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Essential Fintech Skills for 2016

Date: 29 November 2015

Demand for technologically able candidates is increasing globally as the sector begins to evade many other areas of business. The finance sector, in particular, is becoming more focused on implementing technological innovations and is focused on hiring and retaining tech-savvy staff in order to do so. The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, has even gone so far as to say that banks are essentially technology companies. As analytics, mobile and web security considerations within financial institutions increase, the number of staff within finance firms with a technological (rather than financial) background is growing.

Across the world investment in fintech is increasing. Fintech investment in the US nearly tripled last year, with deal values in New York City reaching $768 million. In Asia-Pacific, investment in this sector is due to quadruple from $880 million in 2014 to over $3.5 billion by the end of the year, according to a report from Accenture. In the UK, London Mayor Boris Johnson has hailed the city as being a world centre for fintech development; this is in part due to close ties with the already-mentioned flourishing APAC region. Furthermore, the number of fintech startups is growing and the Banking Technology website shows that investment in financial technology firms grew by 136% last year.

Banking businesses looking to stay ahead of competitors must, therefore, build an understanding of the key tech skills required by candidates and how these skills will impact the finance industry. Considering the global skills gap for candidates with tech experience is due to hit 1.5 million by the year 2020, candidates with niche skills will continue to be in increasingly high demand.

The most sought-after tech skills in 2016

Programming languages such as Java, Python and C++/C#

Very few investment banks and hedge funds are looking to drastically change their approach to technology and the types of programming languages currently in use. As a result, candidates with an understanding of Java and Javascript - which can be adapted for use in front-end web design - will continue to be highly desirable, along with C++ and C# knowledge.

Python is now also a common programming language used in the fintech space, as it is used for building analytic tools, quant models and trading strategies. It is also easier to use than some other programming languages as professionals are capable of doing more with less Python code compared to C++.

Although new programming languages are often developed, very few are marketable to financial products or strong enough to be used on Wall Street and other financial centres. It will take some truly innovative technology to displace these traditional programming languages and prove it is capable of building better trading applications and risk management tools.

Technologists are given preference to financial experts

In the past in order to be successful in front office trading environments, or to integrate successfully with the portfolio manager and quantitative traders, technologists would have required some knowledge of financial products. Now, however, technologists can enter a financial institution with no background in the industry and command high salaries from the off. Technologists are able to secure high-profile positions and demand respect from senior financial experts, as they are considered to be the individuals with the skills to prepare teams for the future of work.

The reason for this is that financial firms are realising that it is easier to train smart technologists on financial products rather than educate financial experts on new technology. In the fast-paced environment of tech, where software releases and new services are introduced quickly and the margin for error is small, technologists with basic knowledge through to an understanding of complex infrastructures are given preference to financial experts.

Fintech specialists are also the individuals now responsible for improving a business from the ground up; building on the tech currently in use within the workplace to propel firms forward and secure their place amongst competitors for the future.

Hardware specialists in demand alongside software

But it’s not just software specialists who are filling high-profile positions in financial firms – hardware specialists are also entering the sector. With better allocation of capital and improved risk management, matched by an ever-changing regulatory landscape in the finance market, hardware solutions that are reliable, adaptable and scalable are in high demand. Financial firms and trading specialists are constantly trying to shave milliseconds off their run time on trading platforms; creating positions for both hardware and software specialists and encouraging a relationship between the two in the finance space can provide improved results for teams.

Impact on the industry

A lack of synergy between tech and finance has been lauded as one of the most significant contributing factors to the financial crash last decade. As a result investment in financial technology is a key priority, the fintech space is growing and fintech specialists are in high demand. If you’re looking for your next fintech opportunity or are looking to expand your team, contact Selby Jennings today.