With the number of FinTech companies exponentially growing, there is a real sense that the sector is reaching maturity. The disruptive products and services have become mainstream as financial services increasingly become app-based and reliant on artificial intelligence, machine learning and even blockchain. Yet, there is a distinct sense that FinTech is in bubble territory; valuations are rising, competition is fierce, and legacy players are muscling back in. So, how can the sector become sustainable in the long term?
FinTech’s future sustainability is predicated on an expanded pool of highly skilled technologists, engineers and coders. These essential skills must be taught to future coders and digital experts to secure the future of FinTech within Bahrain and the region. So, if education is the answer to FinTech’s long term health, what can Governments and companies do to promote skills and education?
Firstly, collaborate. Bahrain is at an advantage at this front because of its ever-growing ecosystem of startups, multinationals, government agencies and education establishments that collaborate for the greater cause of the establishment of FinTechs within the country.
This ecosystem is defined by collaboration. For example, Bahrain FinTech Bay (the region’s first and largest FinTech hub) and Bahrain’s Labour Fund Tamkeen have partnered with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to launch a first of its kind FinTech programme designed to upskill the local Bahraini workforce.
Collaboration is not enough however. Local talent needs to be inspired to take up a career in FinTech, not only because they want to be at the cutting edge of change, but they are confident it is a long-term and sustainable career.
Credibility can be achieved in two ways. Building local confidence in the robustness of Government and academic programmes,and bringing in outside partners who lend their own stature to initiatives. Bahrain is again a good example of both. The training courses on offer from Bahrain FinTech Bay and Bahrain Polytechnic have attracted participants from around the world, demonstrating a clear recognition of the robustness of these courses. Which have also attracted international renowned institutions such as Amazon Web Services; which is training data scientists in the Kingdom; and the University of California, Berkeley; which is in the process of launching an AI and Robotics in Finance course in Bahrain.
The third and final attribute needed to promote education and skills in FinTech are concrete outcomes. Training opportunities may be plentiful and credible, but the skills workers learn must be easily applied in a pro-innovation environment. Otherwise, why take the time to learn these skills? Unless you want to move abroad to other FinTech centres, which can be devastating for relatively small hubs such as Estonia or Singapore, who invest significant amounts in technology skills in order to attract and retain as many FinTech pioneers as possible. For an equally small market, Bahrain punches above its weight in training and retaining highly skilled workers, who are not only attracted to the Kingdom because of the reputable FinTech education, but also the high quality of life; cost competitive business environment and unrivalled connectivity.
If the future of FinTech is education, then collaboration, credibility and concrete outcomes are crucial to the success of this increase in skills and training. Without these factors, the growth of FinTech will be shallow, built upon unsustainable foundations, and will fail to live up to expectations, especially in markets such as the Middle East that could benefit so much from disruptive technologies.