Upskilling in banking and finance in a time of change

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Covid-19 has accelerated the digital shift in banking and finance, with fintechs of all sizes competing for staff that have a strong financial services background so that they can hope to come out ahead in an increasingly innovative and hard-fought market, says Helene Panzarino.

There are some scary numbers out there. In a 2019 study, KPMG predicted that 20% of jobs in the UK could be automated by 2024.

Post-Covid, that figure is likely to be higher.

Digital services offer banks and customers a lot of advantages, but consumer habits in banking had been slow to change. Covid gave the market a radical shake. Suddenly, legacy banking halls were empty and expensive retail infrastructure was antiquated.

Around 60% of fintechs globally launched new products in the first six months of 2020, according to a study by the World Bank, as even the Baby Boomers – who had resisted digital services – embraced online banking for the first time.

And it wasn’t just incumbent banks that had to re-examine their strategy. Older fintech players found themselves in a fight to maintain their lead over newer competitors. That is why Intuit bought Credit Karma and Wordline acquired Ingenico.

More funding, more hiring and more growth in fintech

The massive shifts are disruptive, but they also mean more funding, more hiring and more growth in fintech.

Upskilling in fintech is about becoming more valuable and having a broader, deeper skillset. That enables versatility and opens up doors across the UK and the world because fintech skills are in high demand.

More than half of bank chief executives said in a 2019 PwC survey that shortages of key skills actively hindered innovation in their companies.

And banks don’t have the luxury of not innovating.

The world is going online and many countries will leapfrog straight to digital. The World Bank estimates that almost two billion people remain unbanked.

All of this means that people don’t necessarily have to move firms to develop new skills. Banks are upskilling the staff they have.

Nor do people have to work for a start-up fintech to learn what’s happening at the cutting edge of banking technology.

Big banking’s tech revolution

Incumbent firms are putting significant investment into large fintech experiments that have real reach. JP Morgan, for example, will employ over 400 staff at a new digital bank to be headquartered in London.

Goldman Sachs’ launch of its Marcus digital banking product in the UK was such a success that it had to pause applications for its easy-access savings account due to heavy demand.

All banks are embracing new technology right across all of their business. This goes from blockchain-based innovation in transactions, to new AI-driven approaches to regulatory compliance.

How to get a job in UK fintech

In 2020, worldwide fintech funding topped $44bn. London alone accounted for nearly a tenth of that as the biggest fintech hub outside Silicon Valley.

This tsunami of funds is largely feeding later stage rounds, but there have also been hundreds of startups setting out on their product journeys over the last twelve months.

If you think this rapidly expanding fintech scene only needs software engineers and product specialists with a history in tech, think again!

Fintechs need financial services professionals. This is because firms must: meet complex regulatory requirements, keep the customer’s trust, provide excellent service, and have a deep knowledge of the market. So, financial services experience isn’t just desirable, it’s a job requirement.

Whether your background is in regulation and compliance, in investment management or advisory, in transactions, execution, support or elsewhere, in front, middle or back office, chances are there is a fintech that needs your expertise. That is, if you can support your financial services experience with deep knowledge of the fintech sector.

Upskilling is all about being able to bring the knowledge and competencies we already have to industries in ongoing states of transition. It is an investment in an exciting future.

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