Global fintech and funding innovation ecosystem

Answered: 5 questions about forging a career in fintech

Silicon Public | Lisa Ardill | Nov 24, 2020

Fintech jobs in canada - Answered: 5 questions about forging a career in fintech

Learn how to kickstart your career in fintech and what to expect of the field from people working in it, from software developers to blockchain engineers.

Wondering what it takes to carve out a career in fintech? It’s an industry going from strength to strength with plenty of choice. You can opt to work for a specialised firm, such as Revolut or Stripe, or in-house at wider companies like Accenture or Aon.

And there are plenty of jobs up for grabs in the sector. Recent announcements across the island of Ireland include Transact’s 110 jobs for Limerick, Overstock’s plans for a new tech team in Sligo and Lightyear’s expansion in Belfast.

If you’re hoping to take your own career down a fintech route, read on to learn from others in the industry.

Who can pursue a career in fintech?

As with any field today, it takes a village to make fintech work – and a diverse one, at that. Danny Buckley of EY, for example, started out in law before switching paths.

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He’s now the company’s chief financial officer and variety is still a big part of his job: “The most rewarding part of working in financial services is the variety. There are different sectors, such as aircraft leasing, banking, asset management and insurance; different businesses – for example, I have worked in retail banking, corporate and treasury; and different roles – I have worked in M&A, business partnering, audit, transaction services and capital investment.”

But junior and senior workers alike are needed for the industry. Cleo Byrne was an intern at Fidelity Investments when she spoke to us. She told us about he training she did at the start of her internship and the work she was given researching different technologies and creating proof-of-concept apps.

She reassured readers that you don’t need to know everything when starting your career in fintech: “In this line of work, you are consistently learning and developing your skills as technology is always changing and will continue to throughout your career. I’ve learned that you have to be able to adapt to change.”

Fintech bridges two vast industries, so it needs lots of different skillsets to survive. Byrne is a computer scientist by training, but software engineers are also important at Fidelity. Ares Zhang’s work in this area helped him move from Fidelity in Dalian, China to Galway. In his role, he designs and develops services spanning big data, cloud and micro.

Others working in the field include CIOs, technology managers, AI experts, tax professionals and business-intelligence and development leaders.

What kinds of projects can you expect to work on?

Before you’ve stepped into a particular industry, it can be hard to know what exactly working in it would be like. Someone with fantastic insight here is Amy Neale, Mastercard Labs’ vice-president. Neale started out in computational linguistics and while that may seem an unusual stepping-stone into fintech, she explained that it all comes down to “getting new technologies into people’s hands”.

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The big fintech trends Neale is excited about include open banking, text and voice interfaces and data security. In all of these areas, she said, “it’s not about the technology – it’s about the problems it solves in the world”.

Payments practice lead at Accenture Mark Quigley has been working in the field since he was 18, but the projects he works on still surprise him on a daily basis. He told us that it’s “in the nature of the job to be solving problems”. He added that working in fintech offers an opportunity to “deliver impactful change to people’s lives” across real-time payments, digital wallets, cybersecurity and more.

Another exciting area in fintech is blockchain. This is something that Citi’s Innovation Lab in Dublin is dedicated to, and engineers like Amber Higgins are helping it push forward. A typical day in Higgins’ role, she told us, involves everything from market research to solution design.

Which skills are important?

Fintech obviously requires technical expertise and hard skills such as coding, but softer abilities are important, too. Citi’s Matthew Beckingham draws on both every day, programming mainly in Python and communicating his progress with wider groups.

Akarsh Sanghi, who has led teams at N26 and Zalando’s The Studio, is passionate about diversity in fintech – particularly when it comes to leadership:

“As the fintech landscape is evolving rapidly, we need people with more and more diverse ideas on how to make financial tools universally available to empower people towards their individual progress.”

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According to Sanghi, achieving this requires a “good understanding of how technology is evolving in terms of payments, banking, investing and lending, among others”. Thorough observation skills and knowledge of consumer behaviours and trends are also key.

“The current generation of people coming into the banking system for the first time ever is experiencing services in a completely different way than all prior generations,” he explained. “Having a good understanding of consumers’ needs is a great skill to develop.”

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