Look behind the FUD and media noise. Crypto is booming, and with this growth comes a demand for talent. But finding the right employee is a challenge.
Should you hire principally for skills, experience, attitude or fit? What best works for your company at this stage of its life cycle? What should you build into your employee offers to attract the best developers, engineers or marketers? How do you compete with organisations that have more resources than you to find the best talent? So many factors go into hiring the best talent and building high performing teams - which are the most important?
This article explains what's driving the war for talent in crypto and what's required to win it.
The war for talent is underway
As any savvy crypto investor will confirm, the world of crypto has created a range of profitable opportunities over the crypto winter of the past two years. Investors and corporates such as NYSE owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc, Microstrategy and Square, have used this period to pick up undervalued crypto assets and confirm cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a legitimate investment class and treasury tool.
With the crypto winter over and the crypto summer here, the crypto ecosystem continuing to grow from strength to strength, and remote working increasing, traders and investors may no longer be the primary beneficiaries of the coming boom.
Talented people worldwide can now capitalize on a plethora of crypto jobs and career opportunities in crypto.
Software developers, blockchain engineers, data scientists, finance, risk, legal, compliance, business development, and marketing experts are blessed with many job opportunities in crypto. This will only continue to grow. With the demand for crypto experts set to explode alongside the sector's coming bull run, we are at a watershed moment for talented job seekers and employers seeking the very best in the market.
In 2009, the introduction of Bitcoin signalled the beginning of a new era that would see the creation of new products and services based on blockchain technology. Over the next decade, these included cryptocurrencies, utility tokens, trading platforms, prediction markets, virtual and physical wallets, to name just a few.
Over a decade on, the crypto industry is still in its infancy. However, adoption and development are evolving at a rapid rate. Recent examples of adoption include PayPal allowing users to use Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Similarly, the surge of capital and talented people into DeFi (decentralised finance) and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) shows how fast the crypto sector and use cases are developing.
We are now on the precipice of a fascinating period for crypto talent, and for employers, a war for the best talent in crypto.
Blockchain jobs are in high demand with no signs of slowing
CNBC reported that blockchain was the most in-demand skill globally in 2020, ranking ahead of cloud computing and artificial intelligence. This reflects that many businesses have only recently acknowledged the importance of crypto and blockchain technologies in the years to come.
Supporting this, the number of crypto job listings doubled over the course of three months towards the end of 2018 and has continued to increase despite the impact of COVID-19. In addition, some job categories, such as blockchain engineers, grew by over 500% during the 2018-2020 period. This signals that the fundamentals driving the crypto ecosystem continue unabated, with more companies embracing blockchain technology and its opportunities.
Blockchain set to impact 40 million jobs by 2030
Job opportunities in the crypto sector will only increase. PWC predicts that blockchain technology can add $1.6 trillion to the global economy and enhance 40 million jobs by 2030. Similarly, our forecasts show that the next two to three years will see a significant rise in demand for blockchain developers, blockchain engineers, blockchain product managers, data scientists and data analysts.
This increase in demand for talent is not limited to those job categories. We see a substantial increase in demand for talented finance, compliance, business development and marketing experts who have experience or exposure to crypto or transferable skills that they can bring to the crypto ecosystem. We believe there will be a corresponding, if not greater, increase in demand for talent in these areas. We are currently seeing a surge in demand for compliance and marketing roles, for example.
The exponential increase in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in 2017-2018 spearheaded the previous jump in demand for crypto talent. As a result, Crypto firms raised vast sums right across the spectrum - from coin and token projects to smart contract platforms, trading exchanges and hedge funds.
We can see the correlation with crypto hedge funds. The bitcoin price is a crypto industry bell weather. As it rose over time, the capital flowing into the crypto hedge fund industry also rose.
Source: PWC 2020 Crypto Hedge Fund Report
In addition, the average years of investment management experience in crypto hedge funds also increased. It doubled over the last two years from 24 years to 50 years!
This shows that:
- More experienced investment managers are entering the industry in a short time.
- Crypto hedge funds have been building their teams during the crypto winter ahead of the coming bull market.
This trend will continue as the industry evolves and matures further. Those that have invested in their talent pool early are well-positioned for outsized returns.
