As the value of big data analytics to companies in the financial services sector becomes more apparent, many businesses are seeking to boost their activities through the hiring of professionals with expertise in this area.

It was recently noted by Christopher Adeyeri, associate director and head of technology at recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, that the finance industry is becoming particularly interested in the possibilities presented by big data. This is because it relies on high volumes of information more than almost any other sector.

In a piece for Computer Weekly, he observed that transaction-based organisations such as investment banks are driven by models and algorithms, and as such generate and store huge amounts of data. Therefore, understanding how to make the most of this will be vital to their success.

However, he noted: "Despite accumulating a wealth of information on capital market transactions, trades, financial markets, and other client and market data, the investment banks have been slower to embrace today's definition of big data analytics than many consumer retail businesses, technology businesses, and even retail banking."

This is now changing as awareness of the technology grows, with senior banking executives asking how the analysis of very large data sets can help their organisations work faster and more efficiently.

There are several areas in which big data is proving to be a valuable asset to these businesses. For instance, Mr Adeyeri observed it has become a fundamental part of risk profiling. This technology enables analysts to "immediately assess the impact of the escalation in geopolitical risk on portfolios and their exposure to specific markets and asset classes". 

Another key advance in the industry is the use of unstructured data alongside traditional sources of structured information such as market or trading data. This may include tweets, blog articles and Facebook posts that are now collected and recorded from a bank's customers or clients.

"Using large amounts of both structured and unstructured data and market data, the investment banks are now accurately modelling the outcome of investment decisions, and getting real-time insights into client demand," Mr Adeyeri said.

These trends have resulted in big data professionals adopting an influential 'internal consultancy' role within investment banks, advising senior executives on how best to improve profitability.

But the challenge for many businesses will be how they attract the best talent to their organisation, as competition for these individuals will be fierce, particularly for those with the most prized skillsets.
 
While big data engineers who will deal primarily with the technical aspects of an analytics programme – such as coding the software – will be much sought-after and be typically able to command salaries of around £55,000 a year, the real fight will be for data scientists.

These professionals will be responsible for bridging the gap between data analytics and business decision-making, and be capable of translating complex data into key strategic insight. As such, they will need strong technical and quantitative skills, as well as a keen insight into an organisation's business strategy.

As this combination of skills is currently in very short supply, financial services organisations will have to offer salaries of between £75,000 and £110,000 a year to attract graduates straight from university.