Growth In Financial Technology Sector Opens Up MBA Careers

The growth in financial technology – "fintech" – has opened up MBA job opportunities at leading banks and technology companies.

The world’s biggest banks are adapting to the technology revolution by moving financial services online and setting up financial technology teams, opening up career opportunities for MBA graduates with the right skill-sets.

There is also more career opportunity in technology companies, which have fed on financial innovation.

The financial technology market – dubbed “fintech” – has grown rapidly over the past five years and banks are making huge efforts to bolster digital offerings for their clients as they face competition from peer-to-peer lenders and other technology groups.

While about half of financial services organisations’ IT budgets are spent on maintaining existing systems, 28% is now invested in “innovation”, according to Fujitsu, an IT services provider.

IT is one growth area likely to open up employment opportunities in banks. Online trading platforms have opened more sales channels.

The UK’s Lloyds Banking Group is trialling a scheme that allows customers to talk to an adviser via video, while Spain’s Caixabank has devised a mobile application that lets private banking customers interact with wealth managers through video calls.

Payments teams are also expanding, as banks face pressure from technology firms that are offering contactless payments platforms.

Michael Sanders, managing director of digital consumer payments at Barclaycard, said that contactless payments are a “huge movement”: “We brought that to the UK marketplace and helped to drive that early adoption, and are doing a lot of work now to take that main stream.”

Barclaycard grew strongly in the first six months of this year, boosting pre-tax profits by 24%.

Michael said that he now operates his own standalone team within the financial services group. Barclaycard just launched bPay, a wearable payments device, and is working with Apple Pay in the US.

“We are leveraging contactless to roll out bPay – which is a standalone product from the rest of Barclaycard’s products – and we are operating as a start-up within the broader bank. We have an open remit to build an open market product,” he said.

Investment banks also face a new threat from digital trading firms. There has been a shift to a focus on IT and technology in the financial sector, while a computerised market has given rise to high frequency trading, said Thierry Foucault, professor of finance at HEC Paris, at a recent London event.

“New skills and knowledge is needed [for MBAs], and these people need to understand these changes and the new language of the market – bankers and traders, asset manager, issuers [and] underwriters,” he said.

A large number of former proprietary traders have left banks and have started their own small trading firms, according to recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, potentially opening up more employment opportunity.

“Algorithmic trading remains a growth area,” said Jon Gilbert, head of the technology and quant practice at the firm.

Adam Jackson, Astbury Marsden associate director, told BusinessBecause that an MBA is not a requirement for roles at HFT firms but it remains a “nice to have” qualification. “If you have some commercial background – that’s good,” he added.

But MBA and other master’s students possess the necessary finance education needed to work at these HFT firms, according to other leading business school finance professors.

However, to be hired in a new technological era, senior bankers say you need a varied skill-set that encompasses technical knowledge as well as practical, digital skills.

Jean-Eric Pacini, head of structured equity distribution for EMEA at BNP Paribas, said France’s biggest bank looks for new hires “who can drive changes in the digital space”: “BNP sees too many people with limited skills. They are looking for people with a holistic skillset.”

Niranjan Aiyagari from JP Morgan Asset Management said skills needed include “digital and compliance – FCA increases regulations, which leads to increased pressure to evolve and come up with solutions”.

While there has been a huge increase in hiring for compliance and risk management functions, some bankers say you need practical digital skills for a variety of roles. Alexander Gancz, head of UK research at Société Générale, said new hires need “regulatory, technical [and] practical skills like Bloomberg”, which provides data and trading terminals for most financial services companies.

The fintech movement has also given rise to employment opportunities in technology companies.

Salesforce.com Inc, a global cloud computing company headquartered in San Francisco which is listed on the NYSE, has nearly 10,000 global employees.

Steven Mason, a regional manager, said that the company sees rapid change driven by innovative and disruptive companies. Salesforce has been feeding on the growth of the fintech sector – and sells products to companies such as CurrencyFair and Funding Circle, both leading crowdfunding websites, Steven said.

Such growth is likely to lead to more employment opportunity. Salesforce will open a new regional data centre in the UK within a few weeks, he said: “This shows our commitment to the UK market.”

Salesforce is currently hiring for a raft of senior positions – including account executives, account managers, as well as roles in human resources, business development, marketing and sales functions.

Xignite, a tech company that provides market data and cloud solutions, has also capitalized on the growth of the financial sector. Stephen Mason, CEO, said that there is a “gold rush” in the fintech market, adding that a lot of the company’s clients are fintech companies, including Personal Capital and Stocktwits. 

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