Getting interested in fintech was kind of an accident for me. I’ve always been interested in technology, I was fortunate enough to meet people building a company in the space and was inspired to learn about the opportunities available. Since then, I’ve decided to make a career in fintech – a fascinating industry that can fuel economic growth and feed the mind of a fresh graduate.
However, fintech is facing an skills shortage. The industry needs talent. In my experience, bridging this gap requires a concerted effort from both fintechs and universities to make the industry as visible and accessible as possible.
But firstly, I should underscore why fintech is an industry worth nurturing. Most obviously, fintech creates jobs. According to research by Innovate Finance, the sector now employs over 135,000 people across the UK. By 2030, this number will exceed 100,000, creating 30,000 new jobs, while the number of fintech companies will more than double to 3,300.
Fintech is also an important element in London’s financial and startup ecosystems, supporting the city’s reputation as a world leader. It also benefits consumers. Unburdened by size and legacy, fintech startups are offering improved, user-friendly and personalised solutions to banking, lending and finance management.
Punchy, disruptive and cool, the fintech industry should have no problem hiring the young talent it needs, right? Unfortunately – in my experience – awareness of the industry is low. Young talent provides an opportunity for growing companies to mould a team to fit the company culture and also bring fresh perspectives on problems and ideas for marketing. In order to attract more talent, here are a few things that could be done.
Fintechs need to make themselves more visible to students. In my experience, students are more likely to apply for a job with a company they have met at events or job fairs. Typically, university job fairs are overwhelmingly corporate – however specialised technology and fintech job fairs are being organised and fintechs should attend.
A good strategy for fintechs is to partner with university societies – for example, sponsoring their events or giving talks. GoCardless have partnered with Imperial College London’s Computing Society DocSoc, for instance. Furthermore, scholarships like the Spotcap Fintech Fellowship illustrate a commitment to cultivating young talent.
More universities should offer modules and electives in fintech. Fintech is making its way into academia: Strathclyde, Manchester Metropolitan, Stirling, and Edinburgh Napier University all offer dedicated fintech masters programmes. This is great, but what would make things even better is for universities to offer modules in fintech. This way, students that aren’t familiar with the field can take a fintech module as part of their wider degree. These would typically be offered by business schools; however, there could be a useful integration with computing and engineering departments.
Fintechs should emphasise their developer culture. Given that many fintechs are innovating using technology, they need to appeal to engineers. Developers are typically concerned about flexible working hours, higher levels of autonomy, mentorship and company benefits and perks. Fintechs should underscore their developer culture in order to attract engineering talent.
Ultimately, bridging the skills gap requires investment in young talent. Fintechs should make an effort to be more visible to students, while universities have a role to play in offering courses that are in tune with the future labour market. Exciting and disruptive, fintech is on course to flourish, it just needs talent to keep up the momentum.
Mohammed Hussan is completing a MSc in Computing Science at Imperial College London.
Mohammed is keen to pursue his interest in the intersection of finance and technology, which he has already begun to explore through internships at fintech startups and traditional financial institutions.
Mohammed is the 2017 winner of the Spotcap Fintech Fellowship– an £8k award which supports one postgraduate student per year – which he used to support his postgraduate studies. Find out more here