The financial industry is traditionally among the first to implement new technologies and innovations. This trend is only becoming more prominent, with new technologies rapidly changing banking, lending, trading, and investing as you know them. In fact, the adoption of new technologies by the financial industry is so significant that a new field has been developed knows as fintech.
Fintech stands for financial technology and essentially encompasses any implementation of new technologies to improve existing financial products and services. Among the plethora of fintech applications, some of the more prominent ones are digital banking, mobile payments, stock trading and investing, robo-advising and wealth management, blockchain, as well as cryptocurrencies.
In order for these applications to be implemented, fintech requires skilled engineers to make that possible. These engineers should have a specific set of skills that are crucial to do their job properly. In this article, you’ll learn the key skills you need to look out for when hiring fintech engineers. A candidate that possesses these skills should have no problem adapting to any company focusing on developing fintech products and services.
What’s unique about the fintech industry?
Fintech is at the intersection of finance and technology, and its scope is affected by both of these fields. This makes fintech a unique field with distinctive features. Let’s go over some of the characteristics that make fintech so special:
It’s probably no surprise that technology is a crucial pillar of fintech since, after all, it’s in the name itself. Technology is what makes innovations in fintech possible.
Fintech engineers rely on developments in technology in order to then implement these developments into financial services. Quite simply, without technological developments, it wouldn’t be possible for financial companies to improve their existing services using technology.
However, technology alone isn’t enough. Domain knowledge, in this case, financial knowledge, is crucial in improving financial services. Even when there are technological advancements, financial companies need to understand how to benefit from those advancements. To be able to do so, they must be closely familiar with the financial landscape they operate in. It’s only with a good understanding of both finance and technology that a fintech company can use technological developments to create new financial products or services.
Fintech is closely related to the field of entrepreneurship. Both involve rapid and continuous improvements to the current ways of doing things. Indeed, some of the most successful fintech companies have been founded by individuals or small groups of people with an outstanding entrepreneurial mindset and spirit.
Policy and regulations
Fintech companies are also significantly affected by the policy and regulatory environment they operate in. The financial industry, in general, is one of the most heavily regulated industries, so it’s no surprise that regulations play an important role in fintech, too.
Regardless of where they’re located, fintech companies must take the necessary steps to ensure that regulatory requirements are met. That compliance protects their users from dangers, including cyber attacks and data leaks, and also protects companies from heavy fines.
Due to regulatory requirements, a fintech company has to ensure that the data they use is always protected and secure. Regardless of where you’re from, data protection laws exist in most countries. One prominent example is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs data protection processes in the European Union. In the US, companies have to comply with different Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. Apart from these, fintech companies should also protect themselves from possible cyber attacks.
While all companies have to comply with policies and regulations, the specific nature of fintech companies makes their compliance with regulations pretty unique.
The fintech landscape, consisting of digital banking, digital lending, mobile payments, robo-advising, and similar applications, is highly competitive. In 2021 alone, over $200 billion USD were invested in fintech companies, mainly in the areas of payments, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and insurtech.
Fintech’s landscape is so competitive that it’s disrupting the financial industry as a whole. Even traditional financial institutions have been forced into implementing new technologies since not doing so can lead to them losing a significant share of their business.
Significance of algorithmic decision-making
When thinking about the process of decision-making, you may traditionally think of it as something done by humans. However, technological developments in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have made it possible for machines to make decisions on their own. While human decisions are usually more reliable, they’re also much slower. In contrast, a machine is able to make a large number of decisions in mere seconds.
Making quick decisions is crucial in a field like fintech, which is why it’s the field with one of the more prominent applications of algorithmic decision-making. Machines have an increasingly important role in making decisions about whether to approve or deny a loan application, whether to buy or sell securities, and whether a certain transaction is fraudulent. In examples such as these, coming to a quick decision is often key.
Need for high transactional speeds
You have already learned about the importance of fast decision-making in fintech. However, this field requires speed in other instances, too. In that regard, another crucial and rather unique need in fintech is the speed of processing transactions.
Even historically, numerous efforts have been made to increase the speed of transactions, and those efforts continue even today. Faster transactions lower the risk and cost, as well as facilitate the operations of businesses. And with fintech companies gaining prominence, the speed of transactions has been reduced further.
Key skills to look for in fintech developers
In order to perform daily tasks successfully, fintech developers need a diverse set of skills. These can be broadly divided into two sets of skills, technical and business skills. We’ll go through each in this section.
While the demand for different skills will depend on the individual company and the position they’re hiring for, virtually all fintech developers need to have technical skills. These include general programming skills, cloud computing, data science and analysis, machine learning and automation, as well as cybersecurity.
