For CFA Fintech Career Switchers, the Hardest Skills to Master May Be the Soft Ones
Published: Sep 26, 2018 By Cynthia Harrington, CFA
Fintech has a different work culture and rewards different kinds of personal traits compared with traditional finance.
Before career switchers can adapt to a new work culture, they first need to adapt successfully to a different job market and get a position, moves that require new approaches.
Academic degrees don’t confer the kind of “global intelligence” necessary for success in tech fields, which includes such qualities as adaptability, awareness, curiosity, empathy, alignment, collaboration, and integration.
CFA charterholders and other investment professionals seeking to keep up with innovation and technology find themselves in a fast-moving stream. Career transitions often mean upgrading or gaining new skills and developing a different set of contacts and resources, but the adjustments can also be more profound and personal.
A move from traditional finance to fintech might seem to be a small shift because fintech shares many characteristics with traditional finance. Both sectors are equally constrained by regulations designed to protect consumers and facilitate money flows. Both deliver products that serve customers by handling their money or investments and can generate significant wealth for owners and employees. But each sector poses different challenges for professionals because they reward different personal traits and characteristics.
Professionals who have made the leap have found that they needed to make some surprising changes. Of course they needed to add new technical skills, such as data science or programming in Python or R, but they also report needing to make shifts in their social and emotional approaches to work and the workplace to succeed.
Traditional practitioners are driven to the new world by various motives. Some are pulled, and some are pushed. Consider the story of Lowell Putnam, CEO and co-founder of data aggregator Quovo. After graduating from Harvard University with an AB in American history and literature, Putnam spent three years at Lehman Brothers pursuing a dream career in investment banking. Tossed back into the job hunt when Lehman collapsed in 2008, he had a brief stint at Barclays. Because the assured career path he thought he was pursuing turned out to be supremely risky, jumping into a fintech startup seemed possibly even less risky. In 2012, he and two co-founders launched Quovo, an aggregator of investor data for fintech entrepreneurs, financial advisers, and institutions.
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