Universities should probably teach fintech. But they can’t. Because they don’t know what it is.
First published by Bird Lovegod in The Yorkshire Post
…Ask a business studies student what fintech is and you’ll probably receive a blank look, or as happened yesterday, a conversation around robotic fish and dolphins. And whilst this provided for a few moments of marine mammal mirth, the worrying reality is that most students don’t know what fintech is. But why does this matter? The short answer is that Fintech is the amalgamation of Finance and Technology, the two sides of the same coin, and together they’re shaping our society, our culture, even our own identities, and we should probably have a better understanding of this if we’re to be anything other than passive consumers. Teaching fintech might also help students get jobs with the fintech companies who are literally cannibalising each other for talent right now. It matters because students aren’t adequately being taught about a commercial sector that’s sculpting our very civilization. They’re prolific users of fintech products and services, whilst simultaneously being unaware of them, and because of this they can’t engage with the direction of change these technologies are driving. In other words, they become passengers rather than active creators of the future, and that’s the opposite of the function of education.
Both Leeds and Manchester Universities are developing fintech course modules, but why is fintech so problematic to get to grips with? And so difficult for Universities to effectively teach?
Partly because fintech is hugely diverse. We’re talking ALL finance and half of all technology. That’s a whopping percentage of commerce. In practice this equates to a veritable alphabet of sub-sectors, Artificial intelligence, Banking, Crypto currencies, DLT, and on it goes. All with their own jargon and deep domain understandings. Fintech companies include ones you’ve possibly heard of, Transferwise, Revolut, Monzo, and ones you’ll never hear of, that do behind the scenes work of enabling the likes of Uber to accept payments from a smartphone app. The future’s bright, shiny, seamless, and fintech. Which is why Universities must somehow find a way to teach it, across multiple courses, or otherwise deny their students access to the most dynamic and Globally expansive job opportunities in the market. “The biggest limitation to fintech in the North is the potential for brain drain to the South. The Universities produce first rate graduates but often these graduates don’t know where to find jobs in fintech in the North…” Paul Battye, Moorlands Human Capital. “There are some superlative Universities in the North of England producing upper quartile graduates, but they are drawn to London and elsewhere…”Mark Gardiner, Protiviti. Unsurprisingly then many graduates move South if they have no idea about the fintech opportunities in the North, they automatically get pulled into the denser gravitational field of London. Most still won’t have the skill set for fintech, but the companies there are so starved of talent they’ll find themselves on the job ladder anyway, albeit on several rungs lower than they could have been. “We are exploring ways to connect undergraduates with the fintech sector here in Leeds, it’s one of the keys to unlocking the potential of all the Northern cities…” Dan Rajkumar, Rebuildingsociety.com
It’s a complex problem, the Universities need assistance and collaboration, a real difficulty in teaching fintech is the sector moving so fast that what’s taught at the beginning of a course can be almost obsolete by year three. Entirely new technologies can spring up in less time, and the rate of acceleration is still increasing. Indeed Henri Murison, Chief Exec of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, spent stage time on this very subject at the Fintech North event in Manchester last month.
Fintech provides wealth management for millionaires in New York, microloans for impoverished farmers in Peru, the ability to buy things on your phone, and even such future scenarios as virtual reality commerce. In ten years the financial sector will be the fintech sector, there will be no finance without technology, it is quite literally the present and the future of all things money, so for it not to be decisively taught in our World leading Universities is rather unfortunate. And if the North can fix this problem, the London fintech companies will beat a track to get here, because they go where the talent is. Our students are the single greatest resource the North has. The talent is right here, but un nurtured, and we can do better, and we must.