This week, we’re looking at what the future holds for finance and fintech. Here in Careers, we’re focusing on those who work within the sector.
Change is afoot within finance. Not only is the fintech sector growing exponentially, but changes are happening within the greater financial sector.
In fact, the financial services field has entered a period of intense transformation and innovation, mainly led by technology. That’s according to financial thought leader Huy Nguyen Trieu.
“This is very different from what we experienced in finance 10 years ago. At that time, the financial industry was going through the subprime crisis, and it was all about restructuring and regulatory compliance,” said Nguyen Trieu. “Now, we’re witnessing very quick changes being made possible by technologies.”
Nguyen Trieu has an exceptionally strong background, enabling him to speak with authority on the future of finance.
He is a former MD at Citi Group; a founding partner of SuperCharger, one of Asia’s leading fintech accelerators; co-founder of CFTE, an education platform for professionals to acquire the skills for digital finance; and the CEO of The Disruptive Group, a business builder in finance.
If that wasn’t enough strings to his financial bow, Nguyen Trieu also gives lectures on innovation in finance at Oxford Saïd Business School.
With years of experience under his belt, Nguyen Trieu is well versed in the changes within the financial sector as well as the impact of technology on a variety of industries.
“My view is that in the next 10 years, finance will be a very different industry,” he said.
“A good comparison is what happened in advertising during the last 10 years: think of a world before Google and after Google, and how business models have changed in advertising. The same is now happening in finance.”
Needless to say, life before and after Google didn’t just change business models within advertising. These transformations completely changed how advertising professionals work. They changed entire careers.
It is expected that the drastic changes Nguyen Trieu sees coming down the line will have a direct impact on financial workers.
“Robotic process automation is likely to lead to fewer jobs for those who handle manual tasks that can be automated,” he said. “At the same time, most jobs are likely to evolve, with much more input from technology.”
He gave the example of private bankers, who will continue to have an important role in the relationship with clients, but will be assisted by more digital tools. Additionally, there will be increasing demand for new types of roles within finance, from product managers to AI scientists.
“There will be huge opportunities for finance professionals if they acquire the right skills and have the right mindset,” he said. “But if they don’t, there is a risk that their jobs could be at risk because of the automation trend.”
The impact of fintech
Fintech start-ups have stormed to the forefront of the finance world, but are they actually changing traditional financial services?
Nguyen Trieu doesn’t tend to differentiate between the two. He defines fintech as the impact that technology is having in finance, with three main players in that space: fintech start-ups, traditional companies and new entrants such as technology companies.
“What has changed is that, in the past, traditional companies were dominant. Now, we’re seeing start-ups such as Revolut or Paytm challenging traditional players, and tech companies such as Amazon or Uber getting into finance,” he said.
“For me, it’s still finance, except that there is more competition and the ability to create totally new business models very quickly.”
With this in mind, financial workers can expect fintech start-ups to be faster, innovate quicker and experience exponential growth compared to their large-organisation counterparts. However, they can also be more fragile with fewer resources. “This is of course a generalisation, because late-stage start-ups might have considerable resources, and some large organisations can still innovate quickly,” said Nguyen Trieu.
“I wouldn’t necessarily make the difference between start-ups and large organisations, but between those that understand technology and those that don’t,” he continued. “I wouldn’t necessarily choose a job in a category such as ‘fintech start-up’ or ‘traditional finance’, but I’d be more granular and look at what the organisation and the team does.”
How to prep for the future of finance
With all these trends in mind, what can finance workers be prepared for coming down the line? What do they need to do to prepare for their working future within the rapidly transforming world of finance?
Nguyen Trieu said they need to learn, learn and learn! “If you can’t explain what a blockchain is, describe cloud computing or haven’t heard of Ant Financial, then you are likely to struggle in this new world of finance.”
However, Nguyen Trieu is not saying that finance professionals need to become technologists. Instead, he said finance professionals should understand how technology can be used, so that they can apply it to their jobs and be part of this transformation process.
He would recommend professionals within the financial sector to consider courses that help build this knowledge. Nguyen Trieu has been involved with four such programmes, including fintech courses from CFTE, Oxford and Imperial College.
“In 10 years, digital advertising grew 20 times faster than print advertising and so, those who understood the impact of digital advertising were very highly advantaged. The same is happening in finance today.”