internal network transactions using AI, big data, and encrypted blockchain technology.

Fintech generally aims to eliminate procedures that can be superfluous for all parties engaged in the transaction process. For instance, ordinary consumers can send money to other individuals at any time of day using a smartphone service like Venmo or CashApp. Previously, the recipient would need to go to the bank to deposit the funds if the sender chose to pay with cash or a check instead, since individual consumers generally lack the means to accept credit card payments directly.

Investing and insurance sectors are both undergoing rapid change as a result of fintech disruptions. Car insurance companies now provide “telematics-based” insurance, which uses data gathered from your smartphone or a “black box” installed in your vehicle to track your driving. You may then calculate how much you will pay for your insurance coverage using this information. In the future, it might be possible to purchase insurance on a “pay as you go” or temporary basis.

Thanks to advancements in technology, consumers can now make “execution only” investments through the internet without any face-to-face interaction. Another area with great potential is “robo advice” — automated financial advice — which is highly scalable and can be provided at much lower cost.

Fintech Executive Search: Sector Specifics

Leaders in the fintech industry must be skilled at collaborating with a wide variety of different partners. They must be able to create new alliances quickly and maintain strong connections with other c-level executives from various industries. Generally speaking, this is one of the key traits fintech executive consultants look for when conducting a fintech executive search. Being a successful leader in the fintech sector requires being adept at generating new connections and relationships because the industry is all about collaboration and must be proved during a fintech executive search.

During a fintech executive search, we believe it’s important to look for someone with a track record of success in the sector. They should have knowledge of working with various partners and be able to demonstrate how they have contributed to the creation of new goods or services. Additionally, they should be able to showcase their leadership abilities by giving examples of how they developed a team or oversaw a project.

DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) considerations are of particular concern in fintech executive search. The tech industry overall has a reputation for lacking diversity, and though many companies are actively working to counteract this, the public’s perception to the contrary may in and of itself present a barrier to inclusion. Talented diverse executives may be reluctant to accept a position at a company where they fear they will be made to feel unwelcome or otherwise hindered in their ability to lead effectively.

Additionally, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee has recently begun looking into the state of DEI in the fintech industry. Fortunately, many fintech companies have begun to catch on to the need for increased diversity in the space and launch initiatives to improve the situation. One example is Barclays’ Female Innovators Lab, an incubator for women fintech entrepreneurs.

Diverse leadership is of particular value to the many fintech companies whose business models are based on extending services to underbanked populations – i.e., potential customers who are marginalized by existing financial institutions and models. To lead effectively, a leadership team must understand the needs and perspectives of all the company’s stakeholders, of which customers are a major subset. It stands to reason that a diverse c-suite is better equipped to serve a customer base that by definition consists of historically marginalized people.

fintech executive search

Other Desired Traits in Fintech Executive Search:

  1. Problem solving ability

Bringing emerging and immature technologies to market presents an endless string of challenges, and fintech companies need leaders up to the task of tackling them. When you’re changing the rules of the game, there’s no playbook to fall back on.

  1. Agility

Fintech companies, like other technology-driven enterprises, often need to change course and find new models that leverage their tech assets more effectively. A flexible mindset and track record of managing successful pivots are thus highly desirable qualities in a fintech executive. 

  1. Innovation

Fintech is a sector based on disrupting existing business models. Thus, while innovative thinking is beneficial in all industries, it is absolutely essential for leaders in fintech. Fintech executives require not only creativity but also the outstanding communication skills needed to communicate their vision to stakeholders. An effective fintech leader must ensure that the company remains ahead of the curve and that all employees understand their roles in that endeavor.

  1. Integrity and reputation

2022 has already seen several high-profile scandals and catastrophes among cryptocurrency- and other blockchain-based fintech companies. For example, the collapse of Terraform Labs and its Luna/TerraUSD algorithmic stablecoin ecosystem in May wiped out an estimated $60 billion in value, and as of publication, Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon remains under an outstanding arrest warrant by South Korean authorities. Fintech models, especially those based on cryptocurrency, often rely on marketing risky investments directly to consumers, and being based on relatively immature technologies, they are often vulnerable to both cybercrime and regulatory action. Trust is thus essential to the success of new fintech businesses, and fintech executive recruiters should therefore prioritize candidates with unimpeachable integrity and spotless reputations.

Why Ellig Group Excels at Fintech Executive Search

Fintech executive search involves hiring a fintech executive recruiter to find and engage the best executive talent available to meet your fintech needs. A fintech executive search firm will collaborate closely with you to comprehend your needs and offer advice on the best course of action to ensure that the most qualified candidates are hired.

