Our ultimate guide to to hiring engineers in fintech
In recent years, the term fintech (financial technology) has gained popularity. It induces both admiration and confusion and, in some people, even intimidation. However, there's no reason to be confused since fintech is nothing but a point of intersection for two fields you're already familiar with: finance and technology.
As technology advances, there are more and more opportunities where it can further improve financial services. But in order for technological advancements to be implemented in financial services, an increasing number of fintech developers and engineers are needed.
The task of fintech developers is to apply technological advancements to improve current and create new financial products and services. Since their role is crucial, it's important to hire the best people for the job. This requires an effective process of hiring fintech developers. In this article, you'll learn what different projects fall under fintech, what technical and business skills are essential for fintech developers, where you can find fintech developers, as well as how to hire them.
The projects that fall under fintech
Fintech encompasses a large variety of financial services, including, among other things, banking, lending, trading, as well as investing. Through these services, fintech affects virtually all of us, from the individual to the largest companies. There are numerous fintech applications, but only the more notable ones will be discussed here.
Given the importance of banks in our society, any improvements in consumer banking will have a positive effect. Traditional banks may exclude marginalized groups from their services. Even today, there are well over a billion adults who still don't have a bank account.
The use of technology in finance has made it possible to create services that address those marginalized groups. This has been possible with fintech reducing the costs of financial products and services.
Fintech applications improve the services of traditional banks, too. Virtually all traditional banks today have apps that allow their clients to use digital banking and manage their bank accounts. This enables users to finish important tasks on their phones without needing to go to the bank physically.
All in all, fintech is gradually reinventing banking as we know it.
Cryptocurrencies and blockchain
Regardless of whether you love or hate them, cryptocurrencies are surely a topic that you've heard a lot about in the last few years. They are digital currencies based on a decentralized system that stores transactions without a central regulatory body. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the most popular examples of cryptocurrencies.
A crucial technology related to cryptocurrencies is the blockchain, which has many other applications unrelated to cryptocurrencies. The blockchain is essentially a public ledger that stores information about the ownership and the transaction history of cryptocurrencies. Thanks to the blockchain, you can trade cryptocurrencies securely and without a central authority.
Storing and trading cryptocurrencies are extremely straightforward, thanks to apps such as Coinbase and Binance. They allow you to invest in cryptocurrencies in real time and to easily manage your portfolio.
Trading and investing apps
Without a doubt, trading and investing have never been as easy as it is now. Today, if you want to buy or sell a stock, you don't need to visit the stock exchange, and in fact, you don't even need to contact a broker. You can trade stocks from a simple smartphone app, such as Robinhood.
Apart from being convenient, trading apps are also extremely affordable to use. In fact, apps like Robinhood allow you to buy stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without charging a commission.
Smartphones are being increasingly used for mobile payment transactions, with the market worth a couple of trillion dollars. They're now a viable alternative to using cash or credit cards. The advance in mobile payments has been driven by the increased number of smartphones and the larger e-commerce industry and has been further accelerated by the global pandemic. In the years that follow, mobile payments are expected to grow significantly, with some reports estimating an annual growth of 30 percent.
Not that long ago, people who wanted to invest but needed financial advice had to go to a financial advisor. The problem is that hiring such professionals is costly and requires you to have a large sum of money to invest.
However, with robo-advisors, such as Betterment, you get a much more affordable alternative compared to traditional financial advisors. They are more convenient, are available whenever you need them, and don't require a large sum of money in order to invest in the stock market.
Robo-advisors will usually first ask you questions regarding your finances. Based on your answers, they will advise you and invest your money automatically. The investment recommendations of robo-advisors are algorithmic and don't require much human intervention.
Fintech has introduced new ways of obtaining finance. Businesses now have options other than banks. One significant innovation is peer-to-peer lending. Platforms such as LendingClub enable individuals and businesses who are in need of financing to obtain the necessary funds from individuals or businesses who are looking to invest money.
Such platforms have given access to funding to individuals and businesses that wouldn't have been able to find funds through traditional ways. LendingClub even makes its data publicly available, which is great for doing research and for creating machine learning models.
Crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter and Patreon, enable people to easily raise funds from the public. Those who have business ideas but are unable to qualify for a bank loan can now raise potentially large sums by pooling small amounts from a lot of users. Prior to this, if you wanted to raise money, you'd be limited to friends and family; crowdfunding platforms have enabled people to pool money from the general public, too.
The usage of crowdfunding goes beyond just business ideas and can be for raising money toward social projects, creative projects, or medical needs.
