Finance for the Future

First published by Inomi founder Richa Dwivedi Saklani with some modifications in The Hindu Edge on June 22, 2019

“Banking is necessary, banks are not”, Bill Gates pointed out 25 years ago. He may have well extended his profound insight into all areas in Finance – trading is necessary, brokers are not; accounting is necessary, accountants are not. And with blockchain threatening to take over financial transactions, the ultimate – money is necessary, money handlers are not.

Money is in for a real makeover this decade and finance careers are changing faster than you can say Bitcoin.

Technology dominates the world of finance today.

Be it PolicyBazaar, Mobikwik, Incred or Moneytap, the fastest growing startups today are Fintech companies who create easy online access to financial tools. The simple message to young people wanting to build a Finance career is – get familiar with technology.

Technology has made many finance jobs obsolete over the last twenty years including the bank teller and even your friendly neighbourhood stockbroker! Most financial trading today is led by computers in data centres instead of on noisy trading floors. Over 70 percent of stock trading in Wall Street and 50 percent of trading in Dalal Street is computer-led.

Over 6,000 stockbrokers and nearly 25,000 sub-brokers have shut shop in the last five years, as per the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), because retail investors prefer online trading and “discount broking” companies like Zerodha that offer a near-zero commission trading platform!

Accounting is possibly the next prey to the technology tsunami. Accounting softwares like Zoho Books and Quick Books are taking over simple bookkeeping roles such as payroll, invoices and audits. AI-led accounting softwares like Xero, and Intuit have even can even handle judgment-based tasks like bank reconciliations, invoice categorization and risk assessment, eliminating human error and fraud.

Bankers are another endangered species with blockchain technologies sweeping across the developing world. Blockchain allows individuals to conduct safe financial transactions with people across the world. And a large worldwide network of computers verifies the “block” that stores each transaction making it binding on each party. This enables people to transfer assets, entrepreneurs to crowd source funds, and almost anybody to lend safely to anybody – without the intervention of a bank!

Does this mean that accountants, bankers, brokers and traders are headed towards extinction?

Experts disagree. Technology does not make people redundant. Rather it frees them of repetitive tasks and uplifts their roles to the next level of strategic thinking and networking. As ATMs dispense money, apps transfer money, blockchains seal transactions and computers trade stocks, the finance professional of the future focuses on strategic roles like customer acquisition, writing algorithms, structuring and engineering high-value financial deals.

Here’s a look at Finance careers expected to boom in the future:

Strategic Financial Analysts: It’s a mouthful, but it simply indicates someone who can analyse a series of financial statements prepared by an AI-powered accounting software to highlight a business’ strengths and potential challenges.

Technology / Digital Managers keep up the company’s pace in leveraging new technology, managing digital transformations and delivering best-in-class user experiences to its online customers.

App Developers are software professionals who develop, design and improve applications that make it easy for customers to find loans, stock trading advice and even investment opportunities.

Cyber-security professionals are technology professionals who combine analytical skills with creativity to find and fill security breaches in financial software.

Financial Services Salespeople are among the few direct beneficiaries of the AI-led revolution. With mounting competition for a customer’s wallet, the intuitive skills of sales people in understanding and manipulating the human psyche are increasingly precious – an area AI is still cutting its teeth on.

Portfolio Managers are the new avatars of stockbrokers and investment advisors. They offer services to companies and HNIs (High Net worth Individuals) in finding investment opportunities suitable to their risk appetite and target returns.

Investment bankers help companies raise money or attract investment. It could be a company looking for a strategic investor, a successful start-up listing its shares on the stock exchange or a mid-sized company looking to sell out to a larger player. People who can engineer financial deals continue to grow in value.

Data Scientists are magicians who twist numbers to reveal patterns companies can profit from. They could analyse stock prices to predict where to dig for gold, or analyse trends on online payment portals on to indicate which products to offer promotions on!

Blockchain developers: Dubai, Estonia, Georgia and Mauritius have already embraced cryptocurrencies to make it easy for international investors to do business in their country. As more of the world’s business shifts to blockchain, the demand for those who can develop meaningful products and services is likely to shoot up in the coming decade.

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