First impressions don’t always count

Published: 27 March 2020

Hong Kong-based Mark Ray-Smith never planned to be an HSBC technologist – until his preconceptions were blown away by the reality of what he found in the bank.

Allow me to confess something – if you told me 18 months ago that I would be an HSBC technologist I would have said you were crazy. A recruiter I knew and trusted told me about a role in HSBC he thought I should look at. But I wasn’t interested; my impression was that the bank wasn’t a technology leader or innovator.

As far as I knew, HSBC used mostly legacy or archaic tooling and architectures and was struggling in many areas with ageing vendor platforms. Nevertheless, he persuaded me to take a look at the job description for the head of engineering within an area of the investment bank’s technology arm and I was very impressed by the way it was structured and written.

Additionally, I was surprised and intrigued by the cutting-edge frameworks and middleware itemised as required skills. At the time I was the engineering head of a trading software startup who was firmly committed to promoting and maintaining an innovative tech stack but the JD listed tools such as Kafka, VertX and Disruptor that I was only really experimenting with.

I wanted to hear first-hand if these HSBC projects were just an ambitious plan or a present reality. When I sat down in the interview room, I was immediately struck by the passion, enthusiasm and deep technical expertise of the people I met.

When we discussed the work environment I heard how it encouraged original thinking, technical freedom, idea generation, a sharing culture, a focus on Agile delivery and the promise of working on cutting-edge technology projects. I knew immediately that this was a team of individuals I wanted to work with.

Since joining HSBC I have become even more enthusiastic about my work here through my involvement in initiatives around Cloud, Big Data and Distributed Ledger Technology.

In my view, as someone who’s spent his entire career working in IT in big banks, including three start-ups, it’s clear that digital transformation and innovation are the key differentiators in modern business and this transformation cannot be achieved without great software and the skilled developers necessary to build it. From what I’ve seen, HSBC’s technology vision is attracting these people.

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