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ESSEC’s specialised Master in Finance looks to meet growing demand for fintech talent

As Singapore’s fintech sector continues to expand, the war for talent is intensifying, creating exciting opportunities for professionals with the right skills.

More than 1,000 fintech firms are currently based in the city state, with investment in the sector soaring by 22 percent in 2022 to reach US$4.1 billion. This is in marked contrast to the global trend which saw investors step back from the fintech space in the face of economic uncertainty.

Demand for talent is already outstripping supply in Singapore, as fintechs face competition from traditional financial services firms pursuing digital transformation. This trend looks set to accelerate going forward, with 95 percent of fintech companies expecting to increase their workforce in the next one to two years, while 72 percent think the sector will continue to expand, according to the latest Singapore Fintech Talent Report.

Overall, the report estimates the number of people employed in the fintech sector will soar by 45 percent during the next two years from its current level of 14,000 people to 20,000 people.

Targeted skills

To help meet the growing demand for fintech talent, ESSEC Asia-Pacific offers a Master in Finance (MiF) programme specifically aimed at students who want a career in the sector. Students taking ESSEC’s MiF can tailor the programme to meet their own career goals by choosing from one of three tracks, namely Corporate Finance, Financial Markets, or Fintech and Analytics. 

Peng Xu, Associate Academic Director of the MiF programme, explains: “The Fintech and Analytics track is aimed at high-potential students from technical, data-driven and engineering backgrounds who want to apply their knowledge to the financial services industry, as well as those already working in the sector who want to future-proof their career by learning how to apply technology to their work.”

Core courses on the Fintech and Analytics track range from digital financial platforms and intermediation to financial econometrics, to big data analytics, Python and machine learning. 

Students can also choose from electives including Environmental, Social and Governance investing, financial risk management, advanced derivative markets and alternative assets.

But students are not limited to taking only modules from their selected track. They can also study modules from the Corporate Finance and Financial Markets tracks as electives if that fits their career goals. “In fact, there is no upper limit to the number of different courses students can take, only a lower limit,” Xu says.

The strength of the programme is reflected in the fact that it is consistently ranked as one of the best MiF programmes in the world, coming first in Asia and third globally in the Financial Times’ Best Master in Finance Worldwide Ranking 2023.

It was the opportunity to specialise in fintech that attracted MiF graduate Nicolas Jouan to the programme. “The ESSEC MiF is one of the best MiFs in the world. Because I had the objective of working in the blockchain/Web3 industry, I knew some of the courses offered through the ESSEC MIF would give me the opportunity to build knowledge and acquire the skills that I needed,” he says.

Jouan also appreciated having the ability to tailor the programme to meet his own goals through taking electives from different tracks. He found classes such as economics, foundations calculus and probabilities, and statistics particularly attractive, as he wanted to reinforce his mathematical thinking and have the skills to understand tokenomics. The Fintech and Analytics track courses in programming also appealed to him. “I improved my skills in coding in Python and R thanks to classes not only in machine learning or business data science, but also corporate management and financial modelling with Excel, for which I started to code in VBA,” he says.

Hands-on experience

The MiF curriculum employs a wide range of teaching methods including lectures from experts in their field, current events and case study analysis, and in-class exercises. It also places a strong emphasis on gaining real-world experience and learning by doing. “Those taking the Fintech and Analytics track have the opportunity to undertake a capstone project, working directly with financial institutions to help them to solve their digital challenges,” Xu explains.

Jouan undertook a capstone project with Web3 firm MIRA, which has created a hyper-realistic metaverse and runs live events at 3D locations based on real-world monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower.

“My mission was to create their value distribution model for their creators, proposing technical and tokenomic models to distribute the cash generated by the sale of the tickets to access an event. It is technical as it requires theoretical knowledge and research about Ethereum Virtual Machine, Ethereum tools, Ethereum Improvement Proposals smart contracts, and Ethereum Request for Comments token standards,” he explains.

Meanwhile, two other students on the Fintech and Analytics track worked on projects at banking giant BNP Paribas.

Students also have the option to complete a four to six-month internship. Some had their internship with prestigious financial institutions, including J.P. Morgan, Standard Chartered and Citi, and applied their new skills and knowledge.

Another feature that sets ESSEC’s MiF apart is its strong multinational dimension, providing students with exposure to both Europe and Asia, and teaching them how to adapt to a multicultural environment. Again, students have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience through study trips to New York, London or Hong Kong, where they meet professionals and ESSEC alumni to help them develop their own network. The ESSEC Business School has more than 69,000 alumni, including 2,100 graduates from the MiF programme.

The ESSEC Business School also offers significant support to help students and graduates find jobs, ranging from its Annual Finance Get-Together which gives students the opportunity to meet representatives from some of the biggest companies in the industry, to interview and CV workshops, career guidance and mentoring programs. In addition, it has an online portal where it posts students’ CVs and profiles, which is used by more than 2,500 companies.

To anyone thinking of undertaking the MiF fintech track, Jouan says: “For someone who is looking for financial knowledge and skills, who wants to apply coding skills to finance, and needs a network and credibility, it’s perfect.”

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