Earlier this month, Business Insider Intelligence reported that funding for the financial technology (“fintech”) industry reached $32.6 billion by the end of the third quarter of 2018. Further, PwC’s 2019 “Global Fintech Survey” of financial services and technology, media and telecommunications companies found that almost half of companies in those industries “have embedded fintech fully into their strategic operating model,” and over three-quarters “are creating jobs related to fintech.” Unfortunately, many of these companies are having a hard time finding talent qualified to fill those roles.
In response to these trends, education providers are looking for new ways to attract professionals to this field and upskill or reskill them for these new jobs. For example, Trilogy Education, which partners with universities and employers to bridge digital skills gaps, recently released a series of statements announcing fintech bootcamps launched in partnership with major universities.
The Rise of Non-coding Bootcamps
As a form of professional training, bootcamps emerged in the software development industry, primarily to reskill non-technical people interested in entering the lucrative engineering field. These coding bootcamps have become ways for employers to recruit new talent as well.
Now, the bootcamp model has caught the interest of other industries. Indeed, Trilogy, which was acquired last spring by 2U, Inc., prides itself on being “a leader in expanding skills-based bootcamps beyond just coding,” according to chief learning officer Luyen Chou, previously chief product officer of Trilogy Education and now chief learning officer of 2U. “Once we demonstrated with our university partners that bootcamps could produce strong student outcomes, we saw a potential to apply this training model to other topics that require a solid technical foundation and are seeing strong job growth,” including digital marketing and, now, fintech in addition to more traditional bootcamp topics like web development, data analytics and cybersecurity.
The sales industry has caught on, as well. In 2015, sales veteran James Nielsen founded Sales Bootcamp, aimed at technology sales and described as “the world’s first immersive sales bootcamp.” In 2017, the company acquired Inside Sales Bootcamp (founded in 2016), and in 2018, it rebranded as Vendition. Nielsen believes that the ideal sales rep candidate has just two or three months of experience. Bootcamps can provide that experience and make learners excited about entering their new field, helping to ensure that they hit the ground running.
Vendition got some new competition earlier this month when Kiite, a sales software company, launched Uvaro, an intensive, 12-week, bootcamp-like program. “Uvaro exists to fill the overwhelming unfulfilled demand for sales talent at scale-up companies in North America’s emerging technology hubs,” says co-founder Joseph Fung. Its first cohort, which began the program in January, had 800 applicants from across the continent. The goal? “To take the current median salary of the first cohort — $31,000 — and shift that to potential earnings of more than $90,000 upon Uvaro program completion,” Fung says.
Also last month, Flockjay, an “online sales academy” backed by tennis player Serena Williams and actor Will Smith, announced $2.98 million in new funding from investors such as Microsoft chairman John Thompson and Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit. According to Shaan Hathiramani, founder and chief executive officer, Flockjay is aimed at learners “from non-traditional backgrounds.” Like Uvaro, the program’s goal is to help participants “significantly increase their income and get future-proof tech sales jobs.”
Meeting the Demands of an Emerging Industry
Every industry is becoming more tech-driven, but financial services is, perhaps, particularly susceptible to digital disruption. Unfortunately, “few options exist for finance professionals to learn the tech skills that are becoming critical to the future of the industry,” says Timur Pakay, associate director of executive education programs at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, which is partnering with Trilogy Education to offer a fintech bootcamp.
What’s more, companies in many other industries are beginning to look for employees with fintech skills, says Erica Wilke Bova, assistant dean of international and professional education programs at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, another Trilogy partner. Chou points out that tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are expanding into financial products, citing a November Wired article titled “Every Tech Company Wants to Be a Bank — Someday, At Least.” He believes that, as a result, more people, from a broader range of educational backgrounds, will be looking to reskill in this area.
Offering a program that’s tailored to fintech rather than a more generic software engineering bootcamp is important because, Wilke Bova says, it can focus on the specific skills and applications learners will need to understand to succeed in this industry. For instance, the Northwestern bootcamp teaches Python, a common coding language used in data science, and then assigns fintech-specific projects, such as using Python to model future financial performance, building an Ethereum blockchain and developing a robo-adviser that can provide financial services. These programs can meet the needs both of financial professionals who want to develop technical skills and of technologists who want to develop finance knowledge, Chou says.
Meeting the Demands of a Specialized Role
Similarly, Fung says that tech sales is unique in the sales field and, therefore, requires unique training. Several factors make tech sales a special case, including the significant financial and resource investments in business software, unique buying processes and cycle, and the varying business models (e.g., software as a service, or SaaS) used by software companies.
Tech sales training, like training in many other areas, “requires a blend of practical and theoretical education,” says Fung. However, he believes that too many sales training programs focus on theory and neglect application. In a role as complex as tech sales, being able to practice new skills before using them in the field is critical. To that end, Flockjay students use multiple sales technologies and tools and participate in practice sales calls, supported by coaching, “so they are able to hit the ground running,” says Hathiramani.
“How do you teach someone empathy? How do you teach someone to be a good listener? These are things that can’t be taught simply by reading or passively watching videos online,” adds Kelly Schuur, head of sales training at Flockjay. “They require getting practice with humans.”
Another challenge is that professionals with experience in other verticals often face a barrier in transferring their skill set to tech sales — both in practical terms and in terms of convincing potential employers that they have what it takes. An intensive learning experience like Uvaro, Fung believes, can help both students and companies “distill, synthesize and apply these diverse experiences.”
Uvaro is free until graduates have a job, at which time they must repay the company with 10% of their base salary for two years, and most of Flockjay’s students also defer payment with an income share agreement. Is this model sustainable? Fung believes it is, and the fact that Uvaro uses the Kiite software as its main platform is likely a contributing factor to this belief. Schuur believes that using an income share agreement makes both parties committed to “a common goal of job placement.”
More than half the world’s population uses the internet, notes Schuur. “Tech sales reps serve as a bridge between the past and the future, to solve problems customers have never faced before. Sales reps are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘need-to-have’ in a buyer’s journey.”
As for the fintech bootcamps, Trilogy continues to announce new programs at different universities, so they appear to be expanding, at least for now. Chou says in 2020, Trilogy will release bootcamps in new topic areas, release online bootcamps and integrate bootcamps into other programs (such as online graduate degree programs).
As technology continues to grow and expand, we’re only likely to see more innovation in the training required to build and sell it. Looking to the future of work — both near and distant — these industries will continue to need specialized skills in order to compete. Whether through bootcamps or other models, the training market will follow their lead.