Finding jobs in the future of finance
If your idea of a career in finance is sitting behind a desk and poring over numbers – you may need an update. Finance in 2020 rests on the forefront of global markets, cryptocurrency, technology, and big data. Finance isn’t just “accounting” or “lending” – it’s a whole new industry; financial technology, or fintech.
What is fintech?
Fintech is everywhere. If you’re reading this on your phone, it’s likely you have fintech installed on it already like your banking app. Fintech is vital to how our economy works. Twenty years ago, only brokers and analysts had access to real-time share prices which were updated on specialised terminals and hard wired into networks. Now, we can look up real-time share prices using our phones or laptops.
Fintech is all about making it easier for people to use money. This money might be in the form of lending, making transactions across the street or across the globe, and trading commodities or securities (stocks).
Fintech also encompasses the need for businesses to use data to make better and more profitable decisions. Gathering data on transactions, seeing where money comes in and out, and optimising transactions is all part of using fintech.
One of the most famous uses of fintech is blockchain, the technology that gave rise to cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Fintech and compliance
But it’s not all about making and transferring money. A large part of fintech is maintaining compliance and regulation. Before fintech, maintaining compliance was done by hand – manually checking and filing forms with the right departments. Now it can be automated using artificial intelligence (AI). AI is also the method most banks and credit card companies use to protect consumers from fraudulent transactions.
Fintech speeds up transactions in a big way while making sure they comply with regulations. In my area of expertise, lending and broking, fintech helps me and my team make sure Australians can access loans and funding quicker. This helps businesses seize opportunities, families get on top of urgent expenses, and give people certainty that their application is being looked after. In personal finance – be it for car loans, mortgages, or personal loans – fintech powers a lot of what goes on behind the scenes.
Fintech can assess whether borrowers are able to get a loan and at what interest rate before they consent to their formal credit check. This is all done automatically – before, it took hours, if not days, to complete.
Financial literacy is a big part of finance – but so is computer and technological literacy.
Fintech is cross-discipline
If you are considering a career in finance but are studying something that seems at odds with it – say Information Technology or Science – think again.
Most, if not all, of finance requires these skills. IT, networking, analytics, data handling; these are all integral to setting up systems for processing transactions and maintaining compliance. Hooking up systems to ensure customer relationship management (CRM) software, compliance software, analytics, and other applications all work in harmony and are secure is not a “traditional” finance skill.
Twenty years ago, almost none of these were considered vital “finance” skills (and some of the applications weren’t invented yet!)
Get into the right course
If you want a career in finance, learning the fundamentals of finance is still the province of a Bachelor of Accounting, Finance, or Business.
When it comes to fintech, that is not the be all and end all. A Bachelor of Information Technology or Computer Science is a good pathway into fintech – as is a Bachelor of Science in statistics or mathematics, which is key for understanding and innovating in blockchain. The Bachelor of Business in Creative Intelligence and Innovation encompasses skills across business, innovation, and fintech.
If you’re looking to get into postgraduate study, a Master of Data Science and Innovation will help you analyse data; a key skill in fintech. A Master of Business Administration, Quantitative Analysis, or Financial Analysis will also give you a great grounding in fintech if you are looking to further your study or career.
If you are into the compliance side of fintech, you may want to consider a Bachelor of Laws, or a course that offers Public Policy training.
Develop your soft skills
Soft skills that can’t be taught at university will power the ongoing fintech revolution. Complex problems can’t be solved by throwing AI and machine learning around – they require human insight and out-of-the-box thinking.
Getting work experience in finance, IT or cybersecurity is always advantageous if you want to begin a career in fintech. Networking with fellow professionals is a soft skill you should cultivate regardless if you’re into fintech, fishing, or furniture.
A lot of fintech is front-facing customer service, be it face-to-face or using technology such as Zoom. People in fintech need to be comfortable with answering questions, dealing with complaints, and explaining how systems and finance works for customers.
Pathways into entrepreneurship
Joining a bank or a broker as a fintech professional is definitely a good way to start – many banks and large accounting firms (the “Big 4”) offer graduate training positions which help you get a grounding in fintech. These are highly competitive so you’ll need to make sure your application stands well above the rest. However, you can go into business for yourself.
Big data analytics and statistical analysis used to need advanced computers and entire teams; now individuals using cloud software can become data analysts. They can be part of a large organisation or lend their skills to small-to-medium enterprises as freelancers.
Solo brokers can automate much of their lending panel and even branch out into peer-to-peer lending; mortgage lenders can handle many more transactions thanks to electronic conveyancing.
Even if you just want to dabble in “day trading” – trading foreign currency and stocks as a hobby – you can do that with low cost transaction accounts and real-time data feeds.
What’s next: crypto, compliance, and blockchain
Blockchain technology is one of the most exciting innovations in finance over the last twenty years.
Blockchain technology is an open and distributed ledger of transactions. Anyone with the right software can access the blockchain. Blockchain is novel because it can’t be controlled or attacked, since it’s decentralised and encrypted. The next generation of cryptocurrency and digital currency will use blockchain. Understanding and using blockchain to develop cryptocurrencies and decentralised ledgers will be a high demand fintech career.
That means jobs in cybersecurity and cryptanalysis such as network engineering and network design will be in high demand in the future. Though it doesn’t seem fintech related, they are integral to the smooth operation of financial services.
It’s no surprise that financial systems are big targets for hackers and malware. “White Hat” or “ethical” hacking jobs that are linked with Computer Science are sought after by financial institutions. They want to be a step ahead of the “black hat” hackers at all times.
Fintech aimed at increasing efficiency in compliance is also in demand. This requires good coding or software engineering skills, geared toward AI or machine learning. The more computers that can safeguard customer interests, the quicker customers are approved for finance.
Fintech is everywhere – and the jobs will be there for those who want to skill up and innovate.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash