Since quitting his job as head of macro structuring at Citigroup in June last year, Huy Nguyen Trieu spends his time thinking about fintech. He’s a mentor, a lecturer and a prolific attendee of the hundreds of fintech conferences taking place around the world.
He’s learned one key thing – people working in banking are panicking.
“Every day, I get emails from former colleagues, senior bankers or traders who have no idea what the future holds,” he says. “I can’t keep up with them all.”
In the age of automation, quants are taking over. Artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain – all of these are looming over traditional finance jobs and striking fear into the hearts of senior and junior bankers alike.
“There are people who’ve been bankers for a long time who don’t really know where to start in order to adapt to the new landscape, but juniors are also worried,” says Nguyen Trieu. “There’s a huge amount of information out there, but the key is finding out what’s relevant to your job.”
Nguyen Trieu has been involved with various fintech organisations for the past two years including Start-up Bootcamp and Canary Wharf fintech accelerator Level39. He also lectures on fintech at Imperial College London and Said Business School, and also runs his own firm The Disruptive Group, which advises senior bankers on how to deal with new technology.
Now, together with his wife – former UBS wealth manager Tram Anh Nguyen – he’s just launched the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CFTE). This is a new online education platform, which aims to equip finance professionals with the tech skills they need to survive.
“People talk about trading jobs disappearing because of AI, or compliance and operations jobs being wiped out by blockchain,” says Nguyen Trieu. “There are threats, but we also think that there are big opportunities for people who can acquire the right skills.”
The courses on offer will be everything from ‘fintech 101’ to very technical courses on how artificial intelligence will impact trading jobs, says Nguyen Trieu. Claire Calmejane, director of innovation at Lloyds Banking Group, and Janos Barberis, founder of Hong Kong fintech accelerator, SuperCharger, are advising on the curriculum. Nguyen Trieu says eight other academics and bankers are involved, but can’t be named currently because of compliance reasons.
Nguyen Trieu says there are two main areas of concern for people who work in finance. For senior executives, it’s about understanding the ‘ecosystem’ and how the company needs to adapt.
“Look at companies like XTX Markets taking FX market share from big banks, or Marketaxcess eating up bond revenues – technology has lowered barriers to entry to these markets. The big investment banks are still figuring out how to react,” he says.
For rank and file employees, the bigger concern is how you can remain relevant as technology encroaches on more and more business areas.
“It used to be that you’d specialise in one area – you could be, say, the best sterling swaps trader, and your technical knowledge was the most important thing,” he says. “Now, you have to understand the technology innovation process alongside this. If you don’t, these jobs will be gone in a few years.”
“There are a lot of people working in finance who are lost – they need to understand technology, and they have to start somewhere,” he says.