How to get a job in fintech
So you want a job in fintech in 2023? Perhaps you're a computer science student looking at alternative career paths, perhaps a finance student in search of something more innovative than banking. No matter who you are, there are things you need to know before you apply.
An understanding of the broad fintech ecosystem, and indeed what 'fintech' actually is, is essential to understanding where your employer of choice operates within it. This is a look at fintech, the kinds of firms out there, what makes jobs in the sector unique, and how much money you can stand to earn from working in fintech.
What is fintech?
As the name implies, fintech is a combination of finance and technology. While incredibly simple at face value, it becomes more complex the deeper you look. Technology is evident in nearly all functions of finance in 2023, but a fintech can be loosely categorized as a startup (or team within a broader organization) that provides a service or product fundamentally enabled by proprietary technology.
Source: Credit Suisse. P2P=peer to peer. APM=alternative payment method. LPM=local payment method. AISP=Account Information Service Provider; PISP=Payment Initiation Service Provider; A2A=account to account payments.
The above diagram from Credit Suisse is as all-encompassing a snapshot as you can get in regards to what kind of fintechs are out there. As you can clearly see, payments is king in the fintech space. That being said, this diagram does not accommodate for more fringe-aspects of the sector such as eCommerce.
A simpler means of categorizing them is B2B and B2C. The former (Business to Business) provides a service or product, most often technological infrastructure, to another company. The latter (Business to Consumer) provides services directly to the public. The most prominent of these are the various types of digibank, as well as unorthodox loan providers such as those in the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) space.
What's the state of the fintech industry?
Long story short... not great. Not terrible (depending on your sub-sector of choice), but not great. After a mammoth few years for investment, funding rounds are smaller and sparser in 2023. Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) were infrequent even during the sector's heyday; now they are exceedingly so.
The industry is at its bleakest for crypto fanatics. What once was perhaps the most promising career path in all of finance has since been relegated to just another part of the broad ecosystem. This is thanks in no small part to the collapse of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto empire. Regulators are scrutinizing those that remain far more intensely and, despite bitcoin slowly and surely rising in price once more, the industry is on a long, long road to recovery.
It's not the only industry racked with regulation problems. BNPL was another star-child for fintech as firms like Klarna ballooned in popularity and value. The UK is clamping down on its use now, though issues over profitability spelled uncertainty for BNPL even without regulators to worry about.
Payments, on the other hand, looks rock solid. Last year, UK Finance predicted that "faster payments and other remote banking" will surpass cash payments in volume by 2024. This hasn't stopped valuations from plummeting in the sector.
Who are the big players?
The three top locations for fintech unicorns (startups valued above $1bn), are New York, London and San Francisco. Each is home to a number of the most prominent fintechs operating today. Each have too many to count, but one of London's most prominent fintechs is Revolut. New York has Ramp and San Francisco has Chime.
Many of the biggest fintechs come from outside the major hubs. Stripe, arguably the face of fintech in 2023, has its headquarters in Ireland. NuBank, one of the largest digibanks, is based in Brazil. Rapyd, another payments giant, is based in Israel. Grab is Asia's biggest fintech and is based in Singapore.
There are also a number of older, more established firms that aren't always considered among the fintech ecosystem. They include the likes of Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and, for eCommerce, eBay.
Major financial institutions have psuedo-fintechs as they pursue a number of side projects and products with a technological edge. Nomura has a crypto firm called Laser Digital, Goldman branched out into consumer banking with Marcus (which is now being closed) and JPMorgan has ChaseUK and is building a financial AI chatbot called IndexGPT.
What do fintech jobs involve?
Fintech jobs are fundamentally different to jobs in traditional finance, especially in a startup. While broader job titles are the same, much more is expected of you the lower your headcount is.
Software engineers and product managers (PMs) work on building and maintaining the infrastructure of the firm, as well as developing new products for it to begin selling. Sales and partnerships people look for institutions and clients to utilize their services or help broaden consumer awareness of the fintech.