Skills fintech developers need
Becoming a fintech developer is not an easy task since there's a plethora of different skills that are needed to become one. The skills that fintech developers need can be divided into two large groups: technical and business. Each of these will be discussed in more detail subsequently.
Technology is (along with finance) in the full name of fintech. Therefore, it's no wonder that technical skills are crucial for fintech engineers. In this section, you'll learn about the most important skills you need to look for when hiring fintech engineers. The importance of each of these categories will largely depend on the specific application and your company's needs, but fintech developers should generally be at least familiar with most of the skills mentioned here.
The implementation of advanced technology is what differentiates fintech companies from traditional financial institutions. Therefore, a fintech engineer should have the necessary skills for software development, and a fintech company needs developers who are able to do web development and create different apps.
Data analytics and data science
Fintech companies gather a lot of data in their operations. That data can be used to improve the products and services that the company offers. But in order to do so, the company needs a person who is comfortable working with large amounts of data, which is where a data analyst or data scientist can help.
The role of the data scientist is to use the available data and find actionable insights, which will then be used to design product and service improvements. Data-based decisions are objective and usually superior to subjective decisions based on mere opinions.
In order to hire the best data scientist, you need to know what to look for. These days, data scientists must be familiar with a programming language (preferably Python or, alternatively, R) and its data science ecosystem. Knowing SQL is usually crucial, given the large amounts of data available. If data visualization is important for the company, data scientists should be comfortable with tools such as Tableau or Power BI.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
The possible applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for fintech companies are countless. Finance is one of the leading industries when it comes to implementing AI solutions. Some of the processes that ML can help with are as follows:
* credit risk assessment
* algorithmic trading
* fraud detection
* asset management
* customer analytics
AI and ML help with the automation and improvement of the previously mentioned tasks. When hiring machine learning engineers, you need to consider that they need a very diverse set of skills in order to do their job efficiently. They must know a programming language, such as Python, and its libraries and frameworks. They should also be comfortable enough with statistics. In addition, they must have domain knowledge of the field they work in. In fintech companies, this means that ML engineers must also have a solid knowledge of finance.
Blockchain and its applications are getting increasingly important in fintech. The benefits of blockchain stem from the fact that it is decentralized, transparent, secure, cost-effective, and fast. With blockchain, you can send and receive funds internationally in the form of digital currency. Trade finance platforms and digital identity verification are some of its important benefits. The characteristics of blockchain have enabled it to be the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies.
Fintech companies are at a higher risk of cyber threats, stemming from the fact that they are built around finance, a traditional target for criminals. The greatest danger is losing some of the funds to cyber criminals. But there are other potential damages, too, such as reputational damages and data theft.
In order to minimize the risk of cyber threats, fintech companies hire cybersecurity experts. These experts need to be able to respond to the constantly evolving practices of hackers and cyber criminals.
Cybersecurity experts should ensure that systems are in place that will identify potential threats, set up best practices to protect the data and information, and implement solutions that will prevent the loss of data and information.
Apart from having the technical skills, fintech developers, just as virtually all developers, need to have the necessary business skill set. Here are some of the soft skills you should look for in potential fintech employees.
Communication skills and teamwork
Communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team are crucial for a fintech developer, as they are for most developers. Fintech engineers are expected to work as part of a team with their coworkers. Depending on their position, they may be expected to interact with customers, too.
Even if an individual has strong technical skills, they also need to be able to express their opinions in a clear manner. If an individual is not able to have quality interactions with both coworkers and customers, they may not be the best choice, even with their good technical skills.
Fintech is a highly innovative field. In such a fast-moving environment, numerous challenges come up all the time. Therefore, fintech developers should be able to quickly adapt and respond to these challenges. In order to do so, they need to have the necessary creativity and problem-solving skills.
Agility and flexibility
As discussed earlier, fintech is a fast-moving and rapidly changing technology. Only those who are able and willing to adapt all the time can succeed in the field.
To do that, fintech engineers should be willing to learn all the time. Techniques and technologies that work now may not work a few years from now. This means they need to constantly acquire new knowledge and skills. Keeping with the rate of change in fintech is not easy, and when hiring people, you should take into account that only agile and flexible developers will be able to stay relevant.
From coding tests to other skill assessments, there are many ways to build a successful interviewing process with a focus on fintech engineers. At Andela, we've consistently sourced fintech talent with best-in-class skill sets and wanted to share how we do it in a guide that unpacks the interviewing process focused on fintech talent.