A Guide to Fintech Careers for Newcomers and Professionals
Incumbent financial institutions, fintech startups, financial advisory firms and accelerators are currently facing a common challenge: a fintech talent shortage.
The fintech skills gap is increasing in parallel to the sector’s growth and the shortage will only exacerbate as the fintech market continues to grow at a CAGR of 23.41% to reach $324 billion in 2026. 75% of fintech firms believe there will be a skills crisis over the next few years and 44% think that finding the right talent will affect their business growth.
Omar Ali, Financial Services Regional Managing Partner at EY, says, “it’s a real concern over how the industry will source these new skills. Meeting the needs of the sector will undoubtedly require reskilling existing staff and ensuring the industry remains attractive to the best talent.”
Given the trajectory of growth of the fintech market and the digital transformation priorities that organisations have chalked out, “it is vital that growing firms in this space have access to the talent they need to innovate and grow, from developers to project managers,” says Felicity Burch, Director of Innovation and Digital at Confederation of British Industry.
Growing the Digital Finance Function Is the Top Priority in 2021
According to Gartner, 69% of CFOs, controllers and heads of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) say that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their digital business initiatives and “2021 is the year to pivot from discussions about the future to making real investments.”
Alex Bant, Chief of Research and Practice Vice President, Gartner, says, “CFOs are entering a period of significant transformation for finance. The mandate is both digital catch-up and building back differently.”
The path to a digital finance function
The Gartner survey showed that 93% of senior finance leaders are aligned on their vision for the future of finance. From 2021 to 2025, they’ll drive the financial industry to become leaner, digital and data-driven.
5 Ways leaders are speeding up their digital finance function
To accelerate their digital transformation journey, CFOs are undertaking these digital initiatives:
1. Reduce redundancy to free up capacity
Robotic process automation (RPA) has brought speed, efficiency and cost optimisation. By adding AI and ML, RPA can handle complex activities, such as budgeting and forecasting, thus freeing staff to focus on the more impactful aspects of their roles.
2. Invest in value-driving finance technology
Finance AI will be crucial in the automation of process orchestration, not just tasks. CFOs can leverage hyper-automation to forecast long-term real estate value and predict consumer behaviour.
3. Deploy data and analytics insights securely at scale
Finance professionals can leverage AI-driven data to generate new findings without the need to build models or write algorithms.
4. Accelerate cloud adoption
CFOs want to scale up the process of shifting key activities to the cloud to ensure agility and data security and are looking to deploy solutions that will improve speed, trust and the predictive nature of insights.
5. Hire, retain and develop digital skills in finance
Digital finance skills are mandatory for technology-driven, real-time fintech businesses and financial leaders are scrambling for new talent. According to the Digital Banking Report 2020, 58% of CFOs see the digital skills gap in their workforces as the greatest risk to innovation and digital transformation, 53% as a risk to customer experience and 44% as a risk to their ability to meet growth targets.
Top fintech careers in 2021
Mariano Mamertino, Senior Economist for recruitment site Indeed.com, told Business Insider that “Our data reveals that fintech firms are now engaged in a full-scale battle for talent. Despite offering attractive salaries, many fintech employers are struggling to recruit the people they need to grow.” As the financial industry plays digital catch-up, fintech jobs will continue to snowball.
What are the top fintech careers in 2021?
As financial businesses look for ways to harness the potential of technology to improve products, services and processes, they’re looking for digital finance talent in these areas:
Financial institutions are targeted by cyber attacks 65% more than the average business. Increased digitisation and a shift to cloud-based technologies are making them even more vulnerable to malicious cyber threats.
As cyber crime grows, the demand for fintech cyber security professionals is skyrocketing. Fintech is in dire need of cyber specialists who can develop security measures that thwart malicious threats. Their responsibilities include:
- Investigating incidents and creating an actionable response plan
- Evaluating vulnerabilities to prevent future security breaches
- Using intelligent encryptions to protect data and systems
As early as 2018, 90% of banks in the U.S. and Europe had started exploring the blockchain’s potential in the sector. Since then, distributed ledgers have found numerous use cases in the financial industry. Blockchain technology streamlines many financial processes by eliminating intermediaries, reducing transaction costs and improving transaction speed, efficiency and security.
LinkedIn’s annual skills survey revealed that blockchain was the most-wanted skill in 2020. These types of jobs have the following responsibilities:
- Employing Ethereum and Hyperledger tools
- Designing, building and launching blockchain technology per business models and requirements
- Applying expertise in algorithms, data security, P2P networks and cryptography
Risk and compliance
As fintechs continue to globalise and legacy banks form alliances with neobanks, there’s continued transformation of both the fintech and traditional financial services domains.
The rules of participation are changing for each field as new rules and regulations come into play. Stricter rules are beginning to affect the evolution of fintech. This has given rise to the demand for compliance and risk control managers who can analyse, prevent and mitigate risks, including regulations, operations and crime. Their responsibilities include:
- Using technology to analyse trends and patterns to prioritise risk
- Identifying current vulnerabilities and potential compliance issues
- Developing risk management strategies and policies
Also known as "Quants," they’re responsible for complex trading programs that guide securities firms, investment banks and hedge funds in making informed decisions about markets, pricing and financial risks.
