FinTech Business and Education Roundtable

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A selection of key FinTech business and academic leaders came together recently to take part in a round (virtual!) table to discuss the range of people skills and experience needed by the FinTech sector and the role the education sector plays in supporting such development.

Hosted by Dawn Dunn and Angus Kidd of Dynamo North East, Caspian’s Chris Brannigan joined the discussion alongside other technology leaders including Gavin Sewell from Honcho, Ed Twiddy from Atom Bank, Mike O’Brien from Opencast Software and Stuart Lynn from Newcastle Building Society. Leaders from Universities including Newcastle, Sunderland, Teeside and Northumbria completed the group.

Fintech panel hosted by Dynamo

Why get businesses and education together?

This was the first in a series of intended meets to look at how education and applied, hands on learning in the workplace can be best placed to support the FinTech sector and wider North East economy. FinTech and its niche parts are a rapidly growing sector with several North East businesses leading their markets on a world stage. There is a heavy reliance on better developing and retaining talent in the region to support these opportunities.

This kick off session focused on the asks that those FinTech businesses have of academia and will be followed up with a focus on the needs of the education sector as well as a wider reach into the higher education sector. This appears to be an excellent opportunity for the North East to collectively take a different approach by creating stronger cross education and industry relationships. Buy in and commitment to a plan is important to create the kind of partnerships that will make the material and sustainable difference to all involved sectors.

What do courses currently include?

The University representatives shared content and plans for the courses offered which included graduate and undergraduate courses dedicated to FinTech alongside already existing courses in related subjects such as Data Science, Computer Science and Technology.

Course content focuses on a broad range of subjects from big data, machine learning and blockchain to financial services, disruptive technologies and digital innovation. Skills development that is designed to disrupt and innovate includes programming, research and business.

It was also encouraging to hear collaboration already existing for both placements and course content development. Similarly, the use of Knowledge Based Partnerships (as already in place at Caspian) are seen as a positive way to both open up research capabilities to industry and provide work-based learning.

What are the challenges for FinTech businesses?

Providing opportunities for students to work with FinTech businesses was recognized as an important part of building skills but some technology businesses face challenges in providing those opportunities. Those challenges include:

  • Finding the internal resource and time to invest in supporting a student
  • Ensuring it is appropriate for students to work on certain deliverables
  • How to immerse students into smaller businesses where roles often cover multiple responsibilities
  • How to create engagement and awareness with of opportunities in the North East

What are the opportunities?

The panel were quick to recognise that a collaborative approach would present some effective ways for further education organisations to work more closely with the business FinTech sector and opportunities captured include:

  • The creation of a FinTech hub across business, education & public sector
  • An online North East FinTech Expo event co-hosted across regional universities and FinTech companies (October target)
  • The introduction of a regional University graduate ‘clearing house’ that connects and enables FinTech companies to access to local talent 
  • The identification of undergraduate and post-graduate projects for co-creation across universities and companies
  • An increase in collaboration across regional universities
  • Ways to engage more and increase the frequency of interaction between students, universities and businesses
  • A focus on opportunities for students to continue working part time in the FinTech during their final year

What do FinTech businesses need?

There were some good quality discussions and contributions from all involved regarding the key experience and skills that businesses operating in the FinTech sector need to both grow their own business and help grow a sustainable technology hub in the North East of England. Following is a summary of the kind of key skills that are top of a FinTech’s wish list:

General Technology

  • Computer Science Degree
  • Basic Software Engineering
  • Cloud Computing & Cloud Development Technologies (across the Full Stack) – Universities are weak on this today
  • Solution Design
  • Customer and User Experience Design (CX & UX)

Development Methodologies & Project Management

  • Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Kanban etc
  • Project Management
  • Product Management and Product Ownership

Security

  • Enterprise level security including cyber
  • Information/data security and management

Enterprise Systems Architecture

  • DevOps, Platform as Code (Terraform, Kubernetes etc)
  • High Scalability, Availability, Redundancy, Interoperability
  • Data Procession & Business Process Engineering
  • Secure Operations
  • Technology Due Diligence and Evaluation

Specialist

  • Data Science
  • AI & Machine Learning
  • Blockchain & Crypto (despite uncertainty around adoption rates)

Fin Tech Business Knowledge

  • Financial/Insurance/Payment Other Market Services fundamentals
  • Risk Management, Compliance, Banking, Treasury
  • Regulations/GDPR
  • Financial Crime
  • Fund raising

Summary

There was collective agreement and commitment to a more collaborative approach across education and business to supporting the development of programmes that help create fit for purpose skills and experience for the FinTech sector. This is a continuously evolving industry with several niche markets. They all sit at the forefront of innovation and are heavily reliant on access to highly skilled or specialist talent that can innovate and push boundaries. An agile and open approach is needed to continuously improve course content, student engagement and collaborative opportunities if the right talent is to be developed and retained in the North East region.