The UK’s Middlesex University business school has partnered with Worldpay, the payments company valued at $6.3 billion in its London float this year, to offer a world-first specialist masters in payments. The tie-up illustrates the swelling demand for management talent in the payments space, as financial services firms and tech companies race to innovate.
Andy Doyle, chief HR officer of Worldpay, said the unique two-year degree will help managers to identify and research new trends that are shaping international payments.
Helping employees develop new skills is critical for Worldpay. “This is an exciting initiative,” he said.
David Williams, director for corporate engagement at Middlesex University, said: “It is imperative that education and industry keep innovating together in order to provide the skilled workforce our economy needs.”
The battle between banks and a new wave of financial technology — fintech — companies for dominance in global payments has seen the battle for talent intensify.
“Companies like MasterCard are competing for talent with other companies in the traditional tech space, such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Amazon, and Microsoft,” said Roxanne Hori, associate dean of corporate relations and career services at NYU Stern School of Business.
The launch of Apple Pay was a catalyst for banks to speed up adoption of mobile payments. But Google, Samsung Electronics and Alibaba — which recently invested $500 million into Indian payments start-up PayTM, which will double headcount in 2016 — have all pushed hard into this area.
They want to capture the growing demand for flexible banking services. KPMG and UBS forecast mobile banking usage to rise from 800 million to 1.8 million people over four years.
Brian Ruggiero, VP of global campus recruitment at leading US payments provider American Express, said the company 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. There are “endless opportunities for MBA grads”.
There are also a feast of job opportunities at smaller fintech players like Worldpay, which has doubled its workforce to 4,500 since spinning out of Royal Bank of Scotland in 2010.
“We are certainly seeing an uplift in fintech companies hiring,” said Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School.
Mark Davies, employer relations manager at Imperial College Business School, said that smaller financial services companies offer more immediate responsibility, “which many masters and MBA graduates crave”.
These start-ups are biting at the fringes of big banks’ business models, such as Square, the Silicon Valley payments company valued at about $2.9 billion in its IPO this year, and Adyen, the European payment processing company, recently valued at $2.3 billion.
Innovative ways to transfer cash continue to emerge, such as the services offered by Dwolla, a network for cheaply transferring money, and WorldRemit, an online money transfer business founded by a London Business School graduate.
“There are a lot of new ways to pay that are coming out, such as contactless and Apple Pay, which are eroding the market share of cash and increasing the convenience of card and non-cash payment methods,” said James Allgrove, head of UK growth at Stripe, an online payments company valued at $5 billion, at a recent London conference.
The amount of venture capital investment in mobile more than doubled last year, reaching $7.8 billion, according to CB Insights.
More opportunity may abound as a result of tie-ups between big and small fintech firms. Spanish banks BBVA and Santander have both launched funding arms to buy tech companies.
BBVA acquired Simple, a US digital bank, and BNP Paribas has launched Hello, a mobile-focused lender.
“We believe that fintech [start-ups] represent a fantastic opportunity to improve financial services, with their pace, innovation and agility encouraging positive change throughout the industry,” said a spokesperson at BBVA.
While mobile payments players have shown increasing willingness to hire business school talent, MBAs too are keen to work with disruptive fintech companies.
“A growth area over the past year has been the fintech sector, effectively straddling both finance and technology,” said Sarah Juillet, director of postgraduate careers at Cass Business School.