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The Emerging War for Talent in Cryptocurrency

As a result of the proliferation of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, the market is witnessing a fight for talent to fill leadership roles.
Op-ed - Op Ed: The Emerging War for Talent in Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology continue to disrupt the global marketplace; organizations that leverage these innovative technologies can expect to see an increase in regulatory intervention in 2018. As a result of the proliferation of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, the market is witnessing a fight for talent to fill leadership roles involved with driving adoption of, and compliance with, emerging relevant legislation.

Several factors need to be considered by businesses and governments when fighting this latest battle in the war for talent, including the impact on today’s global labor market, which professional skills may be required to address challenges presented by game-changing technologies, and geographic ramifications of increased labor competition.

If You Resist, the Talent Will Flow Elsewhere…

Nations that resist or ban cryptocurrencies may end up ceding valuable human capital, as well as associated economic development opportunities. Top talent will flow to early-adopting nations that will benefit from the growth in corporate and personal income taxes as these technologies become more ubiquitous.

The implications for countries — and businesses — with high concentrations of executives in the technology sector are obvious: dynamic and ambitious technology workers migrate to markets where their skills are valued and where they have autonomy to operate.

Talent Is Needed to Keep Pace With Innovation

Innovation is outpacing regulation of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. In Southeast Asia, “point-of-sale” terminals accepting bitcoin are as common as Starbucks outlets in the U.S. Richard Branson has joined the parade, accepting payment in bitcoin for seat reservations into space on Virgin Galactic, for example.

It is no surprise that we’re starting to see large institutions take notice of the need for talent to keep up with so much change and disruption. Morgan Stanley recently updated its job postings for equity research positions noting that “knowledge of cryptocurrency is a plus.” Experienced talent is crucial as Facebook, Amazon and others toy with the idea of leveraging cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, in spite of recent bitcoin market value fluctuation.

Where Is the Talent?

There are simply not enough senior developers — or executives who understand these technologies — which creates a demand market where executives dictate terms of employment and engagement.

Top consultants with major global consulting firms no doubt understand blockchains and cryptocurrencies, though they possess limited operational and industry experience in this arena. Private equity and venture capital investors will end up backing individuals whom they know from adjacent markets (e.g. online payments, online trading, e-commerce) and are less likely to invest in unproven executives or management teams in less regulated markets. This leaves a gulf between individuals who have familiarity driving technology change and adoption, and executives who truly know and understand what cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology can do — and how it can be integrated — across industry verticals.

At the same time, major U.S. universities are proactively offering courses to students in emerging technology areas. NYU, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Princeton, Duke and MIT are among early adopters of cryptocurrency and blockchain courses for undergraduate students.

On the business side of the discussion, private equity and venture capital investors and corporations seeking to harness new technology are addressing this challenge by creating non-executive advisor roles that bridge the technical and commercial chasm prevalent today in the C-suite.

Candidates looking to contribute to the next Google or Facebook are less concerned with corporate domiciliary, nationality or ownership — or even job location — and are more interested in breaking down barriers, be they economic, political or, in this instance, commercial and transactional. Executive recruiters serving clients in this dynamic industry must function as objective counsel and trusted adviser to clients investing in leadership, as the market will remain opaque for some time.

This is a guest post by Martin Mendelsohn, Senior Partner at Kingsley Gate Partners. It was co-authored by Vanya Ivbule, a London-based Director with Kingsley Gate Partners whose cross-border executive search experience spans EMEA, APAC and North America covering VP to C- Suite level appointments. He focuses on industries that invest in innovative technologies and spearheads the company’s blockchain practice. Opinions express belong to the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine.