Future Proofing the Future Proofers: Takeaways on Talent

By The Innovate Finance Communications Team

“Nothing focuses the mind more than a skills gap.”  

Lisa Moyle at VC Innovations

What can be done to future-proof the FinTech sector? How can we get a diverse set of skills in primary and secondary schools? And what can be done in the short term to fill the skills gap?

Innovate Finance recently hosted a Women in FinTech webinar discussion which looked through this topic with a range of guests, including Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, Founder and CEO at Akoni Hub, Lisa Moyle, FinTech/Director of Partnerships – FinTECHTalents at VC Innovations, Priyanka Lilaramani, Founder and CEO at Plinth.Tech, Brett Shanley, CEO and Founder at Knoma and Riya Pabari, Co-Founder & CEO at Founders Academy.

Here are some key takeaways from that discussion:

The Talent Race is Cross-Industry and Global  

The talent and digital skills crisis in the UK is well documented and increasingly FinTechs are feeling the pinch. According to our most recent report with WPI Economics, the UK FinTech sector is set to top 100,000 employees by the year 2030, with 30,000 new jobs created in the next decade. This will be powered by attracting talent into the sector, now an increasingly competitive arena.

The crisis becomes all the more complex when looking at gender diversity. Women makeup just 29% of the FinTech ecosystem (according to the 2017 UK FinTech Census) and yet the quest for talent has heightened the need for the sector to be more accessible to a wide range of people, and to do more in terms of retraining and upskilling.

Our panellists were quick to highlight that not only was the competition for talent now global, but it is also across global industries. Brett Shanley, CEO and Founder at Knoma noted “Technology is permeating through all walks of life, not only finance”,  and the increasing demand for digital skills is now universal.

Lisa Moyle of VC Innovations also stressed the need for the FinTech industry to puts its best foot forward. “Financial services is not the first port of call for people with skills in demand. It is important (as an industry) that financial services demonstrates that it is changing its culture and using various innovations to push forward”.

‘Digital skills’ is more than STEM

Digital skills can no longer be thought of just through the lens of STEM. While firms such as Akoni recognised the need for IT analysts, Data Scientists and Software engineers in the FinTech space, the wider panel agreed that broad skill sets are needed to build the digital economy of the 21st century. Lisa Moyle, at VC Innovations said: “We need to change the mindset around the core skills that can drive the sector forward”, and she stressed the importance of creating diverse pathways into the industry.

The panel also agreed on the importance of reskilling and encouraging employers to buy-in to the idea of continuous development for their staff.

Priyanka Lilaramani, Founder & CEO at Plinth.Tech said: “Looking at the gap in the talent pool, and developing problem-solving skills outside of the traditional areas, is really key for long-term success”.

This sentiment was shared by Riya Pabari, Co-Founder & CEO, Founders Academy who noted ‘Adaptability quotient (AQ)’ will become a must-have skill in the future “It is clear that reskilling and up-skilling need to be a big part of the solution. We are moving towards careers that are now non-linear. We must empower employees to take agency over their own learning”.

Education Matters, Always

According to the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship (2019), only 39% of women are confident in their capabilities to start a business, compared to 55% of men. This disparity has roots in the early education system, which the panel noted was no longer fit for purpose, especially with regard to technology education.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, Founder and CEO at Akoni Hub, noted the importance of getting early education right, and stressed the need to understand the early ‘markers’ that dissuade young girls from entering tech-focused careers. More crucially, barriers should be removed to reduce the complexity and increase the “appeal and excitement” around a sector like FinTech.

This is just one of the reasons Innovate Finance recently launched its FinTech for Schools campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of digital skills by showing young people, their parents and their teachers that there are a wide range of career options within FinTech. Our members are also involved in the campaign as role models themselves and recognise the need to build the talent pipeline within FinTech, and also to support their own internal talent and skills initiatives.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh added: “We’ve put two very complex fields [Finance and Technology] together. We need to go into schools (private and state), then, starting from headmasters to the teachers, deliver mechanisms that enable young people to understand digital and facilitate mentorship.”

Other panellists in the webinar discussion stressed the need for FinTech firms to construct skills programmes that can attract a diverse pool of talent.

Mentors and Networks Are Crucial

There was broad agreement on the panel regarding the importance of bringing role models into schools, and also recognition of the crucial role that networks play in building a sustainable career.

“Women don’t appear to have the depth and breadth of networks of their male counterparts”, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh said, adding this goes over and above having a network that has access to capital, but also covers access to role models and creating a deeper pool of resources.

The panel agreed on the importance of showcasing female leadership role models in FinTech to drive aspirations during the early stages of a career life cycle. Brett Shanley also noted the need “to paint a picture of an industry that is both open & inclusive”.

To Conclude

The first quarter of 2019 has seen the strongest start to a calendar year of investment ever flowing into FinTechs. However, continued future growth in the sector will be dependent on a robust talent pipeline, and flexibility around reskilling and non-linear upskilling. Our panel discussed a range of actions and solutions to this problem, including the introduction of a ‘diversity sandbox’; the utilisation of male champions; and cementing funding for reskilling and development.

Some members of the panel were eager to point out further required action such as investing in women in FinTech and curating new recruitment and development models. Others emphasised the need for a broader policy framework to enable women to develop deep networks, like their male counterparts.

Whatever the case, as FinTech progresses alongside the fourth industrial revolution, our panel recognised the need to think beyond the typical skills base, to ensure the ecosystem doesn’t flatline in the near-future.

For further details on how to get involved in our Diversity programme or our recently launched Talent and Skills initiative, please contact the Innovate Finance team here.