Developments in financial technology offer enormous opportunities to those willing to embrace technological advancement. Moreover, these are opening doors to those who would have never considered pursuing a career in finance.
Fintech can only thrive if a specialised workforce supports it. But the industry suffers from a lack of qualified talent, with some fintech companies considering relocation to access much-needed expertise more easily. According to the UK government’s Digital Strategy, it is probable that in the next two decades 90% of jobs ‘will require some element of digital skills’.
Technological phenomena such as mobile devices, cloud computing and artificial intelligence have already had a considerable impact on finance services. Apart from disrupting long-standing processes, these advances are creating new opportunities for financial institutions to benefit from digitalisation.
Technological literacy is crucial, but it is equally important to understand that, to have a successful career, professionals must become lifelong learners. They must regularly update their skills and adapt to the fast-changing world of fintech.
This is what the Centre for Finance, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, an education platform aiming to train the next generation of highly skilled finance professionals, was set up to achieve.
On launching CFTE’s online platform, it was surprising to learn that 60% of the learners came from a non-financial services background. Contrary to initial assumptions, most are technologists, entrepreneurs, marketers, consultants, lawyers, professors and students, rather than finance professionals. This is important, because for the benefits of fintech to be realised fully, as diverse a group of people as possible must help draw them out.
Students on the platform come from more than 35 countries, including South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Australia. Most of the intake comes from the UK, followed by Asia and then the US, where fintech is most strongly established. A large proportion of learners are based in large financial centres, but a significant share comes from developing regions.
Studies from last year, such as professional services firm EY’s ‘fintech census’, highlight continued gender disparity in the sector – only 29% of employees are women. It was encouraging, against this backdrop and considering the general skills shortage in fintech, to see that 40% of the learners on CFTE’s platform are women.
This form of learning and continued education can greatly help women to infiltrate male-dominated financial services. Having access to a pool of well-trained and highly skilled female professionals can help the finance industry to flourish, quite apart from addressing the sector’s conspicuous gender disparity.
Putting more emphasis on imparting knowledge to individuals from varied backgrounds and ensuring equal opportunity for both men and women are essential if the financial sector hopes to promote greater diversity.
Fintech companies and banking institutions are beginning to collaborate and form partnerships. This will help traditional firms embrace a more diverse workforce empowered by lifelong learning and the democratisation of fintech knowledge. Employing professionals with a solid foundation in this disruptive field will catalyse change in the financial industry.
Tram Anh Nguyen is Co-Founder of the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship, headquartered in London.