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Posted at: Sep 13, 2017, 1:08 AM; last updated: Sep 13, 2017, 2:16 AM (IST)

FINTECH is the way to go

Usha Albuquerque

Until a few years ago, State Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Citibank, ICICI Bank, and other banking giants ruled the financial world and how people and money interacted. Not any longer. In India, today there are many alternatives. Paytm has become a byword for easy banking.  And not just Paytm, there are so many other convenient alternatives to traditional banking. Whether making small change payments to the sabziwala, or getting a personal loan or medical insurance from the comfort of your couch, there is an app for this, and a banking system to support what can be an almost seamless transaction.

Due to technological advancements, the widespread use of smartphones, and improvements in network and wi-fi infrastructure, technology is redefining the financial industry at an unprecedented pace. From bank transfers, to payments, to loans, each financial function today has a strong play of technology. Not surprising, therefore , that the financial technology market — dubbed fintech —  is fast taking over the banking world, and has grown rapidly over the past five years. 

Job scape

What this undoubetedly implies is that technology is inescapably intertwined with financial services, and today investment banks employ almost as many technologists as large IT firms, with a huge array of IT/ fintech  jobs in banking across a broad range of divisions. 

Most of the new fintech start-ups focus on a number of different banking services. The best known are the mobile wallets & e-commerce companies that provide popular payment platforms and act as the digital bridge between consumers and merchants. Others focus on merchant services such as processing of payments via electronic payments, mobile payment platforms, credit card processing kiosks, point-of-sale systems, financial products and loans, and business insurance solutions to companies, medium and small enterprises and so on. Still others manage personal finance provide personal loans and financial products to consumers. These can include car loans, mortgages, and equated monthly installment financings (EMI) for larger-ticket purchases, as well as consumer insurance products that include health insurance, auto insurance, travel insurance, and home insurance, among other products. 

There are fintech companies that also assist consumers complete and file their income tax returns, or  in managing wealth, specifically wealth held in investment accounts or banks. All this activity provides huge opportunities for those with the necessary financial and technical expertise.

These new finance/ IT jobs tend to fall into five groups: application development, business analysis, project management, infrastructure and technical support. 

  • The application developer is the sheet anchor of the IT department. Much of the technology is developed in-house, but when banks purchase software from third-party vendors, developers need to tailor it to the banks' individual needs. Banks also employ solutions architects, which act as the link between development, design and management and oversee the technical elements of projects.
  • Business analysts liaise between the IT department and those working on the projects in the company. They speak to the management teams on what they want the technology to do, assess the cost and scale of any particular tech project and try to relay this information to the tech teams for implementation. 
  • Project managers oversee the tech project from start to finish. They manage a team of developers, liaise with third-party vendors, and ensure IT projects are delivered on time and on budget.
  • Technical support solves problems when they arise, specially on the trading floor: glitches could cost banks millions of dollars within minutes. 
  • Infrastructure jobs deal with the IT nuts and bolts - from servers to operating systems to databases, normally the overall IT network of a bank, rather than individual systems.
There is also the option of working for third-party vendors, which specialise in providing software to financial services.

Getting in

Today, every core aspect of banking is touched by technology. The Internet is the epicenter of information and finance or investment software is aiding finance career people to grow. But in India, with a generation of workforce that has just begun to be familiar with computerised banking, to jump into the frenetic pace of  smartphone technology in financial services, has been disruptive at worst. This is where the new young Internet-friendly banker, or techie stands to gain. 

Financial technology is basically a field for those who can handle both business/finance and IT. Start-ups need people who are talented at Excel and can crunch data, as well. 

Being able to use data and technology to increase the customer base and sales and make operations more efficient, is the new buzzword for success. While it is mostly fresh commerce and banking graduates and even new MBAs who are choosing fintech, even bankers with experience are switching over to work with the new start-ups.  An increasing number of finance professionals and business school students, it is said, are flocking to tech jobs, leaving their banking careers behind. 

