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Fintech experts wanted, but not many people fit the bill

Tanveer Saulat, Synechron, financial technology, fintech

Candidates with fintech skills are in demand, but employers are extremely choosy.

This will be a year characterized by the rapid growth of all things futuristic – artificial intelligence, the internet of value, virtual reality and blockchain. As financial institutions ramp up technology projects, they’ll need more technology experts, including software developers, system engineers, product designers and research analysts. But knowing the usual mix of C++ and Java programming languages may not be enough for banks focused on innovation.

We interviewed 200 senior financial services business and IT leaders on their priorities for 2017, and it’s clear that the momentum behind technology innovation and adoption will continue this year.

If you’re looking for a job in this area, this is both good and bad news. There might be plenty of positions available, but there’s simply not enough talent on the market for emerging technologies like blockchain and this has made it difficult for banks to find the talent they need.

From research, we found that 39.3% of respondents felt that blockchain technology talent is difficult to find, while 31.3% said that they are working with partners and vendors for supplements in talent.

As the technology is still relatively new to the market, the prevailing issue faced by employers is not only the lack of real-world practical experience developing with blockchain infrastructures such as Ethereal, Hyperledger and Ripple, but also the lack of industry domain knowledge to guide architecting these new applications in unchartered territories.

Demonstrate that you’re a quick study

Applicants looking to work with transformative new technologies like blockchain will be hard-pressed to tailor their resumes specifically for the position. Unless they were an early-adopter, very few candidates will have that experience. The best thing applicants can hope to do is highlight transferrable experience and look to focus on training for the job through continual education.

When we assembled our own blockchain team, we looked for individuals with transferrable skills, who were self-motivated, proactive and focused technical professionals. This would allow them to learn these new technical skills through lab work, training programs and real projects. As blockchain is a fast-evolving technology, we looked for quick learners with multiple, transferrable skills, be it .Net, Java or PHP proficiency.

AI is red hot

IT professionals interested in a career involving other transformative technologies like artificial intelligence also remains on the radar of industry executives and was among the top technology priorities survey respondents cited for 2017. In fact, financial institutions are taking inspiration from mainstream, consumer AI products like Siri and Alexa to integrate chatbots and voice recognition technologies into their systems.Hence, demand for AI software engineers clearly exists.

While artificial intelligence has been around for decades, advancements made with neural networks has brought on a new era of AI known as Deep Learning – which will require from candidates even deeper technical and domain knowledge than Expert Systems before. While algorithm marketplaces have made it easier to bypass certain requirements, a sound foundation in mathematics, statistics and computer science in addition to an understanding of financial markets are all required for a successful fintech career focused on AI.

Adapt or die

While having a stellar resume with relevant experience might just get you through the door, it is paramount that applicants demonstrate a desire to continue to build their technical skills. These are fast-changing fields and what is new today could be archaic six months from now, so be prepared to evolve skills and approaches and the technology continues to develop.

While fintech 25 years ago was largely associated with back-office applications, the last five-to-ten years have seen a huge surge in investment and excitement around innovation across the business. As we look into the future of fintech recruitment, we anticipate greater competition, which means job-seekers and applicants will need to refine their skillset as technologies become increasingly specialized while simultaneously mastering the financial side to balance both the financial and technology parts of fintech.

Tanveer Saulat is the co-founder and CPO of Synechron, a financial technology services provider.

Photo credit: alexsl/GettyImages

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