General programming skills
Although there are many options, one of the most important languages for a fintech developer to know is Python, a high-level general programming language. Despite its relative simplicity, Python is flexible and can be used for many different purposes. In particular, Python is by far the most important language in data science, data analytics, ML, and AI, which are all widely used in fintech. In addition, Python has numerous financial libraries and frameworks, making Python almost indispensable for a fintech engineer.
Another important skill to have in fintech is the ability to work with cloud technology. Fintech companies are striving to offer faster, more reliable, and more secure services. Cloud computing enables all these.
Cloud computing allows fintech companies to react more swiftly to any changes in the industry, which is key in an ever-changing field like fintech, and it reduces the risk of cyber attacks and data breaches. In addition, cloud computing eases the management of data, which fintech companies usually have in large amounts. Finally, cloud computing allows for swift and simple scalability.
Data science and analysis
The amount of data the world produces is rapidly increasing. In 2021, a staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created every single day. The availability of so much data has been one of the factors that led to the rise of fields like data science, ML, and yes, even fintech. This data is used to create better products and services, both in and outside of the financial industry.
However, dealing with large amounts of data is no easy task. This is why fintech companies need developers who are able to handle the challenges of big data, which is where data scientists and data analysts come in. The job of data scientists is to take raw data and gather useful insights about it that will then help in the creation of new products and services. Data-driven decisions are objective and more reliable compared to subjective decisions.
For example, think of a fintech company that uses AI to make decisions about whether to approve or reject a loan application. In order to create a model that’s able to do so, the company first needs a large amount of data. After data scientists process this data, a machine learning model can figure out what differentiates good loan applications from bad ones.
Machine learning and automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have been some of the popular technological buzzwords in the last decade, and for a good reason. Machine learning applications have found their way into countless products and services you use every day and are now an integral part of many industries. One of those is fintech, where AI and ML have fueled a number of innovations in areas like fraud detection, chat bots, smart trading, credit analysis, and forecasting.
As you may know, this skill is very similar to data science and analysis, and Python is the language to know for both of these skills. And both use data heavily. However, AI and ML don’t just use data to get actionable insights. They also use data to create decision-making models.
ML significantly helps with automation tasks. In fact, fields like AI and ML excel in swiftly making a large number of business decisions. A trained ML model is able to flag a fraudulent transaction or make a decision about whether to approve a loan application in seconds, whereas for a human, that would be a much slower process.
While virtually all companies should be wary of cyber attacks, this is especially true for fintech for the simple reason that it’s closely related to the financial industry, a traditional target for cyber attacks. Stolen funds, data breaches, and reputational damages are just some of the dangers to which fintech companies are exposed. That’s why cybersecurity is of utmost importance in fintech and why it’s an advantage for developers to be familiar with it.
While their importance is often underrated, soft skills are also key for any fintech developer. In fact, they might be more difficult to attain than technical skills. A new programming language or framework is relatively easy to learn, but gaining a new soft skill is much more difficult. That’s why, when searching for a fintech engineer, it’s important to look for skills such as easy collaboration, clear communication, flexibility, and the ability to learn quickly.
Most of the time, a fintech developer will work as part of a team. That’s why they must be able to easily collaborate with their coworkers. Technical skills are great to have, but they can only take you so far. Great fintech products and services are created only when the technical skills of each team member are fully utilized, something that can only be done through teamwork and collaboration.
A fintech developer should know and understand the business objective of the task at hand as well as their role in reaching that objective. Once every team member understands both the goal and their role, they can work together to reach the business objectives.
The need for easy collaboration is increasingly gaining importance in recent years. As remote work becomes more and more common, new challenges are imposed for team collaboration. Therefore, soft skills, such as teamwork, are even more important now for a fintech developer than they have been previously.
Related to the previous skill, clear communication is another key skill. Without it, fruitful collaboration is much more difficult to attain.
However, communication is not only important between team members. Fintech developers should also be able to communicate clearly with their superiors and sometimes even customers, to whom they should be able to explain the benefits of their fintech products and services.
Flexibility and ability to learn quickly
Fintech is an ever-changing field. With continuous breakthroughs in technologies such as AI, ML, and blockchain, fintech companies also continuously improve their products and services. This means fintech companies and developers have to be flexible and willing to learn new things all the time.
The knowledge of developers who aren’t constantly learning will quickly become outdated. Fintech is such a fast-moving environment that technologies that are state of the art today may quickly grow stale. That’s why when hiring fintech developers, it’s crucial to look for developers who are flexible enough to adapt to such a rapidly changing field.
Fintech is a unique field that’s becoming more important as new technologies are continually being introduced. In this article, we unpacked all the key skills you need to look for in this ever-evolving field. A fintech engineer should have both technical and business skills in order for them to successfully develop new fintech solutions. Due to the specific skill set, finding such engineers is a serious challenge.