"We're hiring, just like everyone, hiring aggressively for the right people."
A blockchain hiring crunch is now hitting the major professional services firms as they seek to satisfy the growing demand for products and services from global financial institutions and businesses. In interviews, global consulting firms Deloitte, KPMG and PwC indicated that they're currently seeking to hire or train employees for this area of expertise.
"Deloitte is planning to hire more than 25,000 people in 2016, and that includes hiring across all the areas where we innovate with our clients," Eric Piscini, the leader of the Deloitte global cryptocurrency center, said.
Drane likened the environment to the days of the early Internet, where companies sought to train new employees on what was then an emerging technology.
He told CoinDesk:
"[We ask] who are the youngsters, the people coming out of college, that show a tremendous interest, and what is the training program that we need to put in place so you can bring them to the client? You have to grow your own."
Eamonn Maguire, managing director of financial management at KPMG, echoed this view, stating that KPMG is using internal development to grow its teams, but also looking for outside expertise to improve its offerings.
"We want to develop people internally around what blockchain is, but we're also hiring outside of the firm," Maguire said. "There aren't tons of people out there who have this kind of expertise."
Drane went on to suggest that a big issue facing his firm and others is that professionals who are qualified for roles are sometimes too specialized.
PwC, he said, is looking for individuals that have tech and business expertise so that it can continue to help clients focus on use cases to explore and commercialize the tech.
"For us, we're looking for people that cut across all domains, and there aren't a lot of people out there," he said.
Piscini said Deloitte is looking to hire individuals with diverse skill sets, affirming that, when it comes to blockchain, tech is "not only a technology challenge".
"We are looking for very specific skills in that space, especially on cryptography, architecture, software engineering and integration," he said.
This talent crunch is also affecting the industry's startup community in that they're needing to improve their pitch to potential hires. For example, when long-time bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik and investor Matt Roszak launched blockchain services startup Bloq, they noted hiring top talent was a priority.
At the time, Roszak emphasized that Bloq would seek to maximize employee benefits, allowing them to work on a distributed basis.
"Salary, equity, unlimited vacation, a work life balance is really key, and it's going to be a total package," Roszak told CoinDesk.
Changing of the guard
Still, Michael O'Loughlin, who leads CGI Group's blockchain development, sees the hiring crunch as an extension of existing challenges in the financial industry.
According to O'Loughlin, the growing support for blockchain technology comes at a time when banks and consulting firms are already experiencing challenges hiring to replace outgoing professionals.
"A lot of those systems legacy systems, wire payments systems, many of the folks in the bank who own the software with our support in the background are retiring," O'Loughlin said. "There has not been many succession planning schemes in the banks for these roles."
As for how that benefits blockchain, Deloitte's Piscini perhaps disagreed that the industry would immediately benefit from such challenges.
For instance, he said tech remains fast-moving, meaning many organizations are reticent to begin exploring the industry.
Still, Piscini framed the hiring challenges as not unique to the blockchain space, concluding:
"There is shortage of talent in various areas – blockchain is not that unique."
Interview candidates image via Shutterstock