Business, consumer and investor confidence is high. The Sydney and Melbourne economies are lit and there’s been a seismic shift in many practice areas; specifically speaking, the SME markets are on fire.

Powering the noise are cashed up investors raining money on smaller, tech enabled groups in search of the next unicorn. Indeed, it is a great time to be in business.

Unsurprisingly, candidate confidence is following suit and we’re seeing a lot of experienced talent forging a path from established enterprises to the thriving SME end of town.

What’s changed in finance?

Post GFC the financial markets have undergone a tightening of regulations – across the board. More recently, you could say NSW and Victoria’s pro-business governments have been light-handed with regulations on new entities, resulting in a proliferation of opportunities for SMEs. (To clarify, we’re talking businesses with $50-500 million turnover).

Without doubt the most consequential disruption to finance has been technology (as with everything). Whether it’s organisations ability to outsource or offshore transactional finance or the surge in FinTechs and other startups, the shift has been both epic and revolutionary.

SME – A new proposition

From funds to FMCG to online to tech to energy, the larger institutions are still the dominant proving grounds; consuming most finance grads and more ‘typical’ candidates with specialist skill sets. Without question there are still great careers to be had at the top end of town.

But, in the face of the 21st century’s new business practices, to some, these companies’ strengths are also their weaknesses.

Strong structure becomes rigidity; largess precedes anonymity; and security begets predictability… for none more so than the entrepreneurially inclined.  

What has become increasingly appealing over the past few years are the agile start ups – those which have now become established, high-growth SMEs doubling in size year on year. Companies with values and purpose, and inspiring, resonant, brand propositions. Clever companies that have commercially leveraged the celebrity (and/or mythologies) of the Musks, Bezos’ and Zuckerbergs of the world for consumer and private investor buy-in.

Companies whose existences rely upon technology, innovation and their tenacity to raise funds through private equity. To many it’s this commercial mindset that makes them so appealing.  

Candidates: Wants V Reality

To be honest it is partly about the hype of the agile SME. But it is also about the opportunities they offer that simply did not exist five years ago.

The trend is most pervasive in the Gen X and Y demographics. These 30 to 40 something year-olds value what the smaller, values-based companies can offer. They’re also experienced enough to be valued by these types of agile companies. The predisposition is likely due to how these generations view their careers. Their time, skills and efforts are an investment in that company. It’s about more than remuneration, title and security. It’s personal.

The challenge for these folks is that their age group is typically at crucial life crossroads. Growing families, mortgages and all manner of ‘adulting’ come into play. Idealism and reality can clash when considering the risk and reward involved.

Yes, they want cultural synergy and are willing to forgo more immediate rewards around salary expectations and bonuses for a slice of equity and to be a part of a future success story, unicorn-based or otherwise. But as desirable as it sounds, the move isn’t feasible for everyone when viewed through the lens of the afor mentioned ‘adulting’.

Companies: Wants-slash-needs

Basic competencies notwithstanding, companies want people on their teams with hunger and drive. They want people in charge of their careers who are willing – and able – to function in a blended role; who want end to end functionality and who can bring to bear their experiences with a more hands on approach.

The better finance roles within the SME market are going to candidates who demonstrate strong leadership and an abilities in change management. They’re going to those who offer strategic and commercial insight that will impact the business.

These companies realise it’s a tall order to fill so we’re also seeing a trend to hire for potential (to be fair, this is happening across many industries, not just finance). Candidates don’t need to tick all boxes but they do need to demonstrate a passion to succeed, to roll up their sleeves and get their hands a little dirty.

Have you switched to an from a larger corp? We’d love to hear your story.

Please join us on LinkedIn to share your thoughts on this and more!