What Digital Skills You Need to Become a Fintech Leader

By BrainStation July 11, 2019

FinTech — or financial technologies — is that increasingly-common marriage between the tech industry and the financial services sector. And year by year these companies, from Avant to Wealthsimple, are giving traditional banking institutions a run for their money.

According to Forbes, the sector is expected to keep growing as startups try to “disrupt every area of finance,” with one forecast pegging the compound annual growth rate at close to 75 percent from 2019 through 2025.

“FinTech is really where finance and tech intersect, of course, which means people can come from a really traditional background — getting a business degree, or going to commerce for university… or they can come from the whole geeky, coding, fun tech side,” says Ellis Odynn executive director and chief AI officer for the Digital Finance Institute.

So how can professionals tap into this booming field (and become a leader)? Industry experts say it comes down to developing a few crucial, in-demand digital skills.

Back-end and Front-end Development

Odynn says it’s “absolutely” necessary for job hunters to have development skills if they want to land a gig at a FinTech company.

In particular, being able to code apps for various devices is an important skill, she notes. “Every young person banks on their mobile phone… they deposit checks, they send money, they pay their bills, all on their phone,” she explains.

When Kesem Frank, chief maven at blockchain solution company Mavennet, is hiring developers, he’s looking for people who are well-rounded, capable of thinking like a product’s end user, and can run the gamut of a full stack.

“Maybe you’re stronger in front-end, maybe you have a passion for the back-end… but it’s a gigantic advantage if you can fulsomely understand the full stack,” he says. “Don’t market yourself as ‘I do this one thing very well’… show you can understand the whole thing.”

He says it’s also helpful to develop familiarity with different virtual machines running different stacks. 

“If you understand not just a technical level, but a conceptual level, what’s the big deal with this technology, it makes you a better developer,” he explains.

Overall, says Odynn, “people who are able to code, or have taken a coding bootcamp — they have a huge step up.”

Data Management and AI

Increasingly, FinTech companies are turning to AI to conduct the financial work behind-the-scenes, according to Odynn.

With that in mind, job hunters should become familiar with AI and data management skills — be it a basic understanding of the systems or, even better, intimate knowledge of how to actually build them.

It’s all about “learning how to deal with data and find patterns in data and analyze data sets,” Odynn says. 

“It’s having people who have the ability and skills to come up with algorithms and programs machines to do that for them,” she adds.

Design and UX

Alongside data and development skills, experts say having a sense of design and UX is a helpful skill for a job seeker’s toolkit — particularly given the slick, well-branded nature of many rising stars in the FinTech sphere.

“If you look at a bank website, it’s so standard. There’s nothing interesting,” says Odynn. “If you look at a FinTech website, it’s brighter colors, pop-ups, it’s very easy to understand what’s going on.”

Most of these growing companies are targeting millennials she notes and catering to this design-savvy generation.

“It’s incredibly important for startups to be able to differentiate, and what we differentiate is probably not the functionality… it’s really that distinct layer that we put on top of what we build that makes it stand out in a really competitive market,” echoes Frank.

While design isn’t everyone’s forte, he says candidates need to at least be aware of its importance. 

“I can tell you that conversations when somebody has a design in mind — they’re just more meaningful,” he explains.

The bottom line, according to Frank, is that companies are looking for truly “impressive” candidates, which also goes beyond your resume and skill set.

“Be keen,” he says. “Your approach, your mannerisms, your aptitude to how you do things is so key.” 

Want to hear more from FinTech leaders? BrainStation Community members get 20 percent off FinTech Canada Conference tickets using code BRAINSTATION20.