The demand for financial data strategists and analysts fluent in Big Data is also on the rise. AI and ML applications in finance will only increase the demand for quants specialising in data science, finance and application development. Some of their responsibilities are:
- Researching, analysing and forecasting market trends to make modeling decisions
- Interpreting data and presenting results to leadership, stakeholders and clients
- Providing recommendations to help reach financial targets and business goals
The fintech industry has turned to artificial intelligence to transform their business through AML pattern detection, chatbots, risk management, fraud prevention, network security and investment predictions. These applications have increased the need for human expertise to oversee and carry out AI-based projects. Such cross-functional roles require knowledge of AI as well as fintech. Their responsibilities include:
- Developing predictive models and applying NLP to large data sets that provide information gain
- Building, launching and supporting AI solutions
- Researching new methods within NLP and reinforcement learning
Top Skills and Competencies Required for Success in Fintech Careers
Scott Marcar, CIO of Corporate and Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank, says, “We’re looking for people who can think logically and laterally – you need to be able to solve problems. Innovators who can think outside the box.” These are the chief qualifications of a strong fintech candidate.
Gartner delves deeper into the skills and competencies that fintech candidates need to acquire for successful fintech careers.
Critical fintech skills
1. Technology and automation: Knowledge of financial management system (FMS) applications, including robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), will allow fintech candidates to deliver more value in their roles.
2. Business process management: Expertise in change management and post go-live management capabilities within the finance function will be critical to carry out the digital finance transformation.
3. Data literacy: In the financial industry, understanding data, analytical methods and the ability to describe the use-case applications and business value are assets. Gartner’s research shows that lack of data literacy can cost companies 1% of revenue, making this a costly skill gap.
4. Advanced analytics: 80% of finance organisations will increase their use of advanced analytics in 2021 and this will be a critical skill driving business insight.
5. Business partnering and collaboration: As technology automates financial functions, fintech professionals will shift their focus from being “number crunchers” to becoming strategic advisors and business partners to the rest of the organization.
Must-have fintech competencies
Gartner outlines competencies beyond learned skills that will help professionals succeed in their fintech careers:
1. Technological literacy: Know how to leverage digital technology to drive better outcomes for finance and the business.
2. Digital translation: Ability to explain how digital technologies interact with finance stakeholders, processes and systems.
3. Digital learning and development: Ability to fast-cycle new digital learning requirements within the new learning environment.
4. Digital bias management: Ability to understand and articulate bias in machine learning and manage the risk.
5. Digital ambition: Capability and motivation to embrace technology and new ways of working.
Changing From Banking to a Fintech Career
The fintech industry is forecasted to grow at a compound annual rate of 23.41% until 2026. Such a stellar growth rate has brought on its own set of challenges. According to an Ernst & Young survey of fintech companies, 42% are facing a digital skills shortage. Half of them believe that to be the largest concern over customer adoption or partnership worries.
In recent years, incumbent corporate and investment banks have been eradicating traditional number-crunching jobs as they increasingly leverage technology to automate and streamline operations and reduce costs. They’re looking for fintech professionals to contribute as advisors and strategists. This is a growing incentive for many banking professionals to jumpstart their fintech careers.
How to seamlessly transition from a career in banking to fintech?
Here are four tips to move from banking to a fintech career:
1. Audit your transferable financial skills and knowledge
The banking and financial tech industries have overlapping skill sets that could help launch your fintech career. The ability to analyse data, for instance, underpins decision-making in both. Financial industry regulatory knowledge is mandatory for open banking applications.
2. Focus on a fintech function area
Fintech areas currently seeing the fastest growth:
- AI (virtual assistant, business analytics & reporting, customer behavioural analytics)
- Distributed Computing
- Fund Transfer
- Personal Finance
- Wealth Management
According to Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career change expert, “you can be a generalist in your skills, but you have to be a specialist in your topic.”
3. Network with other fintech professionals
Networking will play a pivotal role in transitioning to a fintech career. One of the many benefits of taking an Esme Learning programme is that you have the opportunity to form a powerful professional network that spreads worldwide. When you take one of our programmes, you can connect with global industry leaders, entrepreneurs and influencers.
Ian Stewart, Founder and President of Madison Davis, a firm specialising in executive recruitment in the finserv industry, says, “The hiring market is red-hot. Organisations are looking for individuals at all levels, including new business development. Reaching out to Group Heads, HR and following leads developed through Twitter, LinkedIn and social media are essential to understanding where the market is headed and making the most out of one’s skill set.”
4. Upskill and solidify your knowledge of digital finance
As the fintech sector grows, new opportunities in technology, service and application are emerging. Whether you’re a newcomer, professional or entrepreneur, there are endless possibilities as to what your fintech career can look like. No matter what fintech career path you choose, you’ll need to arm yourself with knowledge and skills to help you succeed.
Design your own digital finance career path
Esme Learning Solutions, in collaboration with Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, has designed the Oxford Digital Finance Executive Series. In the series, you’ll take a total of three digital finance programmes suited to your career goals. The first step is to complete our seminal Oxford Fintech Programme. Then, based on the fintech career path you want to pursue, choose any two additional programmes from the following list:
Oxford Fintech Programme
Gain foundational knowledge of financial technology, its impact on FinServ, how to prepare for the disruption from digital finance and entrepreneurship opportunities in fintech.
Oxford AI in Fintech and Open Banking Programme
Discover how AI is driving innovation and how open banking is bringing fintech to other industries.
Oxford Blockchain Strategy Programme
Learn to use blockchain as a strategy to streamline, secure and gain a competitive advantage in any financial organisation.
Oxford Cyber Security for Business Leaders Programme
Understand the challenges and potential of cyber security in building a thriving fintech.
Oxford Platforms and Digital Disruption Programme
Explore the tactical advantages of the platform model and how to embrace digital disruption.