Those interested in founding a fintech will find themselves in an executive role far earlier than they would in traditional finance. While the size of your team may not exceed that of one run by a banking MD (or even some VPs), the role would then also encompass engaging with venture capitalists, private equity firms and other possible investors in the company.
There are some duties required of all roles in a fintech. The most significant joint effort is making the company appear attractive to investors. "It's not just sales," says Adizah Tejani, a fintech portfolio manager of HSBC's venture capital arm, "it's everyone's job to be an advocate for the company."
Departments also intermingle far more frequently. Engineers and PMs, for example, may work together much more often than in a bank and may be structurally intertwined.
The chain of seniority can also be far more ambiguous in a fintech. At Revolut, for example, young employees are handed senior leadership roles and allowed to bring their ideas to fruition far quicker than would be possible elsewhere.
Pauline Sim, a member of the Singapore Fintech Association executive committee, says that, in fast-growing fintechs, "certain structures that provide stability for employees [such as HR practices] might not be in place." She warns that some fintechs prioritize their investments in "growth, scaling and product building" over supporting employees. At Revolut, for example, the culture is a notoriously hardworking one that emphasizes results, leaving many employees ostracized in the past.
How to get a fintech job.
What is a fintech mindset? Michael Abdul, a London based fintech recruiter at recruitment firm Volition, says it "would be building viable products, prototypes and proof of concepts; you should be trying to innovate." There are a number of ways to demonstrate this.
Working at a big name firm isn't always the same benefit to fintech as it would be in traditional finance, especially if you're moving to a startup from a bank. "People are more interested in what you’re building and how new it is rather than the brand name," says Abdul. "Goldman are always building innovative stuff," for example, but are also plagued with legacy tech.
When it comes to education, university brand is key. "I put a lot of value on someone who's gone to a Russell Group in computer science over someone else," Abdul says.
As for your personal life, Abdul says, "Companies heavily love people that love tech, that do side projects and are passionate about it." They also love "hackathons and competitions; if I’m sending a CV over, and they have an active GitHub, I will include it”
Passing the interview is another matter, however, and each fintech operates differently. Scott Dawson, head of sales and strategic partnerships at payments fintech DECTA, emphasizes the personal aspect for interviews in his firm.
"You can learn payments; you can't learn to be a decent human being," Dawson says. In his interviews, he likes "having a very candid discussion," and to "avoid a list of questions." Dawson says a successful interview is when he "understands their experiences, but [is] interested in their potential."
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Dawson says a successful candidate has the "X Factor... they could be given an idea, and they could develop it, then come back with a question for me." Dawson says this helps him understand that he "could teach them what they need to be taught."
Some fintechs also offer student schemes, like NextGen from Adyen in Europe and Supernova from OKX in Hong Kong and Singapore. However, amid widespread cuts in the industry, many fintechs are shifting focus to more senior employees, making these roles rarer in 2023.
Fintechs with university recruitment teams include:
Fintechs with Graduate programs include:
Fintechs hiring interns include:
Depending on where you work, fintechs can be a gold mine. The biggest fintechs vary massively in pay and smaller ones have just as much variety.
Stripe is well regarded as the top payer for fintech. It ranks above not just banks, but hedge funds, in a variety of pay packages according to Levels.fyi. An entry level engineer there earns a total compensation of, on average, $245k. Klarna has the opposite reputation. Pay is rather underwhelming at the BNPL unicorn, with entry level engineers making, on average, $62.6k.
Our list of the top global fintechs gives a rough expectation of pay at 50 of the top fintechs worldwide, but the compensation number is just one part of the story.
The USP of fintech pay is stock payments, usually in the form of restricted stock units (RSUs). $80k of Stripe's entry level engineer pay consists of RSUs, according to Levels, and it only gets larger as seniority grows. Owning stock seems a big positive, an opportunity to grow your income as the company grows, but as previously mentioned, IPOs are an increasingly rare occurrence.
Fintech pay is sometimes great, sometimes bad, often decent. Do your due diligence on each firm you are interested in working at and ask yourself if the culture makes up for the pay, or vice versa. Good luck.
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