WBS academic Markos Zachariadis answers a Q&A on FInTech and how WBS students looking to get into the sector can go about it.
What FinTech job opportunities exist for those with a financial services background?
FinTech includes a broad spectrum of cases regarding the use of technology in finance as it can refer to the implementation of IT in any of the subfields of financial services including in financial markets, banking, payments, and insurance. It is a multidisciplinary field which sits at the crossection of finance and IT with a major focus on the role of regulation, data, and infrastructures. A financial services degree is therefore highly desirable as it helps to identify opportunities and assess the potential benefits from the use of technology in that context. Having said that, FinTech is much more than finance so I wouldn’t fixate with having a finance background to start with.
Is a technology background necessary, too?
You don’t have to be a software developer in order to be in FinTech (even though it would certainly help). There is a number of roles focusing on the different aspects from the use and impact of technology in finance. Having said that, you will need to be passionate about digital innovation and excited about its potential impact in financial services. Some high-level understanding of the relevant technologies is always useful and can demonstrate the candidate’s motivation to pursue this career. For example, the potential benefits of blockchain in finance can only be contemplated if people know what are the fundamental properties of the technology. This knowledge will also demonstrate someone’s interest on a topic as such.
What type of skills do FinTech employers look for in those candidates?
FinTech is not just about finding a more efficient or cheaper way of doing things. It is also - perhaps mostly - about re-imagining finance and financial services and how you can break-free from the traditional business processes and redesign the services (and value) offered to customers. As a result, awareness of how the financial system works, what the significance of regulation is, and what are the properties of the relevant technologies is important. Furthermore, having an entrepreneurial attitude and some knowledge on how ideas can develop into solutions would also help.
What about graduates who want to gain a finance qualification but who also want to have a career in FinTech?
Having prior experience as a finance professional certainly helps but not a prerequisite. A lot of FinTech startups have been founded by young people with little or no experience in the sector but an idea for a particular product that adds value to consumers. If you know you want to go into FinTech then I would suggest to get a job with a fintech startup or a digital innovation team at a larger institution directly and don’t waste too much time “building” your finance experience. It may be harder to make the transition later.