It is a research-driven method, therefore a fintech executive search firm will receive an upfront retainer fee to conduct detailed market mapping to analyze the market and benchmark for skills/roles and wages. In order to create a wide pool of top executive talent, search firms typically have deep knowledge of and access to board directors and senior executives across sectors and roles. With many fintech executive consultants out there, why should you choose Ellig Group as your fintech executive search partner?

  1. Access to a wide range of top-notch executives

Ellig Group has an extensive global network of contacts in the finance and tech sectors and thus has a deep pool to draw from when matching candidates to the needs of a given client.

  1. Thorough vetting process 

Ellig Group conducts thorough interviews with important stakeholders prior to the recruitment process to ascertain the assignment requirements and the culture of the organization. This data is then put into a profile that outlines the character qualities and competencies to look for in applicants. We develop specific interview questions to check for the appropriate skills and capabilities based on that candidate profile, leading to precision-tailored slates of candidates who fit both the job requirements and the client’s corporate culture.

  1. Dedication to DEI

As discussed above, diversity is an important consideration for any fintech company. However, fintech companies may struggle to achieve diversity on their own when hiring. DEI has been a crucial piece of Ellig Group’s mission since the firm’s inception, which has lead to an outstanding track record of placing diverse candidates who go on to excel in their new roles. 

  1. Confidentiality

Working with Ellig Group as your fintech executive search, ensures that the hiring process is discreet and carried out to the highest standards. This results in a win-win circumstance wherein the top applicant is hired and crucial business ties are upheld.

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Tonie Leatherberry was at Deloitte for nearly three decades where she was the principal architect of The Board Leadership Forum and the NextGen CEO Academy, each of which has had a meaningful impact, ultimately placing more than 70 Black leaders into executive-level and board roles. As Chair Emeritus of the Executive Leadership Council, she created the Chairman’s Council of Academic Achievement to address achievement gaps for students of color in America’s educational systems, and as President of the Deloitte Foundation, the mission was to drive initiatives to develop future leaders through education. She is a passionate leader who has devoted much of her professional life to creating opportunities for women and people of color. Tonie is Lead director for Direct Digital Holdings, and a Board Director at Zoetis Inc. and American Family Insurance.

Cindie Jamison was elected Chair of the Darden Restaurants Board (NYSE: DRI) in September 2023, having served as a Director since October 2014 as part of a complete Board replacement slate through Starboard Value’s proxy fight. Since 2013, she has also served on the Office Depot Board (NASDAQ: ODP) where she Chairs the Audit Committee and is a member of the Compensation Committee. In May 2015, she joined the Big Lots, Inc (NYSE: BIG) Board, and became Chair in May 2022. In May 2023 Cindie stepped down from the Tractor Supply Company Board (NASDAQ:TSCO), a position she has held since 2002, where she was Chairman of the Board, after serving as Lead Director, and Chair of the Audit, Compensation & Corporate Governance Committees. Cindie joined the Board of Save the Children in February 2024.

David Chun, Founder and CEO, Equilar, Inc., has led Equilar since its inception to become one of the most trusted names in the corporate governance community. David has been recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential Players in Corporate Governance” by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Disruptor Award by 2020 Women on Boards and Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business. David speaks publicly on corporate governance and board diversity matters, including events hosted by The Conference Board, Deloitte, EY, HR Policy Association, KPMG, NACD, NASDAQ, NYSE, The Society for Corporate Governance and Stanford’s Directors’ College. Prior to founding Equilar, David was a Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, a global investment bank that has since merged with Credit Suisse. Before DLJ, David was a management consultant with Bain & Company and also Kenan Systems, a telecom software developer acquired by Lucent Technologies. David serves on the boards of the Commonwealth Club of California, PGA Reach, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG). He is on Nasdaq’s Center for Board Excellence Advisory Board and Catalyst’s Women on Board Advisory Council. David is a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), Past Chair of the SF Bay Chapter, a founding member of the Council of Korean Americans (CKA) and a former board member of the Wharton Center for Entrepreneurship and the Asian Pacific Fund Community Foundation of San Francisco.

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Priscilla Sims Brown serves as President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank, a full-service bank, lender and investment manager with a century-long commitment to advancing positive social change. Amalgamated Financial Corp., the holding company for the Bank, is the first publicly traded (NASDAQ: AMAL) financial institution to be a public benefit corporation. Priscilla guides Amalgamated Bank in championing social responsibility through values-based banking, customer-centric services, and mission focused lending, serving individuals and organizations, including climate groups, foundations, labor unions, advocacy groups, political campaigns, and other socially responsible businesses, who care that their deposits are put to work for good. Priscilla is also dedicated to addressing environmental and social justice issues at Amalgamated Bank. More than 60% of the Bank’s lending and select balance sheet investments are high-impact through affordable housing, nonprofits, and climate solutions. Named one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking in 2023 by American Banker, Priscilla has been featured in The New York Times, TIME Magazine, PBS, and CNBC Changemakers, among others.

