How to land a job in fintech
Most fintech employers are looking for more than tech experience alone. The growth of the sector over recent years means that today’s prospective candidate must also deal with complex issues including regulation, project management, product management and address points of trust, assurance and security in the customer journey.
The demand for broad ranging abilities, from interpersonal skills to programming proficiency, can be daunting if you’re trying to take your first steps into the industry. So, how can you prepare yourself?
Fintech wants you
Expectations for fintech candidates have changed significantly. Roles are now fluid and integrated, with teams and individuals collaborating in smaller, more dynamic and highly incentivised ways.
The good news is, regardless of your background, you can jump in at the ground level – either joining a start-up or selecting the more traditional paths offered by larger financial services organisations. The latter can provide solid experience and a steady wage plus benefits, which may be preferable to the potential roller coaster ride of start-up culture. With that said, smaller organisations may offer the opportunity for increased innovation and disruption and are often more agile – tending to be the first movers on exciting new developments in the industry.
Bag the basics and upskill
Beyond enthusiasm, energy and a willingness to jump in with both feet, employers (be they start-up or corporate) look for much the same areas of expertise when considering potential candidates:
- Analytical skills
- Financial knowledge
- Commercial acumen
- Programming skills
- Cyber-security/data protection knowledge
- Recognised qualifications (including degrees in subjects like Computer Science and Software Engineering)
- Examples of industry experience
Soft skills are also important such as excellent communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, with an emphasis on thinking outside the box. Some experience in sales, marketing and working with promotional projects will add to your employability.
Code and collaborate
Depending on the role you’re targeting, programming knowledge could give you a decided advantage. Experience with one of the mass-computer languages can be a huge benefit. Examples include React, Java and Swift, which have different applications depending on the platform you’re coding for.
If you can code, potential employers will want to see examples of your proficiency, so work on a portfolio which showcases your skills and innovative thinking. In a perfect world your ideas will be finance-related, but anything proving good lateral thinking will impress.
Getting to grips with cyber security is also key as fintech solutions need to embed apparently invisible security measures into fast and friendly interfaces without compromising on either aspect.
Collaborating on profit-free projects is another good way to give yourself an edge. Joining groups on Reddit’s r/INAT (I Need a Team) is a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with project management software and best practices for teamwork. Become a face at your local tech hubs, attend forums and tech talks and network, network, network!
Qualify and compete
It has been said that anyone can break into fintech given a willingness to work hard. This may be true, but having desirable qualifications is still a must.
If a full degree is impractical there are plenty of short study courses available on and offline, including:
- The Oxford fintech programme (eight weeks/online)
- The certificate in finance and technology (CFT/18 modules online)
- Centre for finance technology and entrepreneurship (CFTE/16 modules online)
If you intend to take the corporate path into fintech, invest maximum time and effort into your qualifications, as big finance inevitably favours graduate CVs, especially those which demonstrate post-bachelor learning.
The University of the West of England in Bristol offers a full financial technology masters degree, which is a post-graduate opportunity designed to enhance your existing degree qualification with globally marketable skills. A number of other universities across the UK offer similar courses, so do your research.
The Graduate School of Business – with campuses across Europe – offers an international masters in finance and digital innovation with an emphasis on young graduates who want to specialise in digital tech.
The Open University also offers a variety of bachelor and post-graduate degrees in IT, from communications and software to data science. All courses are online and can be explored further at open.ac.uk/computing-and-it.
The rewards of hard work
The dusty behemoth of old finance rewarded the ruthless and the well connected. The modern phoenix of fintech turns this outmoded concept on its head – rewarding enthusiasm and a hardcore work ethic with opportunity.
There’s never been a better time to enter the Silicon Valley of our age and take your first step toward becoming a truly upskilled innovator. Fintech needs you!
By Hardik Shah, Group Head of Product, Currencies Direct