Finding Careers in #FinTech

Through the many meetup events I attend around Melbourne, people often ask me for career advice on which FinTech startup to join or follow. In response, I try to summarise where I see the current state of the sector, and clarify where they see a role for themselves – information I am happy to share here. I should preface my remarks by stating upfront that I am not a qualified career adviser (but I can refer you to people who are).

First, in choosing to make a career move to FinTech (or any other startup venture), it’s important to know whether you are looking for a similar role within a new business, or making a move into a new area such as product management, UX, content development or coding. Assuming you have acquired the necessary technical skills to transition into a new role, you still need to work out what your personal fit will be in a startup environment. Alternatively, you must demonstrate an ability to apply your knowledge and experience to the benefit of the new business, and a willingness to learn on the job (and perhaps even in your own time, and at your own expense). Accountants who can write code might be rare, but someone with a finance background and who is proficient in writing spreadsheet macros may have a better chance of transitioning into coding if they can build on this core expertise (e.g., helping to develop algorithms for decision-making tools such as stock-screening applications).

Second, FinTech within Australia is still largely based on P2P lending (including SME), payment solutions, banking apps and price comparison platforms, with some developments in financial planning (“robo advice”, stock tracking, portfolio management). Oh, and cryptocurrency, although since CoinJar relocated to London, this seems to have gone quiet…. While there are some B2B FinTech startups (e.g., Moula, Bluedot), they are still in the minority, so the current opportunities are mainly going to be within B2C solutions, or those playing in two-sided markets. This dynamic will also influence your decision.

Thirdly, everything we are seeing points to exponential growth in mobile banking, payments and financial services, but each vertical is taking a different approach because of their respective regulatory frameworks, transaction models tied to technology platforms and commercial processes, and the underlying lack of a true “single view” of customers. For example, within the next 10 years, 80% of new superannuation accounts will come via mobile engagement – which is why we are seeing a growing number of industry funds targeting a younger audience, aligning with “lifestyle” choices, and bundling financial planning and advice services. Rather than “big data” dumps, these super funds need demographic and psychographic data to support their digital engagement strategies.

Fourthly, FinTech is obviously important, but it can no longer simply play on disruptiontechnology is the enabler, and partnering is the way forward. If you have a track record in bringing parties together to collaborate, to form joint ventures, or to engage in any sort of co-branding exercise, then you will find opportunities emerging all the time. As discussed at a recent FinTech event, even large banks are realising the need to partner and collaborate on new technology, especially when it’s not part of the bank’s core expertise. However, as one superannuation fund director told me, it’s also challenging for large organisations to outsource part of their technology to smaller companies because they are giving someone else custody of their brand.

Finally, it’s difficult to predict what the FinTech jobs of the future will be (just as 10-15 years ago, roles in content marketing, social media and SEO hadn’t been thought of). A simple principle that has helped me navigate a zig-zag career path (to transition from the public sector into large corporations, and from full-time roles into a portfolio career) has been knowing my transferable skills at all times, and being aware of the need to replace and refresh them as required.

Next week: What I did on my holidays…

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