The most recent professional networking event took place last week at the impressive Citigroup Centre in Canary Wharf. Hosted by Amit Bhola (95-00) the evening was given over to a panel discussion on Financial Technology (Fintech) chaired by OA and deputy editor of The Economist, Tom Standage (83-87).
The panel comprised of Murad Baig (87-89) who is just about to step down from his role leading Fintech and Blockchain for Banking and Securities at Deloitte, Vince Darley Vice President of Growth at Deliveroo, Stefan Lucas, experienced Fintech digital executive, investor and mentor and finally Anil Stocker, alumnus of St Paul’s and co-founder and CEO of MarketInvoice which allows small businesses to access the funds necessary to grow.
With an audience of city professionals, parents, OAs and students, Tom set the not inconsiderable challenge for the panelists to use language that would make the discussion accessible to everyone in the room. However, with the panel quickly falling back on acronyms (B2B, DLT, B2B-B2C) and sometimes quite challenging technical terminology (product road maps, data mining and machine learning) it fell to Tom to expertly steer the discussion through the complexities of the financial crash of 2008, the challenges posed to the ‘dinosaur’ traditional banks by the new fast moving financial technology companies and the importance of data which allows financial networks to make decisions that affect us all at incredible speed. Brexit raised its head, cryptocurrency barely got a look in and there was general agreement that the real test for the banking system will be when Amazon decides to move into financial services.
Everyone on the panel had a unique story to tell, yet a question about starting a career in financial technology brought general agreement that there was a place both for those who are educated to degree level and for those who leave school at sixteen – although only if they were very strongly driven self learners. Problem solvers with a keen eye on creating change were to be encouraged and indeed Murad emphasised the fact that in a rapidly evolving technological world change was almost essential to survive.
In the end it was reassuring to hear that this was sector in which success, as in so many others, came through a combination of passion and hard work. The final message from an industry which almost prides in the complexity of its language was reassuringly simple. Find out what you enjoy and are really good at, do not be afraid to fail and never take the easy option to follow the pack if a more exciting opportunity arises- by learning to adapt you will always be able to be stay ahead of the curve.