On the other hand, IT graduates are also picking up business skills with PG diploma/ courses in commerce, finance, or an MBA. IT professionals  hired as developers  are assessed on two things — the programming language they know and the business knowledge they can acquire. While experience with programming languages such as Java, C++, C# and Python is invaluable, you can only make your mark in a banking tech role if you can also combine these skills with specialist knowledge of particular business areas in finance, or investment banking, such as equities, foreign exchange or derivatives, where investment banks compete to create the fastest and most client-friendly trading platforms. 

While graduates with backgrounds in business, sales, business development and engineering are getting hired, start-ups and fintech companies are basically looking for talented people from diverse backgrounds willing to think outside the traditional technology, and financial mindsets to find creative ways to solve problems. 

Prospects

In 2014 Bill Gates commented that within the next two decades, many manual jobs will be replaced by software automation - not surprising that it has changed the way the banking is done. Moreover with the recent demonetization exercise and the implementation of GST, financial technology in India is here to stay. Banks are therefore placing a huge emphasis on getting the right technology in place, not only giving them an edge over competitors, but also helping them  comply with increasingly onerous compliance requirements demanded by financial regulators.

Today big banks employ nearly as many — if not more — people in their IT functions, J P Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse are recruiting large numbers of tech graduates, while investment banks, retail banks, financial services, brokers and insurance firms are spending billions on new technologies and in training of their employees. Whether it is buying and selling financial products electronically, processing them through smart-order routing systems, or communicating to ensure trades go through smoothly, multi-million dollar technology projects are at the centre of any banks’ strategy. In fact, working with fintech startups seems good for a finance career today, as big bracket investment banks are inclined to invest or provide expansion funds to fintech startups. 

What  is more, not only are fintech start-ups getting huge funding, big banks are also increasingly focusing on fintech startups for their financially-focused software systems. The world's biggest banks like American Express, Citibank and Bank of America are adapting to the technology revolution by moving financial services online and setting up financial technology teams, opening up career opportunities for business graduates with the right skill-sets. There are  also more career opportunities in technology companies, which have fed on financial innovation.

So, no longer is IT the domain of the nerds, nor is banking just for business graduates. The current  ‘gold rush’ in the fintech market, is attracting all those with the necessary skill-sets that encompasses business and technical knowledge as well as practical, digital skills. If you are ready for the new tomorrow — you know what you have to do!


Scope

The changes brought about by Information Technology, in terms of new products, more sophisticated customers, changing cost structures, and the widespread use of computer technologies and applications have all combined to transform the structure of the banking industry. The Internet has emerged as an important medium for delivery of banking products and services such as net banking, funds transfer, use of ATMs, mobile banking etc, so it is not surprising that this highly charged environment has transformed many banks as they make huge efforts to bolster digital offerings for their clients as they face competition from peer-to-peer lenders and other technology groups, and also the blossoming of a large number of fintech startups  being supported by huge funding from all sources. 

According to an independent research study, a sum of $1.2 billion has already been invested worldwide in fintech startups in the past two years. India, too, has seen the meteoric rise of companies like Paytm, Mobikwik, and others cornering enormous funding investments. Fintech start-ups in the country are eager to reach India’s mostly unbanked population and capitalise on its tech-friendly regulatory environment. 

Moreover, the government also seems to be taking notice of this space. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) launched its interoperable payments system, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), earlier this year. Further, the RBI is looking to regulate the P2P lending platforms and get them to register as non-banking financial corporations (NBFCs).


Leading FINTECH Companies in india

Currently there are around 72 India-based private fintech companies handling commercial activities in categories such as:

Mobile Wallets & E-Commerce: Paytm Payment Bank, Quikwallet, Mobikwik, Chillr. Jio Money, SBI Buddy, and ICICI Pockets. 

Lending & Banking: Capital Float, Flexiloans, Veritas Finance

Electronic payments: Electronic payments & Services, Ezetap Mobile Services, ItzCash Card, Razorpay Software, BillDesk,

Banking Trading & Wealth: Funds India, Tauro Wealth

Personal finance & Insurance: Policy Bazaar, Easy Policy, Credit Mantri

Taxes: Cleartax,

Government and Corporate Initiatives: NPCI, Digital India, Smart Cities,

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