Insights on FinTech

By Michelle Yap

Discovery+ is a series of online industry panels which give students the chance to interact with working professionals and learn about the careers they aspire to enter. These panels provide youths and working professionals with the opportunity to better understand industry trends, hear first-hand perspectives from industry professionals, and gain valuable advice on entering or navigating these industries.

On 2 March 2021, Advisory hosted Discover+: FinTech. Speakers on the panel included:

  • Lim Siew Hoon (Moderator), Global Program Manager, PayPal 
  • Jeremy Soh, Head of Singapore Development Centre, PayPal 
  • Chia Hock Lai, Founding President of Singapore Fintech Association, Co-Chairman of Blockchain Association Singapore, Co-Founder of Global Fintech Institute 
  • Harris Leow, Regional Merchant Solutions, Visa 
  • Vincent Teo, Vice President of Digital & Growth / Offshore Wealth Management, OCBC Bank

Attendees included students at various levels of education with a desire to learn about the different career paths in FinTech, and how to best position themselves for such roles. Below are some key points shared during the session:

Fintech companies are generally more nimble than incumbent financial organisations because they focus on a narrower scope of products for a more specific target group(s). However, this distinction may fade in the future because both types of companies are customer-centric and profit-driven in nature. 

There are many tech- and non-tech roles in the Fintech industry. The three main growing career paths or roles in the Fintech industry are: product managers, full stack developers, and data analysts. 

Product managers focus on understanding what the end users desire, designing the products, and enabling the products to perform functions that suit their end users’ needs.  

Full stack developers work on the back end (developer’s side) and the front end (user’s side) to bring the product to fruition.

Data analysts such as data engineers and data scientists leverage on data analytics to offer superior customer services such as an enhanced user experience and personalisation.  

A typical workday usually begins with laying out the agenda for the week. This would focus on three key areas – client engagement, internal stakeholders and further learning. 

With regard to client engagement, one contemplates the new deals that the company is bringing onboard, and the new partners that the company hopes to go after, etc.  

With regard to internal stakeholders, one liaises with subject matter experts and the leadership team to discuss new initiatives, projects, and deals for the company. 

With regard to further learning, one contemplates how to best leverage on the company’s data analytics to influence external and internal stakeholders, keep up-to-date with the products that one’s company offers, and enhance one’s technical knowledge. 

For fresh graduates who may not be fully equipped with the specific domain knowledge, employers tend to look out for soft skills such as one’s ability to communicate, attitude towards learning, problem solving skills, etc. However, if a fresh graduate applies for a highly technical job, employers will likely expect him/her to have strong fundamentals in that particular field. 

Students can learn more about the Fintech industry by networking and reading up on LinkedIn, going on internships, participating in hackathons, joining the Singapore FinTech Youth Chapter and the PolyFinTech 100. 

There are many ways in which students can best position themselves to be attractive to prospective Fintech industry employers. 

First, as Fintech is made up of finance and technology, students should have a good grasp of the domain and sectoral knowledge in both finance and technology. For instance, students can read up on content that CEOs are reading today, articles written by Venture Capital partners, newsletters published by start-ups, financial reports published by companies, and explore resources such as TechCrunch. 

Second, students should develop good soft skills such as curiosity and a spirit of lifelong learning. 

Third, students should network proactively. The Fintech industry is a close-knit community where majority of the hires are done through personal referrals or networking. For instance, students can join various communities or special interest groups within the Fintech industry that are often free-of-charge. 

Job satisfaction can be derived in many ways. For instance, some derive a sense of satisfaction from seeing the Fintech ecosystem grow, participating in events and interacting with people both locally and internationally, having supportive colleagues and managers, and contributing to the supportive culture of collaboration and innovation in their companies. 

There will likely be many developments in the Fintech industry in the future. These developments will likely include the fields of digital banking, open banking, central bank digital currency, artificial intelligence, regionalisation of trade, green financing and sustainability. 

It is unlikely that the rise of Fintech will render traditional financial institutions obsolete because Fintech also has its own limitations. Instead, there will likely be more convergence and partnerships between Fintech companies and the incumbent traditional financial institutions in the future. In other words, the market for financial services will likely evolve and expand to accommodate both Fintech companies and the incumbent traditional financial institutions, which will ultimately benefit the end users. 

For creative products to receive support in the Fintech industry, they should have a strong business case and value proposition that will ultimately benefit the organisation. To achieve this, developers should place themselves in their end users’ shoes to identify pain points of the product and strive to alleviate them through innovation, hire the right people to join their teams, have robust communication skills, and be equipped with the relevant domain and sectoral knowledge. 

Contrary to popular belief, Fintech companies do not solely hire people with a background in technology. Instead, more emphasis is placed on one’s soft skills, relevant past experiences, relevant domain and sectoral knowledge. However, one should also note that most employees in Fintech companies usually have a minimal level of digitally competency. 

Aspiring students should strive to learn as much as possible. One can work in start-ups at a young age when one’s opportunity cost for compensation is the lowest. The working environment in a start-up also necessitates one to perform multiple roles, which can be beneficial for one’s learning and exposure. But one should also not be afraid to specialize early because many skills and knowledge in the Fintech industry are transferable.

Given the transnational nature of Fintech companies in Singapore, it is likely that an employee of a local Fintech company will already have the opportunity to work in a foreign country. Nevertheless, some countries that possess an immense potential for one to develop a career in Fintech include Indonesia and China. Indonesia is promising because of its large market size, digitally savvy young population, untapped potential, prevalence of tech unicorns, and potential for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) Fintech companies. China also holds a large potential, given its vastly different environment, and potential for B2C Fintech companies.