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FinTech: Race To Innovate In Mobile Payments Opens Up More Careers For MBAs

Competition for talent between Silicon Valley and Wall Street intensifies

The race to innovate in mobile payments is opening up further career opportunities in the financial services sector.

Traditional payments players like MasterCard and American Express face the twin threat of big tech groups and small financial technology — or fintech — start-ups.  

The battle between banks and these tech companies for dominance in global payments has seen a virtual war for talent emerge.

Roxanne Hori, associate dean of corporate relations and career services at NYU Stern School of Business, said: “Companies like MasterCard are competing for talent with other companies in the traditional tech space such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Amazon, and Microsoft.”

The launch of Apple Pay was a catalyst for banks and tech groups to speed up adoption of mobile payments.

Google this year acquired Softcard, a joint venture between mobile networks AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Samsung Electronics last month launched Samsung Pay, a mobile payment service that is designed to work with existing credit card readers. And Alibaba recently invested $500 million into Indian payments start-up PayTM, which said it plans to double headcount in 2016.

Big banks are investing in new payments services such as Apple Pay, or are launching standalone mobile ventures to capture the growing demand for flexible banking services. KPMG and UBS forecast mobile banking usage to surge from 800 million to 1.8 million people in four years’ time.

“Mobile capability is already a key factor in the selection of a new bank by switchers, thus pushing almost all the consumer banks to enable digital and mobile banking,” said Manish Kumar, digital program manager at Barclaycard, and LUMS MBA graduate.

Brian Ruggiero, VP of global campus recruitment at American Express, said that the firm hires business school students into areas such as digital product management, marketing, finance, and operations.

“We’ve needed to hire more people who can help us transform our business to lead in the mobile payment, digital and technology space,” he said, adding that there are “endless opportunities for MBA grads”.

Nick Williams, consumer digital director at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Our customers are increasingly using digital to complement our branch and telephone service.”

He added that the UK’s fourth-largest lender has launched a bespoke digital recruitment scheme, and an in-house Digital Academy to up-skill staff.

Frans van der Horst, senior managing director at ABN AMRO Bank, said: “The rise of the smartphone has resulted in fundamental changes in consumer behaviour. Clients are connected around the clock and want businesses to adapt their services accordingly.”

Because the banks’ customers are banking more with digital, and regulation and supervision have tightened up, he said that ABN AMRO is looking for recruits with IT and compliance experience.

There are also a feast of job opportunities at fintech players, which are shaking up the payments market.

“We are certainly seeing an uplift in fintech companies hiring,” said Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School, highlighting Market Invoice, the peer-to-peer lender, as leading in fintech innovation.

Worldpay, which is poised to undergo an IPO, has doubled its workforce to 4,500 people since spinning out of Royal Bank of Scotland in 2010. Adyen, the European payment processing company, was recently valued at $2.3 billion.

Other examples include Stripe, an online payments company recently valued at $5 billion, Dwolla, a network for cheaply transferring money, and WorldRemit, an online money transfer business.

Jennifer Boynton, assistant dean for the MBA Career Center at Georgetown McDonough School of Business, said that “new jobs are being created as a result of technology” in the financial sector, but not necessarily at the MBA-level. 

Mark Davies, employer relations manager at Imperial College Business School, said that smaller financial services companies more generally are tapping into the MBA talent pipeline.

“There has been an increasing interest in smaller firms, which has been reflected in more job offers,” he said. “Often these smaller firms are able to offer more immediate responsibility, which many masters and MBA graduates crave.”

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