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How to break into Fintech

by Jon White September 07, 2018
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​Fintech as a sector has been experiencing rapid and exponential growth over the last few years and rightly or wrongly it is being perceived as an industry where if you have the rights skills and work hard you can win big. From a talent perspective it is incredibly obvious how keen people are on the sector and here at Freshminds, we are constantly talking to candidates who are trying to break into the industry.

First, it might make sense to briefly qualify what Fintech actually is – having been asked the question it becomes obvious that different people describe it slightly differently. The bible of financial services Investopedia tells us that “Fintech originally referred to computer technology applied to the back office of banks or trading firms, now describes a broad variety of technological interventions into personal and commercial finance”. However, the term continuously varies between individuals. That said there does appear to be a connecting theme of ‘disruption enabled by technology’ within Financial Services. Fintech is also becoming more and more analogous with the rise of cutting edge technology, in particular, Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. 

There is a broad sweep of businesses that qualify as Fintech so it is worth bearing in mind that there are many options to consider if you are looking to make the move.  Another thing to remember is that Fintech might not be the best ‘tech’ for you - an obvious trend over the last few years is that it is no longer just about the Fin in Fintech.  We have seen a massive surge in disruptive tech players across a wide range of adjacent and in fact completely separate disciplines. For example, we witnessed a big spike of interest and roles in Insurtech, a lot of start-ups have been exploring RegTech, PropTech which has gathered a lot of pace and Medtech have been advancing at lightning speed. So it might be worth checking to see whether there is something out there that can offer the same interest, learning curve and opportunity but that isn’t technically called a Fintech.

The Roles

The perception is that without prior experience in a Fintech it can be very hard to get into, yet there are in fact a lot of different entry points that might be worth considering and often a strong transferable skill set can act as a stepping stone into the world of Fintech.

There are some very clear recurring themes in the types of roles that Fintech clients work with Freshminds on and whilst not an exhaustive list the below is hopefully indicative of some of the different routes prospective candidates could take:

  • The Commercial / Business Development role: This position can come with a huge array of different job titles. But the role requires somebody who can liaise with external clients, win new customers, act as a bridge between the tech teams and help them articulate the offerings to a wider market. These roles are rarely looking for salespeople per se and instead are looking for consultative stakeholder engagement communication skills. People, who have excellent interpersonal skills, can listen carefully and ask the right questions in order to achieve the best client and customer relationships.

  • The Product Manager/Polymath role: True Product Managers are rare and highly sort after in the Fintech world. Someone who can combine the multiple skills needed will be snapped up, but it is worth bearing in mind that some companies split the Product Manager position into a few different roles. These can include a tech translator/ An A/B testing guru, a project manager to push the whole thing forward and get it delivered, a customer champion who curates the customer journey and the launcher who understands how to get a product to the market. The variations go on, but all can be viable entry points.

  • The Operational /Managerial role: This skill set is vital in start-ups and often are a good way to get a longer-term view on how successful a Fintech or indeed any start-up is going to perform in the future. Someone who is organised, capable of putting in place the processes and structures to get a business operating smoothly and the internal communication skills to get everybody working smoothly is very important. These roles can often manifest as proactive EAs and Chief-of-Staffs or COO, MD, GM-type positions.

  • The Strategic Growth role: Freshminds has historically worked on this position as it harnesses the consulting skill set in a very clear-cut manner. Fintechs often find themselves with a lot of tech and core financial skill sets in the house, but after a certain period of time, the realisation dawns that there is not a huge amount of strategic DNA in the business. Therefore some incredibly interesting strategic roles tend to open up. These get to tackle some fascinating problems like a new sector or market entry, whole new product verticals, geographic expansion and sometimes even veering into M&A and corporate development.

  • The Digital Marketer role: Distinct to the tech developer and architect roles in any given Fintech the digital savvy marketer is becoming a very important resource. There is no point in having an excellent product if you don’t know how to reach your customers, grow your customer base and retain - every disruptive tech platform needs to get this position right.

These types of roles aside it is also worth pointing out that not all Fintech roles are found in Start-ups and SMEs. There are some excellent positions in bigger more established Financial Services players. These can act as an excellent training ground in Fintech with a bigger organisation mitigating some of the risks of smaller business and also bigger budgets enabling more thorough and all-around bigger bets on innovation and disruption.

So, in brief, there is so much variety in the Fintech space that from the outside looking in it can seem quite intimidating, However, given the range of businesses out there and the transferable skills they need there are often ways to get into Fintech that are not 100% obvious on the face of it.

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