Coronavirus, Autism and Fintech

The Coronavirus crisis has led to the largest move to remote working that anyone has ever seen, with many companies switching to homeworking almost overnight. I have witnessed some surprising lessons on the power of neurodiversity in a crisis like this.

Autism and the fintech opportunity

When we founded auticon in 2011 we believed that diversity is a strength that enhances problem-solving ability. Neurodiverse people often excel at business intelligence, quality-assurance, test automation and complex software development projects. They have unique cognitive strengths: attention to detail, a systematic way of working, logical analysis, pattern recognition, error detection and sustainable concentration for routine activities.

Autistic individuals are equally capable of excelling in STEM subjects and many achieve degrees or advanced qualifications. However, in a recent survey of more than 3,000 technology leaders, IT outsourcer Harvey Nash and auditing firm KPMG found that 67% reported that a skills shortage was preventing their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change. Autistic people are often overlooked or not considered as a source of talent, with some studies showing that up to 90% are either unemployed or underemployed.

The fintech sector is one that could benefit massively from onboarding neurodiverse people with STEM related skills and above average attention to details.

Autism and homeworking

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, most consultants at auticon worked from client sites or from our offices.  That seemed to be the best way to make sure everyone performed at their best. Autistic workers like consistency in their office environment and routines. We employ Job Coaches to work closely with our consultants.  They suggest adaptations to work environment, smooth out any bumps and ensure that our consultants are set up for success.  They are also on hand to support our clients.

We had to change all of this when the coronavirus struck and on 23rd March, we matched our clients and transitioned all of our team to homeworking. Fortunately, everyone already had laptops and mobile devices, so we didn’t have to worry about the technology part of the equation. Our main concern was whether we could maintain productivity.

Overall, this has gone better than we hoped. Traditional managers at many organisations may worry that team members who work from home may not put in the same level of focus or be able to meet deadlines. We never have to worry about this.  Autistic people tend to be very direct and honest. If you ask them if they are being productive working from home, they will tell you the truth. (If they were watching Netflix, they will tell you that, too.)

auticon consultant, Kyle Walker says he actually prefers working remotely as for him, the most stressful part of his day was the bus journey to his client’s office.  With that out of the equation, Kyle is very happy and probably a little more productive on his client’s project.

The tech tools we used for remote communication, such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, also work very well for us. Autistic people often prefer to interface via a precise text or email. Verbal or face-to-face conversations, which involve body language and emotional expression, can be more subjective and challenging. Some of our consultants who aren’t comfortable making eye contact in person found that they were able to do so on Zoom calls, giving them a new way to connect.

The Coronavirus challenge and opportunities

We have seen additional business opportunity during the coronavirus crisis. Going virtual has meant our global operation is working together more closely, leveraging a much deeper resource pool with specific technical capabilities in near real time. We are working across multiple time zones to assist clients with rapid deployment in a very cost-effective way. This global virtualisation may have taken us months or years to realise prior to the crisis.

Having a team capable of working very effectively from home is powerful. Beyond the current coronavirus lockdown, many organisations will rely much more on remote working and need to have a workforce that’s capable of doing this effectively. In auticon’s experience, hiring more autistic people is an answer. Not only does it bring more diverse thinking to a team but it is also an ideal way to make sure that you are staffed up with people who naturally excel at remote work.

Written by Emma Walker, Regional Manager – auticon Scotland

Auticon provides a neurodiverse and agile workforce to improve clients information technology projects predominantly in areas such as Data Science, Quality Assurance and Cyber Security.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels