Machine learning. Data analytics. Blockchain.
These are among the hottest buzzwords in finance right now as a wave of digital transformation sweeps the industry, with numerous professionals eyeing upskilling courses to stay relevant in the tech age.
But to Shadab Taiyabi, this alone is not enough to future-proof a career.
Rather, the final step is synthesising knowledge across disciplines and applying it to real life, the President of the Singapore FinTech Association says. “The skills that are most in demand today are related to helping businesses innovate and commercialise products.”
“In such a fast-evolving landscape, skills are the new currency,” he adds. “Finance professionals should focus on acquiring skillsets in key emerging areas to maintain market relevance and a competitive edge.”
Taiyabi, who has a masters degree from Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, says he picked up knowledge from experts across the finance, mathematics, computing and risk management fields.
This “provided the necessary rigour to absorb information from multiple sources and synthesise it” to benefit his work. The senior leader is APAC Head of FinTech and Innovation at Schroders.
Interdisciplinary skills a must
Taiyabi reiterates that to stay relevant in the digital era, it is critical for finance professionals to command interdisciplinary skills from various fields. Naturally, this includes fintech, which is at the forefront of the global digital transformation trend.
As financial institutions look to serve more customers remotely across Asia, the coming decade will see the proliferation of financial services through multiple non-financial digital channels, to meet customers’ needs for convenient and fast transactions.
This will mark the rise of embedded finance, which comprises the streamlined integration of financial services into traditionally non-financial platforms, allowing for increased accessibility to financial products and ease of use, Taiyabu says.
And as digital banks and fintech firms enter the banking space, and traditional banks expand their offerings to include advanced digital services, there will be more digital platforms that offer all-in-one and cross-segment financial products and services.
An understanding of AI, machine learning and data analytics is key for those looking to get ahead of the open banking trend, which will see greater customer data availability used to make personalised financial product recommendations. AI can also be used to strengthen customer service, risk management and business competitiveness.
Meanwhile, blockchain and distributed ledger technology are trends the financial sector cannot afford to ignore.
“We expect to see pervasive adoption of blockchain across the industry, including digitalisation of traditional assets,” says Taiyabi, adding that financial institutions are already integrating distributed ledger technology to develop digital infrastructure in financial markets.
In line with these trends, the interdisciplinary curriculum of the Nanyang MBA and Professional MBA (PMBA) is tailored to help finance professionals adapt to the changing digital landscape.
Offered by the Nanyang Business School, these forward-thinking programmes not only equip participants with deeper knowledge and skills on machine learning, AI, big data, blockchain and cybersecurity, they also connects the dots between these fields and the wider business ecosystem to offer big-picture understanding of digital transformation and business strategies.
Singapore the place to learn
For those looking to dive deeper into fintech, Singapore is one of the best places to learn. A regional hub for fintech innovation in Southeast Asia, the republic accounts for almost half of all fintech funding in ASEAN, according to a report by the Singapore FinTech Association, UOB and PwC Singapore.
It’s also why Nanyang MBA alumnus Li He quit his job as a Senior Business Development Manager at a securities firm in China and travelled to Singapore to upskill.
“The Singapore fintech ecosystem is more mature and better regulated, and as a result it gets more global opportunities and collaborations in the digitalisation space,” explains Li, who is now lead of digital transformation at OCBC China.
Previously an officer at the People's Bank of China, Li was tasked with fintech research. Still, he says, this only afforded only a “fundamental-level” understanding of the space.
To take the next step in his career, he sought an MBA that would impart a market and commercial perspective on how to apply fintech to wider corporate strategy.
“The Nanyang MBA curriculum helped me understand how fintech could be integrated into the business ecosystem to solve problems,” he says, highlighting modules including strategic management, entrepreneurship, marketing, and strategic innovation – which teaches participants how to apply design thinking to optimise business services.
“Tech isn’t helpful all the time. Sometimes it's harmful to the organisation,” Li adds. “You need to know how to use the right instrument at the right time. The strategic curriculum provided a step-by-step framework on how to validate fintech solutions and apply them appropriately to business scenarios, a skill I now use daily.”
Similarly, Nanyang PMBA graduate Lianne Lee is using the insights gleaned from the course’s digital transformation, finance and marketing modules at work as a senior software engineer and scrum master at investment platform Shareable Asset.
“I wanted to gain insight into the role technology can play in various industries, finance being one of them,” says Lee, who was previously an observability engineer at JPMorgan. “Working in a startup requires me to not only develop according to business requirements, but also provide input on how the customer journey and experience should impact the application architecture.”
She’s also pleased with how the part-time programme was structured to optimise the learning experience, such as holding classes on weekends instead of weekday evenings so participants can concentrate better.
“Mastery of any fintech domain is a full-time job, and most fintech domains are still evolving,” Lee adds. “Therefore, the better method would be to understand key concepts, which will make it easier to stay abreast of developments.”
Li and Lee’s experiences tie in with Taiyabi’s take that to be truly well-positioned for the future, finance professionals need to not only continue to upskill, but also develop their capabilities to gain big picture understanding of how fintech trends fit into the complex web of business.
“Professionals need a proficient understanding of FinTech to stay on top of trends,” the FinTech head adds. “Through this, they will be better equipped to help businesses keep up with the accelerating pace of innovation that we are seeing throughout the industry.”
Nanyang Business School offers various MBA programmes designed for professionals at various stages in their career journey. Find out the right-fit MBA programme for you.