As someone who made the shift from mainstream finance to the “disruptive” world of fintech, I am often asked if the banking and finance industry is nearing the end. The short answer is no. What we are seeing and will continue to see is a transformation rather than an extinction. This transformation is not a new phenomenon either, it has been going on forever. For example, just imagine when the first personal computers replaced all the typewriters and handwritten ledgers! Or when the internet allowed traders to trade from anywhere using mobile apps.
The exact nature of these changes depends on your perspective. From the perspective of the consumer, things will just get more streamlined. From the perspective of banks, they will see their products becoming more commoditized. Not just retail banking but corporate and investment banking as well, albeit a bit more slowly.
From a career perspective though, there are certain steps you can take:
1. Be flexible
You thought my #1 tip would be to learn Python or something? That comes later. The most important thing you need to do is learn to be flexible. Be flexible with how you are willing to work (remote working for example), where you are willing to work (startups or bigtech for example), and your core skillsets. Banks will still be around, but they may look more like a tech firm in the future. So you need to have the flexibility to work in such an environment. This is not just about the hard skills, but more about the mental preparedness.
2. Know where the best jobs are
Investment Banking used to be the hot career choice but the 2008 financial quickly changed that. Its still a very rewarding career choice, but certain tech careers now offer similar compensation for a much better quality of life. Over the last 2-3 years, opportunities have been opening up in blockchain as well.
The fact is that a lot of bankers look down upon these and don’t really consider them an option. Don’t make that mistake. Back in the 80s, traders and funds were looked down upon as well. But now bankers fall over themselves to try to break into hedge funds or PE. Be open minded. Stubborn old fools don’t make it far.
3. Brush up those marketing skills
We are down to tip #3 and I still haven’t brought up learning to code? Gasp! The truth is that marketing skills will carry you far more than anything else really. Its not just about marketing your products, but marketing yourself! When you present yourself to a prospective employer, you are the product, and you need to know how to sell it.
When I was in B-school, all the kids used to talk about was finance. CFA, FRM etc. were considered almost essential because that is what we felt was needed; and even I joined the bandwagon. To be fair, they did help with the screening process but the kids who got the best jobs were the ones who could combine their finance knowledge with business savvy, charming personalities and general mindfulness. You are not a lone scientist up on a volcano, you are a banker. And you need marketing skills (including digital marketing) to be a good banker.
4. Get techy
I kept this one for last because it should be obvious but also because this is perhaps the most nuanced of all. “Learn some tech” is a pretty broad ask and it needs to be. Not everyone need to learn to code or get into Python or blockchain development. But you need to know a bit about everything.
You don’t need to learn how to code, but you do need to know how apps work and how they talk to each other, how data is stored and secured, how hackers break into stuff, what encryption is, what regulations impact your business, what are the threats and opportunities that new tech is opening for you. That is what I mean by getting techy. Read some blogs, do some courses. Be more.