The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, and (now more than ever) an online presence is crucial for any business hoping to survive. As a result, FinTech has been identified as one of the critical players in post-COVID economic recovery. The sudden and drastic change in consumer behaviour is evidence of this — within the first month of lockdown, 6 million people downloaded a banking app for the first time.
This revelation puts increasing pressure on a talent market which has already been drained of skilled talent. The sector currently employs approximately 80,000 people — a figure expected to grow by more than 10,000 over the next ten years. Despite its intrinsic role, UK businesses of all sizes struggle to find skilled tech talent to help push things forward. To fully realise the potential of this sector, we need to upskill our talent.
This was the topic of conversation at the April 30th Westminster Business Forum, held online and chaired by Lord Chris Holmes (Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on FinTech). It featured a roster of guest speakers, including Ron Kalifa OBE, Charlotte Crosswell (CEO, Innovate Finance) and Robert Half’s Division Manager of Technology and Marketing, Duncan Smorfitt.
Here are some of the insights shared at the event and why it's so crucial for UK FinTech businesses to focus on upskilling existing employees.
What’s causing the FinTech skills deficit?
The first significant cause of the skills deficit is the pace of technology itself. Employers are rapidly changing requirements to try and match this speed, thereby inadvertently putting new and existing talent at a disadvantage.
There’s also a lack of talent coming directly from higher education. Very few people are graduating with the right skills or qualifications, and many believe careers in FinTech are inaccessible at a graduate level. Individuals who do have the right skills will inevitably meet a roadblock when faced with fast-changing employer requirements. The speed of technology advancement also puts qualified professionals on the backfoot — very few of them know which skills are needed to access the market.
The dangers of failing to upskill existing talent
In an industry where 81% of firms employ 50 people or less, the pressure to train and utilise existing talent is enormous. Without the tools and understanding needed to take action, businesses are looking to near and offshoring to satisfy the growth in demand, which leaves UK professionals in a difficult place.
Ron Kalifa's recent government report on UK FinTech identifies the sector as a key driver of economic growth during this precarious time. Innovation drives productivity and UK exports; it creates a value chain and stimulates new industries.
In a post-Brexit, post-COVID environment, businesses must gain access to new skills if they’re to continue exploring challenges and opportunities for innovation.
Taking active steps to address the challenge
To effectively address the skills deficit, we need to focus efforts on upskilling and retraining our domestic workforce. It's estimated that 90% of the UK workforce will need to be re-skilled by 2030, so an action plan is fundamental.
- Take a dual approach To satisfy immediate needs and future talent requirements, businesses should focus on building a domestic talent pipeline and employing skilled talent from overseas. Offering embedded work placements to graduates is an excellent way to build domestic talent pipelines while giving the next generation a pathway into FinTech.
- Hire and promote with diversity in mind By creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, businesses can make more pathways for people to access jobs. In addition, diversity drives innovation, enables greater financial inclusion, and supports the digital economy. The Westminster Business Forum panel encouraged businesses to make the most of their in-house talent. This can be done via upskilling, retraining, or by addressing unconscious biases when promoting internally.
- Subsidise higher education access The Kalifa Review recommended FinTech businesses give adults access to short courses from high-quality institutions at lowered costs as a means of supporting their development. The Westminster Business Forum explored some of the most valuable skills for FinTech professionals long term, and of these, training for auditing tools was paramount. Better auditing for crypto, cyber, and digital currencies help inspire greater accountability, and public trust can flourish.
Ultimately, there’s a double benefit to upskilling FinTech talent. Not only are we supporting the innovation of the finance and technology sectors in the UK and paving the way for better growth, but we’re also enabling the UK economy to level up in this next phase of its development.