Moving from an investment bank to a fintech startup is likely more difficult than one may think. In fact, the transition is harder than it was just a few years ago.
“You have to remember that fintech is no longer a shiny new object,” said Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. The industry has matured rapidly as fintech companies continue to come and go, creating a larger supply of people with industry experience for companies to choose from. Investment bankers who want to get in on the excitement (and equity) that comes with a fintech startup have to take a tailored approach to the job search.
Target the right role and culture
With the market becoming more saturated with people who have fintech experience, investment bankers won’t get anywhere shooting their resume around to companies hoping for a perfect match. It doesn’t exist. Bankers who’ve had the most success joining fintech companies in recent years have been able to talk their way into strategy, sales and corporate development positions in particular. If that’s not what you’re interested in or you don't have client-facing experience, finding a role will be an uphill battle. Larger, more-established fintech companies have also shown a greater propensity to hire from big investment banks, as have firms that count banks as clients.
Cultural fit is often an issue for bankers who knock on the doors of fintechs, according to Peter Seremetis, a global account manager for Amazon AWS’ fintech practices group. “If you use the word ‘I’ all the time, you won’t be a fit,” he said at a recent CFA Institute panel in New York. Do your homework and understand the company culture.
Tap your network
Networking is easily the most important thing you can do to transition from an investment bank to a fintech company, according to Cohen. “Talk to people who are engaged in that business – people who have crossed over from banking and those who haven’t,” he said. Go to conferences and sign up for resources that can provide industry knowledge and contacts like Tech: NYC and Built in New York, Cohen recommends. Like any atypical fit, having someone who can talk and walk you through the door is key.
While networking is critical, it also provides the biggest opportunity to shoot yourself in the foot when you’re trying to switch industries. Know exactly what your end goal is before reaching out to anyone – something far too few people do, Seremetis said. “People in your network are willing to help, but they’re not willing to help you figure out what you want to do,” he said.
Perfect your resume
“Fintech is all about innovation and analytical skills,” said Mike Podesto, a former technical recruiter and founder of Find My Profession, a resume writing service that specializes in fintech. “If you can tie your ability to innovate and accentuate any analytical skills in your past, you'll be much better off.”
While there’s a never-ending argument over whether candidates should include a summary or objective statement at the top of their resume, Cohen says it’s a must if you want to transition from investment banking to fintech. “People don’t read cover letters,” he said. Quickly explain your motivation behind a career change, what qualifies you to make it and what you’re currently doing to fill in any gaps in skills, like taking a course in blockchain or crypto, he said.
If you’re able to secure an interview, you need to demonstrate subject matter expertise and insight into their business from a different angle, Cohen said. Convince them that your experience and the relationships you’ve developed will be more beneficial to the company than someone who has previously worked in the space. Winning that argument is how you’ll win the job.
Good places to start
While there are hundreds of growing fintech firms in New York alone, crypto exchange Coinbase is one example of a company that has a short history of hiring former bankers. The firm just opened a New York office last fall and announced its intention of adding over 100 employees in 2019 alone.
"We have to create a bridge between financial services and technology," Adam White, now-former general manager of Coinbase Institutional, told CoinDesk last year. "In order to do that, we need to pull from some of the best and brightest minds that have worked their whole careers in other kinds of traditional financial firms." (White is now at new crypto trading platform Bakkt, which is growing).
Online bank Cross River and digital mortgage lender Better.com are also hiring in the New York area.
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