Riding the Fintech Wave and Forging Your Path into New Worlds
3 March 2022 — Many of us have heard the term fintech (or financial technology in full), but do we really know what it is all about, how it applies to our everyday lives, and—more importantly—what the future holds for this burgeoning industry?
While fintech might seem intimidating, you probably are already immersed in it—from mobile banking to e-payments, and even insurance and investments. Fintech is very much a part of our modern lives, and has, over the last few years, completely revolutionised the way the banking and finance sector operates.
Fintech’s impact on the finance industry
The impact of fintech on our lives is quite clear when you compare what the industry looked like from just a decade ago to what it is today.
Dr Huang Ke-Wei is the Programme Director of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Master of Science in Digital Financial Technology (MSc DFinTech). He believes that the biggest impact of fintech that consumers would be able to experience and quantify is the innovation of new financial services that are now available to them.
“One of the obvious breakthroughs from the development of Fintech would be the faster and cheaper financial services available to the average person,” said Dr Huang. “Fintech automates routine tasks at financial institutions that were once undertaken by actual human beings, which has sped up processes and allowed for the reduction of operational costs and even the re-allocation of resources to address other gaps.
“For example, there are now several kinds of payment and money transfer solutions that are not only instantaneous but, more importantly, seamless. Where previously you had to go to a bank and manually initiate a money transfer to another account and then wait a few working days for it to go through, now all you have to do is click or tap a few buttons on your personal device and it is done.” Despite fintech’s many advances, Dr Huang believes its potential has barely been tapped. He foresees that it will continue to influence the finance industry in years to come.
“I believe all consumer banking, investment, or borrowing transactions will only get easier from this point on. At the same time, financial institutions and fintech companies may provide more personalised services to retail banking customers with more dynamic fees or discounts to attract, retain and reward customers,” said Dr Huang.
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning may empower customers who have low financial literacy to make the right financial decisions. This will help them to avoid getting scammed or choosing the wrong product or service offered by financial service providers.
“It is just a matter of time before all companies will embrace data analytics to automate important business decisions, as it saves cost and increases profitability. When that day comes, customers may see more differential pricing and service options, like what we experience in the airline industry.”
Fintech is shaping up to be one of the hottest industries at present. Investment into the sector is surging — globally, fintech has in 2021 created close to 80 unicorns (companies valued at US$1 billion). Not to be left behind, Singapore is consolidating its position as the fintech capital of the region with 750 fintech companies based in the country.
The rise of fintech has also led to an exponential increase in the demand for talent, with financial institutions actively looking for employees capable of filling these ‘jobs of the future’ today. Here in Singapore, the fintech sector offers many new, exciting and well-paying jobs, and could be for years to come a key pillar of the Lion City’s economy that is heavily reliant on innovation, technology, digital and human capital.
Advances in fintech and AI are already rapidly transforming the operations of financial institutions, and students in finance as well as those already working in the sector without solid training in computing or data science run the risk of being displaced by machines and algorithms in the future.
What you will need to ride the fintech wave
So, how do you equip yourself to not only catch the fintech wave, but also ride it successfully?
This is where the NUS MSc DFinTech takes centre-stage. Backed by both the NUS School of Business and School of Computing, the programme has been designed to ensure robust and practical learnings for students looking to take the leap into fintech—be it fresh graduates, or those searching for a mid-career change.
Expounding on what sets the NUS MSc DFinTech apart from other similar courses, Dr Huang shared: “Almost all of the lecturers for the core modules are drawn from a very experienced pool of NUS lecturers who have taught similar modules. They are all very knowledgeable in the related fintech subjects, and they realise the importance of linking academic theories to practical examples while teaching other modules at NUS.
“The MSc DFinTech core modules are also built upon the existing curriculum of related NUS programmes. In terms of practical learning, our programme includes in the second semester a weekly industry seminar. A fintech expert is invited to speak each week about a topic, such as business models, fintech initiatives and the fintech trends related to their company and industry.
“The programme includes a five-month full-time internship that lasts from the end of the second semester till the conclusion of the programme. Throughout the internship, students can learn practical skills and have a better understanding about the ideal electives they should take in their last semester for the benefit of their career.”
Dr Huang added that the NUS MSc DFinTech prepares both students and professionals to meet the growing demand for local fintech talent, where there is a major shortage of fintech software developers and data scientists. Those with an educational background and work experience in both computing and finance are therefore primed for a career in fintech.
In the first two cohorts of the programme (August 2021 and August 2022), the bulk of students came from these backgrounds:
- Computing (Computer Science, Information Systems, Computer Engineering)
- Finance, Accounting, and Economics
- STEM (especially Statistics, Applied Math, Electrical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research)
- Financial Engineering
Nonetheless, Dr Huang emphasised that the road to fintech is open to people from all walks of life, noting: “We welcome students with diverse academic and career backgrounds, and we are looking to adjust the curriculum so all types of students can be qualified software developers or data scientists at fintech firms.”
“Singapore is a major financial and fintech hub in Asia that has a long road and bright future ahead of it. More importantly, this is a sector that will open many more doors of opportunities for growth and innovation and I truly believe proficiency in this sector would prove fruitful for those looking to positively influence the tides of change of tomorrow.”
Applications for the NUS MSc in Digital Financial Technology are open from 1 November 2021 to 15 March 2022. There will be an interview and written test as part of the applicant screening process. For more information on the programme, click here.