Scotland's chronic shortage of skilled IT professionals is threatening the country's ability to compete in financial services, according to the new head of a leading recruitment agency.

Martin Ewart, formerly managing director of Logica in Scotland and head of group technology at HBOS, last month took over as Head Resourcing's chief executive from founder Paul Atkinson, who stays on as non-executive director.

The Scot's appointment is being presented by the chairman as an attempt to increase Head's ability to address the acute shortage of IT professionals. It is estimated that as many as 8000 more qualified personnel than are available will be needed in Scotland over the next few years.

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Ewart said: "We're facing a shortage of talented people working in IT in financial services, so we now have to spread the net wider to get the best people. I see my job with Head Resourcing as helping the management team realise this expansion across the UK. We'll be undertaking a number of initiatives to help find the right people.

"The recruitment industry plays a pivotal role because many of the jobs within the major banks and financial houses are for IT contractors.

"Supporting these contractors has been a significant part of our expansion. But IT industry analysts are predicting that Scotland will be short of around 8000 key IT people in the next few years. I can see there will be a battle for the best talent."

Ewart said that Head would be working in tandem with Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Government and universities to channel more young people and graduates into IT careers.

"By all means, let's have our humanities graduates in history, media, and film studies and English, but all the major competitive economies are still investing massively in engineering and computing. That message has to remain firmly at the front of everyone's mind."

Ewart said that the banks and financial houses were slowly but surely recovering - and will need a host of qualified people to help them expand.

"The recession battered our banks and recruitment dried up on big projects. But we have new players emerging - such as Sainsbury's Bank, Tesco and Virgin Money - and these financial institutions require highly-qualified people in Scotland to help them with ­increasing regulation and a smarter usage of the existing technology, process and systems."

With a turnover of £36 million, Head Resourcing, was founded by entrepreneurs Atkinson and Gordon Adam.

A review by IT industry group ScotlandIS last autumn concluded that lack of skills threatened to scupper Scottish employers' expansion plans, finding that more than 70% of companies in digital technologies plan to employ more people in the coming year while 58% will be looking for graduates to promote growth.