Preparing For a Career in FinTech: A Conversation With Cho-Nan Tsai, a FinTech CTO

If you’re interested in breaking into the fintech industry, now is the time to get started! Even though Google Trends reported almost no searches for the term in 2011, it now boasts upwards of a 90-point rating on the 100-point popularity scale. It should come as no surprise, then, that fintech — and a career in fintech — is highly sought after. 

A 2020 report from Research and Markets predicts that the global fintech market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 20 percent from 2020 to 2025, reaching an impressive $305 billion. Furthermore, a report by PwC found that as much as 80 percent of telecommunications and financial services firms are creating jobs relating to fintech; however, many are having difficulties securing qualified fintech employees.

Attending a fintech boot camp can help you prepare to fill a variety of roles in this rapidly growing industry. Whether you have experience in finance or are just getting started, these accelerated learning programs are an excellent way to acquire technical skills and gain in-demand knowledge for a variety of fintech careers. That said, advancing your career or entering a new field will always come with challenges.

To help you get started, Trilogy Education Services, a 2U Inc. brand, recently hosted an interview during which Nathaniel Quarrie, Content Marketing Manager at Trilogy Education, sat down with Cho-Nan Tsai from industry partner Evergreen Financing. Tsai is a seasoned fintech entrepreneur and has built up and raised millions of dollars for a number of startups. 

Below are key takeaways from the interview, including top fintech trends, must-have skills, and helpful resources to help you succeed in the field.  

Top FinTech Trends to Watch in 2021

Fintech is a field of revolutionary, near-instant change. The innovations offered by the fintech industry have made life easier for many businesses and consumers around the world. If you want to keep pace with this rapidly evolving industry, be sure to watch these trends in 2021.

  1. FinTech Becoming Multi-Disciplinary: Tsai describes fintech as being more than just finance and technology. User experience, cybersecurity, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are all becoming increasingly crucial areas of focus for companies in the industry. “You cannot possibly have a fintech company or a startup without thinking of any of these other elements,” says Tsai. 
  2. Further Adoption of Blockchain: The distribution and tamper-proof nature of Blockchain are critical components in building trust in financial technologies. As more companies implement digital solutions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the secure exchange of information will be important to remove friction in financial transactions, according to Tsai. In fact, the fintech blockchain market is expected to reach $36.04 billion by 2028.
  3. Widespread Adoption of Digital Payments: Digital retail is a prominent trend in global leading markets like China; during his time there, Tsai recalls people requesting money via digital barcodes. According to a survey by Ernst & Young, 96% of the 27,000 respondents (across 27 global markets) reported they were at least aware of a fintech transfer or payments service — and 75% had used one. 

In-Demand Skills for FinTech Professionals 

The financial industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, and with that comes the need for talented and skilled professionals who can combine technical experience with financial know-how. The question is: What skills are organizations seeking? 

While there are many skills and qualities qualified fintech professionals should have, there are a number that can help you stand out from the crowd. Below, Tsai outlines several skills that can help you become an in-demand fintech professional:

Hard Skills:

  1. Python: HackerRank recognizes Python as the fastest-growing language in finance, because it is secure, scalable, and trusted. If you need to deal with a lot of financial data, Python is still the go-to programming language.
  2. Blockchain and Cryptocurrency: As the popularity of fintech grows, so does the demand for finance professionals with blockchain and cryptocurrency experience such as Solidity, Ethereum, transactions, and other concepts. If you’d like to learn more, Tsai recommends the Unchained Podcast by Laura Shin
  3. Financial Foundations: For fintech professionals to succeed, a solid understanding of core financial fundamentals is essential. To develop marketable financial skills, for instance, it’s important to gain a good handle on topics like basic accounting, balance sheets, and income statements. Tsai recommends seeking out free financial courses, which are available on sites such as Khan Academy.  

Soft Skills:

  1. Communication: “My number one thing is communication,” says Tsai. Engineers need to know how to communicate ideas very clearly, and fintech employees are often tasked with explaining financial concepts to non-technical stakeholders within their organization. As such, they must be able to communicate their findings clearly and concisely. 
  2. Adaptability: The fintech industry moves so quickly that things “change in the blink of an eye,” says Tsai. One key component of long-term success for fintech professionals is the ability to adapt to these changes while staying on top of the latest trends and best practices. 
  3. Collaboration: Collaborating with other professionals can make a huge impact on your fintech success. Business owners and employers hire not only on the basis of skill set, but also on the ability to work across dynamic teams.

Top FinTech-Related Resources

Interested in learning more about the fintech field? Tsai has plenty of useful resources to help you get started. 

  • The a16z Podcast: The a16z Podcast is the go-to place for discussions about technology, innovation, and change as it impacts all our lives, covering everything from tech trends and culture to company building for organizations of all sizes.
  • Khan Academy: Tsai recommends exploring Khan Academy’s various free online courses on financing. They can assist you in understanding the financial foundations that are fundamental to working in the fintech field. 
  • Unchained Podcast: In this weekly, hour-long podcast, crypto/blockchain journalist Laura Shin talks with industry pioneers about how crypto assets and blockchains will change the way people earn, spend, and invest their money. 
  • Payments Systems in the U.S.: In this book recommended by Tsai, the authors explain how payments systems work, how they evolved, who uses them, who provides them, who profits from them, and how they are changing.
  • Not a Fintech Company: This website offers an assortment of fintech resources from around the world, including guides, models, readings, videos, and more. 
  • QED Investors Blog: QED Investors is an investment firm that supports high-growth companies and businesses. Tsai recommends their blog for staying up-to-date on fintech and venture capital developments. 

Final Thoughts

As a result of constant innovation, fintech has not only empowered consumers but also opened incredible new career opportunities. In an era where technology plays a prominent role in how companies run their operations, fintech professionals have become invaluable to a wide range of industries.

If you’re enrolled in a fintech boot camp or have already completed one, now is a great time to apply your skills to the  field. If you’re just getting started and want to learn more, Columbia Engineering FinTech Boot Camp can help you build a foundation to succeed in this fast-growing, in-demand field.

About Cho-Nan Tsai

Cho-Nan Tsai is a seasoned technology entrepreneur in Fintech. He is an expert in online lending, payment, credit card issuance and blockchain. Earlier in his career, he managed tech projects at Fortune 500 companies across verticals such as Social Media, Mobile Advertising, and Digital Entertainment. More recently, he has bootstrapped and raised millions of dollars for a number of startups, growing these businesses quickly using technology and multiplying their revenues exponentially year over year. 

Currently, he is the Chief Technology Officer at a fast-growing fintech company where he is responsible for product vision, engineering, technology infrastructure and cybersecurity. Concurrently, he also runs a mentorship program for budding engineers called Into Code Mentorship (https://intocode.org). He graduated with a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from Columbia University and a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA.

If you enjoyed his tips, advice and resources, be sure to connect with Tsai on LinkedIn or Twitter

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