FinanceFeeds Podcast Ep.#21: FinWizard’s Juri Kartakov on how to recruit FX executives
The 21st episode of the FinanceFeeds Podcast is out, featuring Juri Kartakov, Founder of FinWizard, the Estonia-based HR recruitment agency specialized in connecting talents and employers in the online FX/CFD/Stock/Crypto trading industry.
Established in 2018, FinWizard builds upon founder Juri Kartakov’s 10+ year experience at Admiral Markets Group, the renowned provider of FX and CFD brokerage services under the ‘Admirals’ brand, where he led much of the hiring process across the globe.
Unlike ordinary agencies, FinWizard was launched to address the Forex/CFD/Crypto industry’s need of someone who masters Executive Search for top roles such as CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO, Chief Dealer, Head of Legal, Chief Architect, Head of Compliance, Commercial Director, or any other role.
In the interview with FinanceFeeds Editor-in-Chief Nikolai Isayev, FinWizard’s founder Juri Kartakov shares a few of the tricks he uses to filter the best candidates for any given role, and provides insights into the specific recruitment needs of such a unique, global, and consolidated industry.
Juri Kartakov led recruitment at Admiral Markets
Juri Kartakov was introduced to the FX industry about 20 years ago, when one of the Admirals’ co-founders offered him a CD with MetaTrader 4, which he installed, opened a EUR/USD, and closed with a $10 profit on a demo account. “I was very happy, uninstalled the program, and forgot about the whole thing for maybe the next three years.”
He then met the founders the day after Admiral Markets secured its first EU license and joined the broker in July 2009 as Sales and Development Manager, and Executive Director (Member of the Board), where among many other management responsibilities, he was in charge of recruitment, having hired numerous staff in various countries, trained new country directors and specialists in various field of expertise, to ultimately help grow the company from 10 to 23 countries within three years.
Two years later he became the regional director for the Asia Pacific region, ultimately setting up Admiral Markets Australia Pty and securing the entity’s ASIC license. While he also managed the legal aspects of the UK, Estonia, and Australia operations, he was the one executive mainly involved in recruiting, Juri Kartakov explained. “My strongest point during those ten years was building a team of approximately 30 to about 500.”
“I know how the hiring process works, the pain points”
“It came pretty naturally”, he said about establishing FinWizard, which builds upon his extensive network within the FX industry developed ever since joining Admirals, where he traveled to up to 50 countries, opening different offices, thousands of interviews, and hiring a couple of thousand, Kartakov said while noting that one of the biggest assets built throughout these ten years is his LinkedIn profile.
“I know most CEOs and owners of the companies, who participate in decision-making. The industry knows me because all the people are connected”, he continued, adding that he also has thousands of contacts on WhatsApp.
“I know how the hiring process works and its pain points […] There is a need. Companies are willing to pay for that. Let’s fill the gap and help the industry hire the best.”
Most headhunters don’t know FX industry in-depth
FinanceFeeds’ Nikolai Isayev then asked about FinWizard’s recent blog post about the deepest fears of FX brokers in choosing an executive search recruitment agency when navigating the challenges to hire top talent, including candidate screening and vetting, confidentiality concerns, cultural fit, cost-effectiveness, and long-term commitment.
To summarize, Juri Kartakov said that, usually, a headhunter of an ordinary recruitment agency doesn’t know the details of the job in-depth, doesn’t really understand the skillset, the regulatory environment, specifics of a dealing desk job, or financial operation, treasury, risk management, etc. Because of that, search results are not sufficiently filtered and include too many irrelevant candidates. In other words, it’s a waste of time for HR departments and no right candidate.
In addition to the particularities of the FX/CFD/Stocks/Crypto industry, brokers’ HR is also wary of outsourcing because agents don’t know the company culture from within, which once again, leads to poor search results.
“Is it expensive? Yes, but normally everybody searches for themselves and when they fail that’s when they come to me. In 90% of cases they search, they’re not able to fill the role, and then they look for professional help.”
FinWizard at work: A real live example
Juri Kartakov then proceeded to explain how FinWizard filters the best fit from a large pool of talent, which includes knowing the right keywords for each role and setting up simple questions that quickly eliminate most candidates.
Real live example: A broker was looking for an experienced candidate to build out its anti-fraud department. FinWizard included two questions:
1. Please name examples of what a broker can categorize as the fraudulent trading activity of a single client or a group of clients.
2. What was the most complex case of trading fraud you have detected in your career? How did you detect it and what did you do to eliminate/reduce further potential losses for the broker?
According to Juri Kartakov, these two questions helped filter out hundreds of candidates who didn’t even answer. Those who did would then be subject to scrutiny by FinWizard, which is specialized in the FX industry and is able to detect the real in-depth knowledge of each candidate, as some don’t have the required know-how and others are simply Chat-GPT answers.
FX brokers, be public about your values
The industry is a red ocean, Kartakov stated. “It’s not new. The industry is consolidated. You compete on many turfs. Imagine the trading conditions 15 years ago and today. The best compete for the best”.
