Knowledge and skills you need in fintech

A short guide to what employers in fintech look for from applicants

The fintech field offers some of the most challenging and cutting-edge graduate careers in technology. Expect plenty of client interaction, a fast pace and changing workloads.

Who can work in technology in finance?

"We want people who want to use technology to solve the biggest problems in financial services," says Thomas Fortin, Managing Director at BlackRock.

Students with a keen interest in technology without a finance background are very welcome. For example, if you're an engineering student who's built a website in your own time, banks are interested in you.

How much finance knowledge do you need?

Working in technology in finance doesn't mean you have to be a money boffin - an aptitude for technology is often more significant.

"It's important to understand computer science and how to compute data quickly when working in core development," says Vincent Gay-Para, Vice President in Risk Technology at Credit Suisse.

However in roles that are more focused on the business side, you'll need some knowledge of financial concepts.

"To work at BlackRock, you should understand the difference between trading versus portfolio management, and know what bonds and equities are," says Antony Eggington, Managing Director in Technology at BlackRock.

But don't panic if you don't know the finance lingo, because you'll soon pick it up. Most technology divisions run excellent training programmes that you're required to complete before going into the job proper.

"Completing the training programme is like passing your driving test," explains Yan Tordoff, Executive Director in Technology at Morgan Stanley. "Our programme is designed to help develop your basic knowledge so that afterwards you'll have a solid foundation from which to enhance your skills and understanding."

What else do you need to know?

No matter where you interview, you'll be expected to be able to hold a conversation about a topic related to the job you're applying for.

"I'd expect all graduates to know about the big issues in technology and finance and have a view on them," says Alex Stepney, Lead Architect at RBC Capital Markets.

But to really succeed at interview you'll need to know more than just the headlines. For example, you should be prepared to talk about why a certain technology would be relevant to a bank and show you're aware of the effect it might have on the business.

What do you need besides technical skills?

Communication skills

Whether you work with brokers, traders, business analysts or just fellow technologists, you'll need to be able to explain aspects of your technology project clearly and concisely to your "client", who could be an external client, another team within the bank, or your boss in the technology team.

"You need to be able to engage with people," says Alex. "You need to understand their concerns and get them onside." You can develop and showcase your communication skills by taking an active role in a university society, or you could even start YouTubing tutorials about your favourite programming language.

Problem-solving ability

As you're working at the forefront of the financial world, you'll constantly be looking for ways to make things work faster and more efficiently, manage large amounts of data and reduce risk. The key thing is being able to understand a problem, break it down into its essential elements and then work out how technology can help.

This is perhaps the skill you need to work on the least, as you'll be doing this every day as part of your degree course, but make sure you come to an interview prepared with an example.

Teamworking skills

In technology in finance, you'll be working closely with different people at different stages of a project. You'll often work under pressure and to tight deadlines to get the work finished, which means you'll need to have a good relationship with the members of your team in order to make sure the work gets delivered on time.

Think about a time when you had to work on a group project and what role you had - could you have taken a more active role? If so, put it into practice during your next project.

Next steps

Join your university's finance or business society

Societies regularly hold presentations, workshops and social events, which will help you learn more about fintech, build contacts, meet other students interested in the City, and get advice about internships.

Do an internship

Banks and other finance firms strongly recommend internships to students interested in joining them because they give you a much better feeling for what it's like to work there than just going through the interview process.

Google it

Forums like The Student Room and Wall St Oasis are great for finding out whether or not technology in finance is the career for you. However, always bear in mind the 1 per cent rule when reading comments online - not every opinion is representative!

Build your finance knowledge

Keep up to date with what's moving markets in the business and finance world - for example, by reading the Financial Times and the Economist, or watching Bloomberg TV, or The Gateway of course.

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