Fostering New Fintech Talent
It may be the era of disruptive technologies, but few industry sectors have experienced an impact as far-reaching as that of fintech on the finance sector. A growing number of leading fintech companies are based in Hong Kong, and the city has positioned itself as Asia’s premier fintech hub for start-ups, accelerators, incubators and investors. It is vital for Hong Kong to develop its own pool of talent to drive the industry forward, and this will open the way for a diverse range of new career opportunities.
The Fintech Career Accelerator Scheme (FCAS), which was first launched in 2016 with support from more than ten Hong Kong-based banks, is a talent development initiative established by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI).
The program is designed to provide internships for undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in a career in the fintech industry. The FCAS intern intake, as outlined in the following stories from students, boasts impressive successes. The participating banks and the HKMA receive applications from Hong Kong’s ten tertiary institutions. After completing the recruitment exercise, the students will be offered internships lasting between six months and a year to work on fintech projects at the participating banks and the HKMA.
Nelson Chow, the HKMA’s Chief Fintech Officer, notes that as the fintech industry continues to develop at speed, it has become apparent there is a shortage of talent, both locally and globally. If the industry is to flourish, this shortage needs to be addressed. “Fintech specialists in the fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and big data analytics, will continue to be in demand,” says Chow.
To maximize their opportunities, and better equip themselves to contribute to the fintech sector for years to come, Chow advises students to step beyond their academic environment to acquire practical and real-world experience. He says they should take part in tailor-made programs such as the entrepreneurship boot camp, summer internships, gap year placements, and the graduate programs under the HKMA’s FCAS 2.0 initiative.
To help FCAS interns keep up with the latest fintech trends and developments, the HKMA provides regular briefings on local and international regulatory regimes. Meanwhile, ASTRI offers regular seminars, briefings and training sessions to provide students with the latest insights on cyber-security, blockchain, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).
A stepping stone into the industry
Jayden Chau, a Year Four BBA (Information Systems and Fina nce) student, was motivated by his FCAS internship with Hang Seng Bank. “I was able to apply the knowledge I learned at HKUST about information systems and finance to the real world of work,” says Chau. He worked on a major fintech project which involved transforming an existing cross-department software system into a more efficient, agile system. Chau also helped to develop a chatbot for Hang Seng’s commercial banking division. “There is no doubt my internship experiences have broadened my horizons,” says Chau, who credits his coach and mentor for highlighting the importance of strong soft skills to support his comprehensive technical skills.
Chau cites communication as a good example of such skills. While he was working on the software transformation project, he needed to communicate the benefits of the new system to colleagues. Chau stresses the importance of telling managers the goals and takeaways the intern is looking to achieve, so that maximum benefits can result from the FCAS internship.
Catherine Lam, a Year Four HKUST BBA (Information Systems) student who completed her FCAS internship, also with Hang Seng Bank, relished the opportunity to gain hands-on experience. Lam worked on a Hang Seng data analytics project, which included working closely with start-ups and foreign fintech vendors. Lam was also tasked with leading fintech vendors through the bank’s vendor protocols.
“I really appreciate being given important responsibilities,” notes Lam, who explains how her data analytics studies at HKUST helped her to accomplish the challenges she faced. The FCAS internship also allowed Lam to explore the latest trends that are driving blockchain and fintech-linked cybersecurity developments. Looking ahead, Lam says that the FCAS internship experience and the advice provided by her mentor have led to cyber-security or data analytics becoming her preferred career choices.
A switch to fintech
Edwin Leung, a Year Four student at HKUST, switched to fintech from chemistry after some extensive reading about the subject. His FCAS internship experience with the Bank of China (BoC) has further strengthened his determination to pursue a career in the fintech industry. Leung says his FCAS experience was a rewarding combination of hands-on opportunities to work on fintech development projects, and learning about the different ways fintech solutions can be used in the banking industry.
“The internship was a stepping stone into the wide range of fintech career possibilities,” says Leung, who worked on three fintech projects developing applications for use within BoC. “It was exciting to work on actual projects you know are going to be used by others,” notes Leung, whose main area of interest is the use of blockchain in the finance industry.
In addition to his experiences in the workplace, Leung says that he was able to gain a wider understanding of the importance of regulatory requirements and due diligence through training programmes provided by the HKMA and ASTRI.
Leung suggests that students interested in joining the FCAS program should read as much as they can about the industry. He says the fintech whitepaper produced by the HKMA is good starting point. “It’s a good way of finding out about the trends, the industry needs, and the latest developments,” says Leung.
FCAS 2017/18 interns, including three HKUST students, in a panel moderated by Nelson Chow (middle), Chief Fintech Officer of the HKMA (Photo courtesy of HKMA)