10 November 2015 · Absolute IT
Christchurch is the biggest tech hub in the South of New Zealand and the third largest tech centre in the country, so we thought it was about time the spotlight was shone on this growing city, what makes it a great place to live, and to highlight how the tech scene in Canterbury is evolving.
We recently chatted with Ian Bosley, Development Manager at HiFX in Christchurch to get his perspective on the local tech sector, what it’s like working in the global market but being based in Christchurch, and what types of IT skills they need on the ground… yesterday!
Calling Canterbury home
HiFX are in the business of money transfer. Specialising in international payments, corporate FX dealing, and global payment solutions, HiFX (along with its partner Ria) are now the third largest money transfer business in the world.
Ian: We have development centres in the UK, Christchurch and Auckland. Christchurch is the biggest; I’d call it the engine room for HiFX development. We work on service oriented architecture, and most of that’s designed and built here in Christchurch. We have found the culture of the city, the people that live here and their skill sets is a good mix for this type of work.
Christchurch IT businesses on the world stage
HiFX, along with several other Christchurch IT companies, are taking their kiwi solutions global.
Internationally, what are you supporting?
Ian: Internationally the HiFX group is a global business and we support a number of brands. We have two businesses HiFX UK and HiFX NZ and one deployment of our systems in the UK supports both of them. We have a large staff based in both countries and then sales offices all round the world, including the US. But what’s been really exciting for us is that last year HiFX was bought by Euronet Worldwide which is a large American company. And when I say large, I mean very, very large. So we’re now expanding and working with development teams in Denver in the States and also Canada. We’re starting to take the system we’ve built for HiFX and see how it can it work within the Euronet family and that’s driving a lot of our growth, it’s just more opportunities than we can shake a stick at.
Recruiting the right people for the right IT jobs
What sort of roles are you recruiting in your team, and talking about growth , what kind of skill sets are you looking for?
Ian: Because we’re being asked to expand faster than we can hire people, we’re always looking for senior developers and QA [quality assurance] people who can hit the ground running. We’re a Microsoft house, but weirdly we have an Oracle back end. So that can be a challenge for us finding people with both of those skills. But what we find is that people with SQL server skills generally can transfer to Oracle quite easily. We try not to focus so much on the individual technologies as we do mind-set, problem solving skills, and the ability to work in a team
Are most of the people you’re recruiting already in Christchurch?
Ian: Yeah, we always considered people outside of Christchurch, but find that if you’re already living in the region, you’re already sold on the great lifestyle and living here isn’t a compromise. We invest a lot of time into making sure we hire the right people, because hiring the wrong person is expensive. We’ve done a bit of hiring lately where we’ve helped people with Visas and so forth. But they’ve all been either already in Christchurch or on their way.
Christchurch IT Job salaries
Our Christchurch Remuneration Report – October 2015 shows that Christchurch IT employees earn almost $10,000 less than their counterparts in Auckland. Why do you think that is and why should someone new to New Zealand consider Christchurch?
Ian: I guess the core differences between the three main centres in New Zealand is lifestyle. We find you’re either someone who thrives in the Christchurch environment and loves it and all its offering (which is heaps!) or you’re not. If you love the Auckland lifestyle, you’re probably not going to love Christchurch too. Down here it’s a different climate, pace of life, different opportunities for the work-life balance and so forth. I think affordable housing prices and shorter commuting times come into it a lot too.
Workplace flexibility and benefits to Christchurch IT Jobs
Our latest Employer Insight Survey showed 78% of Christchurch tech employers see accessing suitably qualified staff as the biggest challenge for the region this year and unsurprisingly, the biggest internal challenge for employers is holding onto the talent they already have.
Figures from our October Christchurch Remuneration Snapshot shows the median base salary for Christchurch tech professionals is $72,000, with a healthy median bonus of $6,000. This bonus is the highest across the country and equal to what tech professionals in Auckland are receiving.
The top paid skill-sets in Christchurch follow national trends with the following roles taking out the top spots:
As well as reasonable IT salaries, 62% of Christchurch tech professionals can also expect some form of additional benefit in their pay package this year. Interestingly, compared with national figures, Christchurch tech professionals are more likely to receive extra annual leave, a mobile phone/allowance and additional super.
Workplace culture a must for IT workers
In terms of the Christchurch office, what is the culture like?