When it comes to attracting talent, it means that building an effective HR brand makes the job much easier. “Definitely, being public about your values as an employer creates a road to those directly interested in joining, but you still need filters, cross-checking, interviews, and references. People want the goodies, but can they do the job?”
Investing in an HR brand pays off, but it is still a cost (staff, recruiting, HR image, affiliates, IBs, etc). The ones that pay more for talent will end up as the winners because everything is done by humans and competition for talent is brutal.
Salaries only go up
Salaries only go up, but from time to time, Kartakov is asked to find talent for three times less than the average wage. “We can’t help you, you’re looking for a non-existing market price”, he tells them. “These companies will die out because they can’t afford a growing price of talent” and successful companies eventually hire the top talent from dying firms.
The price of talent is going up for many reasons besides inflation, including the maturing FX industry, and the concentration of brokers in key financial hubs, including Cyprus and Dubai, where the pool of talent is not growing proportionally. Additionally, there is extra value in executives that specialize in very specific markets.
Since the FX industry is consolidated – 200-250 reasonably sized brokers operating FX/CFD/Crypto trading with leverage, plus others doing institutional and service platforms that support technically, legally, or HR-wise – the compensation package is often bonus+salary. Equity is out of the picture, he explained.
Hiring in Asia, MENA, Africa ….LATAM, not so much
FinWizard’s 15-year experience gives it the ability to navigate its twists and turns, namely the varying periods of volatility, which oftentimes has an impact on the appetite for expansion and hiring.
The high volatility of early 2022 drove huge demand for talent, Kartakov said, but since October 2022, the mood changed to reverse demand. Instead of brokers looking for talent, it is talent looking for a job.
Juri Kartakov also talked about the impact of the regulatory environment, namely Brexit, on recruitment, and the dynamics in each region. “Asia is big, MENA is big. Everybody’s going to Africa […] LATAM not so much, at least for me.”
The FinWizard founder explained: “LATAM is a different market. I managed LATAM for Admirals as well for some time. I worked in 6-7 countries there. Culturally it’s a little different. not every broker is ready for that”.
Kartakov offered an example in which he was tasked to recruit a Head of LATAM: We got into depth on the job description. The broker didn’t understand the physical location they wanted their manager. Every country in LATAM is different.”
The FX industry recruitment expert criticized the very concept of “this mystical LATAM” because it includes many jurisdictions with different regulatory environments as well as unique currency and payment rails, notwithstanding their unique cultural backgrounds. As a professional recruiter, Kartakov wants to deliver results, and “LATAM ” seems not to be the best approach. “For LATAM, many companies are not ready yet and the market is not as big and interesting for companies to explore, except for Brazil, which has definitely become big for many brokers.”
How to hire C-level executives
“Right now, for me, it’s a lot of C-level executives. Companies become bigger, shareholders who manage the company still do but, they’ve made their millions, they need time off to enjoy the capital they built and hire C-level executives who they can trust and put on management/supervisory board…it’s definitely in demand”, he said about FinWizard’s core segment.
How to recruit a C-level executive? One must meet them in person several times in their comfort zone: “not only in formal settings but also over dinner, have a drink, an activity together – especially C-level hires, the more you interact and spend time with the person, the more likely it will be a good fit”.
Kartakov conceded that in-house recruiters are equipped at making candidates comfortable, but C-level executives are another ball game. “HRs are pretty good at breaking the ice and getting to know the person, but executive recruiting is not that easy to set up”. On that note, he praised Elena Krutova, Chief People Officer of Exness for the extremely successful HR department that she has built.
“I ended up accepting the fact they can do the job in-house better than I can do it for them. Hats off, they’re fantastic, but not built overnight. You have to have recruiters and an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). With the ATS, every recruiter populates the database, bit by bit. ending up with information from multiple interviews added MoM and YoY. “You create an amazing asset with all contacts and relationships”, Kartakov said, adding that Exness uses Greenhouse, a sophisticated ATS that might be too much for a small broker.
FinWizard’s founder also reminded us how important it is to make connections and build communities, giving Finance Magnates’ Michael Greenberg and YourBourse’s Elena Pedersen as examples.
The caveats of bringing talent from Crypto into FX
Juri Kartakov also discussed the issues with hiring candidates that worked at crypto companies, namely the frequent NDAs on their CV, which doesn’t allow the recruiter to know much about the person and the companies they worked for, except to speculate what they are hiding.
“Why can’t you disclose? Is there someone paying you money? Probably it was an ICO or crypto project that collected money, went bust and the candidate was a part of it […] Their CVs don’t look good and I can’t cross-check the background. I don’t know the owners of the past crypto projects […] It’s also about superstitions: you want to hire people from success stories and not bankruptcy stories.
To finish up the interview, Juri Kartakov shared that when he’s not working, he enjoys competitive Men’s Doubles Badminton, often playing tournaments and sometimes winning. His favorite outdoor sport is beach volleyball – he’s allowed to train with the Estonian national youngster team made out of 13-14 year-old boys, many of them taller than him (1,70m). “It’s nice”.
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