As fintech transforms jobs, higher ed must decide how to prepare students


As fintech transforms jobs, higher ed must decide how to prepare students

Fintech—the buzzy term describing advances in financial technology—is behind many recent headlines. The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart plans to launch its own fintech startup to help it compete with Amazon. Governments are just as heavily in the mix as corporations are; Reuters reports that the Bank of Japan is developing digital yen.

But fintech isn’t a temporary trend. It’s transforming the financial sector for good as firms embrace machine learning and AI, and startups redefine the landscape. For instance, average investors have ever-expanding personalized insights at their fingertips (and usually through a mobile app) as banks leverage data analytics in new ways. And peer-to-peer lending platforms mean the unbanked worldwide have life-changing new access to financial resources.

Some higher education institutions are moving quickly to respond. From fintech bootcamps at Southern Methodist University to new master’s programs like the University of Connecticut’s MS in Fintech to a fintech certificate within long-standing programs like Boston University’s MS in Quantitative Finance, universities are innovating to bring fintech to their students. Others aren’t sure where to start, given the interdisciplinary nature of fintech; it draws from many fields, including technology, finance, business, policy, ethics, and computer science. Which leads to complicated questions about both the program’s curriculum and the academic background students should bring to it.

To help partners start to understand this industry and how to focus a potential fintech curriculum, EAB dug into labor market data using Emsi Burning Glass. Here is what we learned.

Fintech jobs are increasing at a faster rate than all jobs

From July 2018 to June 2021, there were nearly 110,000 fintech job postings (jobs in the financial, tech, and consulting industries identified directly as fintech jobs or emphasizing core fintech skills). The number of these postings grew 2.16% during that time, compared with only 1.32% growth in all jobs in the finance and tech industries, and a mere 0.82% growth in all jobs across all industries in the same three-year period.


increase in fintech job postings


increase in all finance and tech industry job postings


increase in all jobs across all industries

*Increases from July 2018 to June 2021

Fintech jobs are not exclusively in the financial industry

Fintech jobs tend to fall into two categories. The largest number of jobs posted come, not surprisingly, from major financial, tech, and consulting firms with household names. However, a significant part of the fintech industry is startups, and while the number of jobs available at startups is much smaller than those at large firms, opportunities at startups are growing at a faster pace, with 4.71% growth among startups compared to 2.33% growth in fintech job opportunities at large firms.

Fintech jobs are more complex and diverse than most assume

Employers looking for fintech talent are searching for a wide range of skills. Our analysis of fintech job postings reveals disparate needs, with skills bouncing from the very broad (e.g., “automation” and “artificial intelligence,” which are applicable across numerous industries) to skills that have been in circulation in these fields for years or even decades (e.g., “Agile methodology”), to very platform- or tool-specific listings (e.g., jobs requiring expertise in Amazon Web Services (AWS), or in Python or R, or in a specific cryptocurrency rather than looking for cryptocurrency expertise in general).

These data make it clear that fintech is an industry that matters. To prepare today’s students for future jobs in finance or in technology, universities need to carefully examine this employer demand, and should begin to develop curricula around the skills students need – both today and in the future – to compete in this rapidly evolving sector. But given the complex job postings and the interdisciplinarity of the field, it is difficult to chart a path forward. The array of fintech programs already on offer, many of which are only in their launch phases, reflect this great complexity, demonstrating much more varied curricula and student profiles than one might expect. Explore this landscape further and start charting your college’s path toward fintech by attending our upcoming roundtable series.

Industry Futures: A Four-Part Series

We identify four opportunities for colleges to attract new students while addressing the needs of the local workforce in our Industry Futures series.

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