Ian: Because the Christchurch office is purely a development centre, we’re not constrained by the corporate environment. Our Auckland office is more of a traditional corporate environment, whereas here at the Christchurch office we’re a bit more laid back. We’ve just moved into new offices and it’s a nice big, open, bright space. We’re a growing team of around 14 at the moment, but as we’ve grown so quickly over the last year, the culture is going through a period of change. For a long time it was a small group of people who‘d worked together for years and knew each other very well. We’ve just brought in a whole bunch of new blood, which has been really good. It’s really invigorated us socially, and brought a bit more youthful perspective into the team which has been great. Culture wise – I like to describe us using the term ‘collegial’, where ideas can come up from everybody and if you need help you can ask and you know you’ll get it, and if you know something about an area you can chip in to help.
How do you balance high productivity with flexibility for your staff?
Ian: I don’t see productivity being hampered by flexibility; I actually think flexibility enhances it. If you give people flexibility and trust, they will quite often go that extra mile to repay the trust. Most want to enjoy the work they’re doing and want to do it well. In the very rare instances where we find someone who doesn’t work well in that environment, then HiFX isn’t the place for them. But those cases are few and far between.
Types of IT jobs on offer in Christchurch and wider Canterbury
The sector split in Christchurch is also different than our other mains centres, with a significantly higher proportion of permanent staff than contractors. 92% are permanent in Christchurch, compared with a national figure of 87%.
What exciting or innovating things are you starting to see come out of the Christchurch tech sector?
Ian: What I’m starting to see is collaboration. I’m not directly involved in it, but my sense is that the Christchurch tech sector is full of a lot of operators who are collaborating, creating an innovation incubator type environment. A kind of – ‘we do this, you do that, why don’t we work together’, type environment.
We hear a lot about some really cool start-up businesses coming out of Christchurch.
Ian: Exactly and those are exciting places to work. For those who are possibly looking for a bit more stability, there are plenty of those players in the market here in Christchurch as well. We’ve got some pretty significant employers here and HiFX hopes to continue to grow and become one of them.
What do you think the future has for the Canterbury tech sector and HiFX as well?
Ian: I think as the rebuild starts to get more complete, we’ll see hopefully a bit more investment in Christchurch. One of the things we found difficult recently and held us back, was trying to find office space that suited our growing needs. For HiFX our future is all about more global collaboration, more globalisation, growth, using our service to deliver more exciting products into new markets that HiFX traditionally wouldn’t tackle.
Tech leads in the Champion Canterbury Business Awards
The Champion Canterbury Business Awards began in 2003 and has grown into the largest business awards ceremony in New Zealand. This year, in conjunction with The Press, the CCBA honoured dozens of nominees, with several technology companies taking out the category awards.
Here are just a few of the amazing companies from that pool of winners:
- ARANZ Medical Limited – 3D systems that transform clinical processes in wound care and orthotics/prosthetics.
- Computer Concepts Limited – a locally owned and operated specialist IT engineering and cloud services business
- Pacific Simulators – manufacturers of a range of high fidelity, low cost flight simulators for the entertainment and training markets around the world.
- ARANZ Geo Limited – a world-leader in the interpretation and visualisation of geological data.
Considering moving home to Christchurch?
If you’re one of the many expats heading home to Christchurch for your next IT job, check out these new home figures. The latest official Government figures show that the house building rate in New Zealand has increased to the strongest in the last nine years with around 25,000 new building consents a year, with Christchurch being one of the areas where housing supply is increasing the most. Building has ramped up in the post-earthquake years, with a new record for building consents just being set. Nick Smith, Building and Housing Minister, says that “The Christchurch housing market will have supply and demand back in balance by 2017/2018.” And according to the Real Estate Institute, the median (mid-point) price of homes sold in the Christchurch during September 2015 was $444,000, more affordable than that national median home price of $484,650.
Still need convincing?
This year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey ranked New Zealand second best for working and living abroad. Notably, the survey respondents awarded New Zealand highly for entrepreneurship, quality of life and work-life balance.
Keen to get a Christchurch IT job?
We have a great team of IT recruitment consultants down in Christchurch. Get in touch with the Christchurch Absolute IT office today on 04 3943 5299 or simply fill in the contact form at the link.