The Future of Fintech in the Silicon Bayou

Wondering where to find the future of fintech? Look to the South.

We were a little surprised as well when we dug into the data, expecting to find either a major tech hub, like Silicon Valley, or a center of finance, like Omaha or Charlotte, at the top of the heap. But when it comes to fintech job growth and opportunity, areas of the deep south like Mississippi and Louisiana outperformed all of the well-known tech and finance hotbeds in our study.

The Fintech Job Market Overall

Although fintech is thriving today, its fate has been uncertain over the past several years. In the mid- to late-aughts, when peer-to-peer lending startups came on the scene and Bitcoin was created, the blending of tech and finance no longer belonged solely to Paypal and fintech became the cool kid on the block.

But 2016 was a tough year for the sector. Fintech stocks floundered when lackluster earnings reports revealed how overvalued many of the companies were. You can clearly see this trend from ZipRecruiter hiring data. Job openings in the combined industries of finance and technology began trending downward in the latter half of 2015 and first half of 2016, and openings fell 25% year over year in August of 2016, leaving one job opening for every four applicants.

While a few of the largest, early entrants on the fintech scene continue to struggle today, the proliferation of innovative mobile payment companies and the rise of cryptocurrency led to a relatively quick recovery, which gained momentum in mid-2017 when job openings tripled from their mid-2016 low.

Amidst the ever-tightening labor market and still-growing fintech sector, the number of job openings in the tech and finance industries combined surpassed the number of applicants this August, continuing the trend through September.

The Silicon Bayou

Of the approximately 100 metro areas where the average number of fintech job openings so far this year have outpaced the number of applicants, 25% are in the South, with the most opportunity abounding in Southwest Mississippi, in-and-around Jackson, and Northeast Louisiana, in-and-around Baton Rouge.

From January through September of this year, there have been an average of 4.5 job openings for every applicant in the combined finance and technology industries in this region. Repping the West Coast is Santa Barbara County, which had the second highest level of fintech opportunity so far this year at an average of 4 openings for every applicant.

While the the total number of jobs was highest in Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles, opportunity remained relatively low considering the great deal of competition for desirable fintech jobs in these large cities, which have a much greater supply of skilled labor.

MetroOpportunity Score
Southwest, MS8.3
Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA5.0
Monroe, LA4.2
Northeast, LA4.1
Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA3.8
Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI2.5
Tallahassee, FL2.4
Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME2.3
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA2.2
Boise City-Nampa, ID2.1

So why this particular region of the South? For one, the area is right next to Atlanta, which has been called “Transaction Alley,” since 70% of all payments transactions are handled there. The tech startup news site, Crunchbase, recently called Atlanta the fintech capital of the U.S. for that very reason. According to our data, the capital is moving even further south. Although there are tons of fintech jobs in Atlanta, there are even more applicants—twice as many as there are jobs, in fact.

Cadence Bank, which was founded in Mississippi and now holds nearly $12 billion in assets, is a leader in fintech advancements, which their president recently attributed to the talent pool coming out of Mississippi State University. New Orleans-based startup, zlien, closed a $10 million funding round in January and continues to grow. Meru Global, an international fintech investment service, just joined the Louisiana Business and Technology Center, a major tech company incubator located in Baton Rouge.

These are but a few examples that further solidify the region’s moniker as the Silicon Bayou.

Methodology: We collected ZipRecruiter job posting and applicant data on over 400 metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas throughout the U.S. within the finance and technology industries from January 1, 2018 through September 30, 2018 and calculated the average job count, applicant count, and job-to-applicant ratio (Opportunity Index) for the year to date. Only metro areas with at least 100 job postings and 50 applicants per month in the combined industries were included in the ranking to control for volatility in the index. For the purposes of this study, the Silicon Bayou includes the shared border region between Louisiana and Mississippi, in addition to Jackson, MS, Baton Rouge, LA and New Orleans, LA.

 

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ZipRecruiter's Data Journalist, Jeffery writes about emerging job market trends using traditional and proprietary ZipRecruiter data.

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