Alternative careers in finance: Fintech
There is a varied range of career paths in finance - including accountancy, investment management, banking, insurance and more. One area that has been growing rapidly in recent years is financial technology – FinTech for short. The colourful credit cards of online-only banks like Monzo, Revolut and Starling are just one example of FinTech companies going mainstream. However, there is a massive range of companies working in the fintech sector. Whether it's acting as a link between companies and banks, direct to consumers, or in the blockchain space, FinTech companies have been looking to move fast into areas of opportunity. There are over 1600 FinTech firms in the UK, bringing in a yearly revenue of over £6bn and employing over 75,000 people.
What is FinTech?
Given the rapidly changing nature of the industry, it is difficult to neatly define FinTech. The areas of finance being disrupted include digital solutions for banking, payments, lending, insurance, and wealth management. The size of companies working in FinTech range from start-ups all the way up to large financial institutions. In addition, FinTech includes companies that are consumer-facing (e.g. budgeting apps, mobile banks etc), business-to-business (e.g. payments processing) and a mixture of both. An example of the latter is NatWest which launched Mettle, a digital-only subsidiary bank, in 2019. Mettle is aimed at assisting small businesses with bookkeeping, accountancy, and tax compliance.
Viewed this way, the FinTech sector is an ecosystem of companies which all use technology in some form to manage financial information and execute transactions.
Careers in FinTech
Based on the name, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a career in FinTech would require a degree in STEM. It is true that graduates of computer science, mathematics or another quantitative degree have a great background for starting in a FinTech role. Unsurprisingly, many roles in FinTech involve programming and data analysis, skills often developed by STEM degrees.
However, there are lots of opportunities for graduates of other disciplines. Having some experience in a programming language such as Python is beneficial but not always required. A study by Glassdoor found that 43% of roles in the Tech sector were non-technical (i.e. did not require a STEM background) and this applies to FinTech as well. Examples of areas in FinTech firms that have non-technical roles are sales, product management and legal services.
It might sound cliché, but having great soft skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership are also crucial. Involvement in a society, playing sports or volunteering are all evidence of this. Of course, demonstrating these won’t result in a graduate role by themselves, but they’re still important to develop.
Another route into FinTech is to first land a graduate role in elsewhere in finance such as investment banking or financial services, before making the switch internally into a FinTech role. Many former investment bankers have also gone on to found FinTech start-ups after leaving their firm.
There are roles to be gained in FinTech start-ups, seeking to disrupt the financial industry. However, while there are potentially great rewards to success, it’s important to weigh that against the risk of the start-up failing before going down this route.
FinTech in the UK – Leeds making a name for itself?
Being the financial centre of Europe, London also takes the crown of the main centre for FinTech in the UK. However, other major centres have developed across the UK, with Leeds, Manchester, and the Midlands all having made strides in FinTech. Leeds is home to the offices of many major banks and financial services firms including Lloyds, HSBC and First Direct, which provides a large base for FinTech innovation. In addition, Leeds Business School recently set up its Centre for Financial Technology and Innovation (CFTI) to carry out research into FinTech and collaborate in the FinTech space.
The future of FinTech
Over the next few years, some of the biggest disruptions are likely to come from the implementation of artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain ledgers within finance. As the sector matures, the number of roles in FinTech in the UK is projected to grow to near 100,000 by 2030. This should hopefully translate into even greater numbers of graduate roles in FinTech over the coming years; an opportunity not to be missed.