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Myra Biblowit is the President Emeritus of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the nation’s highest-rated breast cancer research organization with a mission focused exclusively on funding the world’s most promising research. Myra took the helm as BCRF President in 2001 and, after 22 years, retired in April 2023. During Myra’s tenure, BCRF funding enabled breakthroughs in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, metastasis, and survivorship. Myra was widely recognized for leading one of the most impactful, financially efficient, and transparent nonprofits in the United States. Prior, Myra was Vice Dean for External Affairs at NYU Medical Center where she headed the Development, Alumni Relations and Public Relations departments. Previously she led the capital campaign as Senior Vice President of the American Museum of Natural History. Earlier, Myra served as Executive Vice President of the Central Park Conservancy. Myra is a member of the Board of Directors of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, the Housewares Charity Foundation and the Historic House Trust of New York City. She is a member of the New York Women’s Forum, the Yellow for Pink National Council, Extraordinary Women on Boards and serves on the Advisory Board of Project Hope for Ovarian Cancer Research & Education.

Truett Tate is Chairman of a number of Boards, including Reference Point, TLC Lions, Thinkably and the recently retired Chairman of QBE, NA. Truett Tate is also Director of the DEVClever board. Truett has a long and esteemed global executive history including most recently as CEO of ANZ USA, Europe, Japan, Korea and the Middle East. Immediately prior, he was Group Executive (and Board member) at Lloyds Banking Group, responsible for Wholesale & International Banking (Including Global Wealth and International Retail) across the United Kingdom, the Americas and worldwide and prior spending 27 years at Citigroup where he held a variety of senior roles including corporate banking business across each of its regional geographies. Truett’s long board history includes Virgin Group, Ten Group, the BITC, BAB Inc along with many other charitable and academic organizations. A speaker, guest lecturer, philanthropist and professional coach/mentor, Truett has seemingly bottomless energy and passionate interest in a safer, more just, more humane and more sustainable world.

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Janice Reals Ellig

Chief Executive Officer

As the head of the Ellig Group, Janice is dedicated to increasing the placement of women and diverse candidates on corporate boards and in C-suites by 2025. Janice joined the legacy firm in 2000 and became Co-Chief Executive Officer in its transition to Chadick Ellig in 2007; she assumed sole ownership of the company as the Ellig Group in 2017 with a new focus on Reimagining Search. Prior to her career in executive search, Janice spent 20 years in corporate America at Pfizer, Citi and Ambac Financial Group, an IPO from Citibank, where she was responsible for Marketing, Human Resources, and Administration.

Heralded by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of “The World’s Most Influential Headhunters,” Janice is often consulted for her expertise and her commitment to gender parity, inclusion, and diversity. She frequently appears at speaking engagements and as a media guest, and she has penned multiple articles for outlets such as Directors & Boards, Directorship, Corporate Director, The Huffington Post, and Forbes.com. Janice also co-authored two books: Driving The Career Highway and What Every Successful Woman Knows, acknowledged by Bloomberg Businessweek as “the best of its genre.”

A tirelessly active member of the industry and champion of her causes, Janice is Founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative and its signature event, Breakfast of Corporate Champions. Since 2011, Janice continues to spearhead this event to honor companies committed to board diversity and to encourage CEOs to sponsor board-ready women for the Women’s Forum database. (LINK: www.womensforumny.org).

Janice is personally committed to several NFP organizations: Board Director of the National YMCA and Past Chair of the YMCA Board of Greater New York; Trustee of the Actors Fund and Committee For Economic Development (CED); Incoming Chair, University of Iowa Foundation; Women’s Forum of New York Past President and Chair of the Corporate Board Initiative; member of the Steering Committee, US 30% Club and The Economic Club of New York.

In recognition for her many philanthropic activities, Janice received the University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 and the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) Eleanor Raynolds Award for Volunteerism in 2008. Named one of the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews, she was also a recipient of the Channel 21 Award In Excellence for her contribution to “Excellence in the Economic Development for Women.”

“Listening to our clients’ needs, learning their business and understanding their culture is how we present the best talent and provide  a competitive advantage. We place candidates with the character, competencies, commitment, (intellectual) curiosity and courage to make a difference. Our goal is always to go beyond the expected and deliver valuable advice, measurable results and great talent!”

– Janice Reals Ellig

  • Champion of gender parity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Industry expert, speaker, and author
  • Founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative
  • Committed board and committee member and philanthropist

T: (212) 688-8671 ext. 226
E: Janice@ElligGroup.com