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August 5, 2015

Open University tackles UK fintech skills gap

Tech industry hails scheme for boosting innovation in financial services.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The Open University launched a fintech course on Monday in a bid to improve understanding of what IT can do for the financial services industry as it faces unprecedented pressure from Silicon Valley.

Running for 50 hours and costing just shy of £700, the online course Fintech 101 will focus on the role of technology after the 2008 financial crash, and is backed by Innovate Finance, an industry body set up last year.

Liz Moody, senior lecturer of executive education at the Open University, said: "Fintech is changing rapidly with new sub-sectors emerging all the time, drawing in new names and organisations taking a customer centric view of financial services.

"The course is designed to provide a comprehensive overview for people either working in or interested in innovating in this space creating products and access to services supported by technology."

Fintech generated some £20m in revenue last year in the UK and Ireland, according to data released by Innovate Finance, which reported that three-quarters of financial firms fear a skills crisis in the next three years.

"The adoption of disruptive technology in financial services has helped everyone – customers, shareholders, and entrepreneurs," said Julian Skan, Accenture managing director overseeing the FinTech Innovation Lab London.

"But it is complex and requires many new talents and a broad base of capability. It is vital that we continue to improve this base of knowledge in the UK and the Open University, as a highly inclusive organisation, has the best chance of reaching the broadest range of potential fintechers, so Accenture welcomes this initiative."

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The rising importance of technology within finance has caused concerns throughout the City of London, Wall Street and other global financial centres, with many arguing that the industry must do more to embrace innovation.

Lisa Moyle, head of financial services and payments programme at techUK, an industry group, said: "As in other areas of the digital economy, there is an ever growing demand for a digitally skilled workforce, and courses such as these will help improve access to the skills we need to support the growing digital economy.

"However, it’s vital that as well as targeted courses we take a joined up approach to tackle the digital skills gap."

Earlier this year Jamie Dimon, chief executive of financial services firm JPMorgan Chase, warned that "Silicon Valley is coming" in a letter to shareholders, with start-ups working on alternatives to traditional banking.

"We are going to work hard to make our services as seamless and competitive as theirs," he said. "And we also are completely comfortable with partnering where it makes sense."

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