North America: iGaming’s Got Talent, with Brady Eagle, Senior Talent Partner, Van Kaizen

The US online sports betting industry is still very much in a nascent stage and it still has a long way to go before it’s able to reach its full potential. One of the biggest challenges for US iGaming stakeholders will be in finding the best talent to help bring them to that point of maturity, where US brands can measure up to their well experienced European counterparts.

We caught up with Brady Eagle, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner for International Executive Search Firm, Van Kaizen to get his perspective on the hunt for top iGaming talent in the US and what can be done as an industry to ensure the best minds in the industry are working for your organisation!

What can the iGaming industry as a whole do to attract the best talent? Especially considering the ongoing challenge of competing with other potentially more appealing tech-based industries?

“With the US sports market just two-and-a-half years young and with big growth prospects for 2021, my experience is that it is an industry many would-be employees are excited about getting into. Putting career potential aside, it’s a way for sports fans, and those interested in the industry, to blend work, their passions, and an entrepreneurial vibe that big tech is now less able to offer. On that basis, I think the iGaming and digital sports industry will become more appealing as the domestic industry matures, and perhaps diverges more from land-based gambling. In overseas markets where they have been around longer, iGaming firms are often at the very top of the employer food chain.

A lot of the time the sticking point isn’t with candidates. Instead, it often comes from iGaming decision makers who can have a siloed mentality, strongly favouring candidates from inside the industry. While it is a simple fact that industry growth will require bringing in new blood, there are good reasons to break out of that mindset that go beyond mere necessity.

Many of my clients have discovered that candidates coming from the eCommerce space, for example, have transferred their skillsets very effectively. That isn’t much of a surprise, given the customer journey for both industries is very similar: you attract the customer or player, have them register, login, browse, shop, put items into a cart, and complete a transaction. You want them to come back again, recommend the platform, and so on. So, talent coming from Amazon, Chewy, and other digital retailers understand the mindset really well. Compared to the hard-earned skills in things like UX, UI, coding, and so on, the additional understanding of betting markets is not a difficult one to ramp up on.

On top of that, as we deal with the fallout of the COVID pandemic there is so much great talent that was furloughed or laid off in other digital industries. Smart iGaming employers should be snapping it up while the going is good.”

New markets like the USA are exciting territories with great potential. Should US-based companies be looking towards Europe for the talent considering the vast experience this region has in developing regulated iGaming markets?

“US immigration law remains a significant problem. It’s very hard (and very expensive!) to get a visa to work in the US right now. The incoming administration is likely to engage in immigration reform but it’s anybody’s guess as to how long that might take. In the meantime, it’s another good reason to look outside of the industry for talent.

If overseas recruitment does open up, Europe will certainly present opportunities. However, even then we would need to be aware that the European iGaming talent market is already very competitive, even without great pressure from the US. Indeed, my colleagues in Europe collaborate every day with our colleagues in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to import talent because the demand is so high. It’s likely the US market may need to look further afield than Europe too, if and when immigration becomes more viable.”

The iGaming industry shares many of the same operational challenges that other tech-based industries do. Are there any other industries in particular that we should be looking to in the future for sourcing talent?

“It depends a lot on the role. As previously mentioned, for a lot of technical, marketing, and operations roles, eCommerce is a good place to start. For roles in trading, you see those that have worked in the banking and investments sectors transfer over well because they are dealing with an exchange, working directly with the consumer, and used to responding quickly to ever-changing variables. Similarly, regulated financial services can be a good source of people for risk, fraud, and compliance roles.”

With more people working from home, how will this impact the ability for companies to source talent from other countries? Is this an opportunity to widen the talent pool going forward?

“For US companies, you will still have to deal with the immigration issue. While working from home will be the norm until this COVID pandemic is corralled, any prospective employee would still need to be a US Citizen or hold a Green Card for tax implications. Increased acceptance of remote working has nevertheless created great opportunities for domestic employment for flexible employers. Given that a lot of US iGaming companies are East Coast based (e.g. Hoboken/Jersey City area, Philadelphia area, New York City area), they are finding that they can get a good deal on well qualified staff elsewhere in the country, where the costs of living and salary expectations are substantially lower.

For example, if you are looking for a Director of Marketing to be based in Hoboken, you will find that base salaries for that role in the New York City Metro area will range from $150-175,000/year. That same talent in Atlanta or Florida, however, could range from $130-150,000/year. So, companies that are open to work-from-home could potentially save a huge amount on staff costs, while still having the talent in the same time zone and even in relatively close proximity for travel when required.”

Editor’s Note: From speaking with Brady it seems that there is a lot that can be done to attract the right talent to North American based iGaming companies. The main challenge lies within iGaming executive’s ability to widen their horizons and look outside of gaming, perhaps to eCommerce or banking industries where the transferable skills are most prevalent.

Being such an immature market, finding adequate talent from within will be difficult and looking offshore to the experience of their European counterparts is unfortunately not a realistic option at this point, although it may be in the future.

Being such a new market can also be a benefit. The stigma of iGaming’s reputation compared to other tech industries isn’t as much of a hurdle as it may be in European regions, so this is a fantastic opportunity that we hope the US sector will be able to take full advantage of when recruiting from alternative industries going forward.

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