Key players in the War for Crypto Talent
As the next bull market for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and a host of altcoins and tokens looms, organizations in crypto and those who want to enter will need to resource up their teams quickly and correctly across the board.
Compared to the last crypto bull market, the crypto ecosystem of 2021 and beyond will:
- Be significantly larger, diverse, and more resilient.
- See more “non-native crypto” employers entering the system. They include large tech companies, financial institutions, investment banks, consultancy firms, and, more recently, central banks!
When you’ve got the likes of Amazon, Blackrock, Facebook, PayPal, JP Morgan, S&P, Deloitte and KPMG, to name a few, looking for crypto talent, the battle to attract, retain and develop talent has just become fiercer. The latest to enter the hunt for talent is Apple which is looking to hire people with experience in crypto and alternative payment systems.
Two types of organisations will play key roles in the coming war for talent:
These are organisations whose principal purpose is to provide a blockchain technology-related product or service. Examples include cryptocurrencies, crypto exchanges, utility token projects, DeFi and NFT service providers, crypto investment funds, crypto custodians and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs).
Leading crypto native employers include the:
- top 100 crypto projects by market capitalisation
- key exchanges, platforms, service providers. These include Binance, Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini, Bakkt, BitGo, BlockFi, Consensys, Dapper Labs, Messari, and Ripple.
There will also be the crypto "unicorns" that will emerge from the start-ups and projects raising capital.
We can see a range of these early-stage ventures at sites like CryptoWeekly, AngelList and Pantera Capital. As the ICOs of 2017-18 showed, the chance to gain tremendous wealth from equity participation in early-stage ventures will attract large numbers of smart and talented people.
These are organisations that take part in the crypto ecosystem, but blockchain technology is not (at least right now) at the heart of what they do. Examples of non-crypto natives include financial institutions, technology companies, investment banks, central banks and consultancy firms.
More and more non-crypto natives have entered or are looking to enter the crypto ecosystem. A good indicator is to look at patent applications.
Recent analysis from BCG on blockchain patenting and hiring showed strong blockchain patent and hiring activity by finance and tech companies. In contrast, consumer and retail, health care, and cybersecurity displayed fairly high patenting activity but not the same hiring levels yet.
The chart below shows the top corporates filing patents and the proportion relating to smart contracts and crypto:
Source: Boston Consulting Group
Five principles to win the crypto talent war
The War for Talent is a term coined and made famous by Steven Hankin, Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod of McKinsey. Used more recently in the tech sector, it will soon feature in crypto.
The war for talent describes a key strategic challenge and a critical driver of performance:
the ongoing battle to attract, develop and retain talented people at all levels of an organisation.
The war for talent in crypto is only just beginning, and both crypto native and non-native employers will have attributes that they can use to their advantage. Crypto natives may, for example, find it easier to provide equity-linked incentives, while non-crypto natives may have well-established talent networks and employer brands.
There will, however, be a select group of employers made up of both crypto and non-crypto natives that will dominate the crypto talent war over the coming decade. While diverse in size, type, and resources, this dominant group will have some key principles in common.
These employers will:
- Embrace a talent mindset
- Create a winning employee value proposition
- Recruit top talent continuously
- Grow outstanding leaders
The most important of these?
Having a talent mindset!
How do you recognise a talent mindset?
Source: Adapted from the War for Talent
Organisations with a talent mindset deeply believe that better talent:
- At all levels is how you outperform your competitors.
- Is a critical source of competitive advantage.
- Enables all other high-performance levers.
Once each leader in an organisation believes that talent is their responsibility, the other principles become the natural thing.
With the crypto winter over and the crypto summer here, a more resilient and diverse crypto ecosystem is being revealed.
More organisations are entering crypto, while those already in crypto are looking to scale their talent pool and build high performing teams. People with blockchain skills and experience are in high demand, with demand also growing across all other blockchain job categories. This demand for talent will increase exponentially. Driven by the crypto bull market and by more non-crypto natives such as financial institutions, corporates and consulting firms entering the ecosystem.
Finding, attracting, and keeping the best talent will be crucial for those who want to dominate. The select group of employers - both crypto natives and non-crypto natives - that will win the war for crypto talent will share some common principles over the coming decade. One key principle they will have in their DNA is the deep belief that better talent at all levels is how they will consistently outperform.
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