Fintechs seek graduates who can overlap specialties
Technological innovation has disrupted finance for so much of the past decade that financial technology (fintech) companies – once the industry’s upstarts – have become part of the establishment. Fintech venture capital funding has doubled globally to $210 billion in 2021.
As a result, fintech job opportunities — in online-only neobanks, payments companies and “invest-tech” robo-advisory providers — are springing up in financial and tech capitals around the world, from Silicon Valley in London, Beijing, Stockholm, and São Paulo. And it looks like innovators like Revolut, Stripe and Nubank are proving as appealing to job seekers as they are to venture capitalists.
“We received over 250,000 applications in the first quarter of this year [for 576 positions]what makes getting a job at Revolut more competitive than [gaining a place at] Harvard”, explains Alexandra Loi, global human resources manager of the neobank. “We seek graduates who are top of their class at top universities in each of the more than 30 countries where we operate.”
This enthusiasm for fintech has pushed universities and business schools to keep up with the required knowledge, skills and competencies. Some deploy specialized degrees in fintech. One of the first schools to offer fintech education in 2014, New York University Stern School of Business, will hold a one-year part-time Master of Science in Fintech course next May. It aims to cover topics ranging from programming for data to platform strategy, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, machine learning in finance, and leadership in fintech.
“We designed the program to ensure executives are prepared with the most relevant knowledge and tools to immediately become disruptors in the field,” says Kathleen DeRose, director of NYU’s Stern Fubon Center Fintech Initiative.
However, Alex Duffy, recruiting director of cloud banking software group Thought Machine, says the company does not actively seek or recruit candidates with a degree or master’s degree in financial technology. “As a product-focused company, we tend to hire people with a technical background or technical qualifications,” she explains. “For our non-technical roles, people have joined us with a wide range of degrees, including humanities, arts, sciences and social sciences.”
On a technical level, the skills required by fintech employers are changing rapidly, says Erik Spade, co-founder of online careers platform Highered. “However, a solid understanding of blockchain still sets you apart, along with skills in data science and cybersecurity certifications,” he notes.
Specific programming skills, such as Python, R, VBA and “classics” such as Java and C++ are also always useful, says Spade. “My advice is to focus on continuous learning and explore different ways to keep up to date with the latest developments.”
Fintech employers are also looking for tech talent in other areas, such as payments technology, back-end and front-end data analytics, and UX (user experience). But Eloi Noya, academic director of the Innovation in Finance program at Esade business school in Barcelona, says knowledge of the financial sector is also important.
“Fintech employers are looking for professionals with experience in the traditional financial industry, in risk analysis and business development, but who adapt very well to an entrepreneurial environment and who have the ability to ‘learn skills online,’ he says.
Business schools could help meet the needs of fintech by filling an “obvious gap”, suggests Noya.
“I think there’s an opportunity to help people with a tech background better understand the financial environment with something like a ‘fintech for technologists’ program,” he says.
Few people in fintech excel in both finance and technology, agrees Jack Rogers, director of the MSc in Fintech program at University of Exeter Business School.
“The ultimate graduate is someone who understands both business and technology, and that’s rare,” he says. “There is a strong demand for students who can program in popular languages. But, at the same time, graduates who have a solid understanding of economics in terms of how incentives drive behavior are also important. The challenge is to produce well-rounded graduates who know all of these areas. »
Jérémy Celsé — professor of economics at ESSCA School of Management in Bordeaux, which offers an online master’s degree in finance and fintech — says fintech employers tell him they want people with good methodological skills, who can analyze complex situations, and develop and test different solutions before the Implementation.
“They’re also looking for graduates with strong communication skills so they can work confidently with different professionals, whether it’s someone in finance or a technical engineer,” says Celsé.
Indeed, technical or financial skills and knowledge are not always decisive. “The one common attribute we look for in all of our employees is to be extremely good at problem solving,” says Revolut’s Law.
Tara Ryan, director of people experience at challenger bank Monzo, says she’s also looking for candidates who can “demonstrate critical thinking and a talent for problem solving.”
At Thought Machine, being a “good team” is perhaps the most important skill, says Duffy. “A candidate may be technically gifted and highly experienced, but may be difficult to manage or unwilling to work hard,” she says. “We try to make sure throughout the hiring process that a candidate is a good fit with our culture.”