The popular perception of the average tech industry worker varies from the fresh faced, hoodie wearer, pitching an outlandish app or social media idea, to bearded men perpetually hunched at their computers. While both caricatures do exist, the technology sector arguably encompasses the most diverse skill set of any industry.
The FinTech sector is a case in point. Far from being the preserve of ‘techie’ people who have known no other industry, it is increasingly a draw for traditionally more straight-laced professionals such as lawyers, accountants and financiers. The reasons for this diversity are manifold, but at its core, there is an understanding that FinTech is fundamentally revolutionising how money works. In short, it is an incredibly exciting sector to work in.
If you also consider the day to day differences between working at a FinTech start-up and a large corporation, it is easy to see why FinTech is such a draw. Many of the disadvantages of working in the City are minimised. The tech industry as a whole is renowned for its flexibility, high-level of responsibility and ownership for each employee, limited hierarchy and young teams. Where some City workers may consider the decision making process at their company akin to the speed at which an oil tanker turns, a start-up is more like a speed boat at full throttle. Consequently, proactive employees and creative thinkers are rewarded and encouraged.
The global nature of the financial scene, coupled with the need to scale quickly, often means that FinTech companies have an international footprint from day one. It is therefore not uncommon for even the smallest FinTech companies to have several offices dotted across the world. As a result, international travel is often the norm, even for junior staff. This has the obvious benefits of providing employees with exposure to different working practices and cultures. It is also means that workers with multiple languages are coveted by FinTech start-ups.
The FinTech sector is also booming, raising nearly $3 billion in 2013, more than triple the $930M invested globally in 2008. This is because it is disrupting nearly every segment of the wider financial industry: everything from payments to supply chain financing. Banking is set to be turned completely upside down.
As FinTech is dominated by such regulatory issues, having skills honed in the corporate world can work wonders. After all, no matter how dynamic the start-up, it still has to play by the rules, and having employees who understand the rulebook is a major advantage. Many of the UK’s most talented mathematical and scientific minds populate the financial sector - these sought after skills, coupled with real world experience of the sector, mean that often employees within financial institutions are the perfect fit for FinTech start-ups. Many intricacies of the market can only be learned through experience, something that fresh graduates, or those with only a background in technology, can lack.
Of course, the start-up world is not for everyone. To work in FinTech you must be flexible and willing to adapt to change. Strong opinions are also essential; start-ups are not the place for conformists who would prefer that their preconceptions remain unchallenged. There is no micromanagement; employees have to be self-starters and self-motivated. Given your team will be tight-knit, it is also important to be easy to get along with - there is nowhere to hide in a start-up.
Those who decide to move to a FinTech start-up will, in return, learn to move fast, ‘break things’ and take on more responsibility. Whether you went to private school or where you buy your clothes from will not count for anything. There is little posturing, bureaucracy or corporate politicking needed in a start-up. People are measured simply on what they do and their results.
If you are persuaded that working at a FinTech start-up might be for you, first, question everything. Whether it is through your network or your creativity and ideas, if you have a clear understanding of what you can bring to a start-up, you will be well placed to find a company that best matches your skills.
Posted by Paul Jozefak, co-founder of innovation laboratory Liquid Labs,
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