Hiring innovatively in a traditional industry

by Jobbatical January 25, 2017

How a multinational bank is keeping up with the times by thinking beyond borders

With a history reaching as far back as 1820, Swedbank is one of the largest banks in the Baltics, as well as one of the region’s biggest employers. Putting into practice its main values of openness, simplicity, and caring, the Swedish-founded banking giant strives above all else to enable people, businesses, and society to grow.

In an effort to cast a wider net in their talent search, the bank’s Baltic branches are using Jobbatical to find new team members from around the world. We chatted with Rait Randrüüt from Swedbank for a closer look at some of the exciting changes taking place in their ever-growing Business Intelligence Unit, as well as the company’s general approach to hiring the best people for each job.

Data, data, data!

Famous for being one of the most traditional and heavily regulated industries, even the world of banking is not immune to innovation. As regulation gradually evolves, banks are feeling the need to stay on top of the changes. As an example of this, data-based decision-making has become significantly more important for Swedbank in recent years. According to Rait Randrüüt, this general direction was already clear ten years ago but has become truly actionable over the past three years. By now, even Swedbank’s corporate strategy mentions data management and business intelligence.

As the amount of data becomes more overwhelming, Swedbank’s growing Business Analysis division is expanding to meet the demands of its growing importance. The complexity and magnitude of the many kinds of data now required to be collected from business clients have brought along the development of new methods, processes, and routines. In other words, a whole new approach to information management is evolving across the entire Swedbank group.

In the past couple of years, Swedbank’s Business Intelligence Unit has been working on a complex project: a data warehouse for the entire group. Making this ambitious idea work in practice has been a challenge — the first year and a half were mostly spent figuring out how to do it. Among other achievements, a small team of analysts and consultants has started building a unified, group-wide glossary of themes and terms.

As a result of these new processes springing up, very specific skill sets are now in high demand at Swedbank. The team needs more and more people capable of overseeing the client-facing process from beginning to end — from first meeting the client, clarifying their needs, mentoring and supporting them about compliance with requirements, to data modeling and finally building the information model.

That means the people taking on these roles must not only be competent with computing skills for data modeling, but also great communicators and mentors. “They must be great listeners but also able to stand up for their perspectives,” stresses Rait. “Face-to-face interaction is an important part of the job.” These roles aren’t just about getting the right data. They’re also about building great relationships with clients and explaining to them why the data-gathering is necessary in the first place.


Thinking beyond borders with Jobbatical

With more than 40 people to hire, Swedbank is now focusing mostly on global talent search. The decision boils down to simple numbers — there aren’t enough people with the right skill set in the small Baltic region to keep up with the company’s hiring needs. Engaging Jobbatical is only one of the innovative things that Swedbank is doing to involve global talent. Since reaching the existing Baltic and Swedish workforce is no longer enough, the company has also invested in collaboration with universities to find people for the BI unit.

As an international bank, Swedbank is, of course, not entirely new to hiring beyond borders. Some units within the bank already have English as their main language, with many team members hailing from outside Sweden and the Baltics. Helping people from different cultures work together is therefore already part of the everyday for the company. “Swedish, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian work cultures are all a bit different, and adding people from elsewhere is just a part of the same process,” says Rait. He sees no limits to where they can and will hire from. “I think it comes down to hiring people who have a spark of passion in their eyes about delivering great work.” That’s why the international scope of Jobbatical appealed to Swedbank. “Through Jobbatical there are more options to reach great candidates from across the world.”

Swedbank takes pride in their hiring processes and a professional, committed HR team. Constant development interviews, mentorship opportunities, and great career planning services help the company make sure their people, wherever they’re from, feel fulfilled in their professional lives. The bank’s human resources department works every day to hone and perfect the processes that contribute to a healthy work culture. “I feel that our organizational culture and mindset really support good integration,” says Rait. “We know that we can do this really well and are constantly showcasing new success stories.”

Hire the attitudes, not the CVs

As far as Swedbank is concerned, perhaps the most crucial tip for building world-class teams is making sure that the physical presence of the person is compatible with the company. On the lookout for creativity in new hires and always determined to see the real person behind the CV, Rait stresses the importance of hiring attitudes over CVs. In his experience, what people put in their resumes varies by culture to such an extent that making meaningful decisions on that basis becomes nearly impossible.

As a trend, for example, Rait points out that Estonians can be bad CV writers, prone to underplaying their strengths, whereas other nationalities might lean more strongly towards overstating their abilities. “So the CV doesn’t say much,” he concludes, stressing once again the importance of face-to-face contact with the candidate. “The first impressions we get through Skype, but if the hiring gets more serious, we either fly to meet them or we fly them here.”

Along with the vast potential for personal challenges and growth, it’s Swedbank’s culture of self-initiation, independence, and asking tough questions that makes it an exciting place to work. Especially now, and particularly when it comes to the data warehousing team. “This opportunity to join Swedbank’s data warehousing team is awesome because all the information from all the different silos comes together here in this department,” says Rait. “From there, it’s possible to go on to anything. If you are someone who thrives on communication as well, joining this team is the best opportunity ever.”


Swedbank is now hiring for various roles in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. Join them to make your mark on the changing landscape of the finance world!

Originally published at jobbatical.com on January 25, 2017.

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