Fintech Education

Is it time for a "Fintechopedia"?

Welcome to the last newsletter of the year. Did you know that 2020 was a leap year (366 days not 365)? I don’t think we needed the extra day this year but congratulations for completing 99.7% of it already!

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Do you remember 2019? Me neither. The world is different, and the fintech landscape has seen seismic shifts. It’s hard to find your way when the industry evolves so fast in so many directions. But there are few beacons of lights that haven’t moved. One of them for me is a talk by Angela Strange from Venture Capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, where she explains:

Every Company Will Be a Fintech Company. […]

In the not-too-distant future, I believe nearly every company will derive a significant portion of its revenue from financial services.

(Here’s a one-minute video summary)

If the above statement is true, then every company should think and learn about fintech. A few already have:

  • Over 50% of Shopify revenues come from financial services (including Shopify Payments, Shopify Capital, Shopify POS)

  • Uber is giving access to financial services to its unbanked drivers and looking at providing loans and remittance services

  • Godaddy’s recent purchase of Poynt, a payment fintech startup indicates it is eager to integrate financial services as part of its offering for SMEs

But it’s not just the rest of the world that should get involved, fintech players who become educators will expand their markets and accelerate their growth.

The challenge for Fintech “educators”

I do not include “traditional” education, Masters and Bachelors or coding curriculums. They are relevant but targeted at people who really want to work in the industry.

Every fintech media and companies engaged in thought leadership activities or educational marketing participate. Venture capitalists are there too (check out the Crypto Startup School by a16z). This nebula of ‘educational’ content is available for free on the net. It can be called a ‘school”, podcast, article, whitepaper or video.

For the above type of ‘educators’, even if the content is not marketing it still is a content marketing challenge. It’s hard to be found. Sharing on Linkedin and everywhere else will only get you that far.

Many prestigious universities, including Harvard, provide fintech-related courses, available via online education platforms (Coursera has over 100, EdX 20, Emeritus 18). Unlike traditional education ‘Getting in’ is usually not an issue.

I completed a few courses myself this year. One that stands out is Blockchain and FinTech: Basics, Applications, and Limitations by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on EdX. It’s a 6-week program that officially requires 3-4h per week. But there’s almost 20h of video content alone, so I think the time required is an understatement (or maybe I’m just slow). It offers broad coverage and goes deep, even if it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s available for free, or as a validated certificate for £148 - basically free.

The course has been attended by over 23,000 people so far. It’s probably a profitable venture (if 30% chose to pay for it that’s close to £1m to share between the university and the platform ), but it is also a great marketing tool for the University.

An alternative I was considering was Oxford University’s Fintech programme priced at £2,650. I didn’t attend it, and it would be unfair to compare. Yet, the HKU class sets a high benchmark in terms of value.

(If you want to find out more about it, I discussed the course with Henri Arslanian, one of the instructor, at 11:55 in this video - after I wrongly said it costs $500).

Paid courses are also provided by independent educational companies (like CFTE), trade organisations (like Fintech Circle). There are a lot of options.

If you are launching a fintech course today, on Google, you are competing with Harvard (x2) and Oxford University.

For paid courses, discovery is difficult, and client-acquisition costs are high.

If you are a corporate planning to educate your prospects with free content, you are also competing for their consideration against universities.

The challenge for “students”

Going back to Ms Strange’s talk, she identifies 4 categories impacted by fintech: startups, incumbents, all corporations, and consumers who will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

From an educational point of view, they can be split in:

  • Creators: Ιnvolved in fintech or looking to build new services using fintech (mainly startups but not just fintech startups)

  • Users: Looking to find solutions to existing challenges (mainly incumbents, corporations)

  • Explorers: Intellectually curious or looking for opportunities that are not yet defined (everywhere)

Keeping up with fintech can be daunting even for Creators or insiders. You may even be a specialist in a field that suddenly becomes someone else’s hunting ground.

If you’re a finance professional or a business owner (User or Explorer) that’s eager to discover solutions and understand opportunities, it’s even more complicated.

You can search for countless articles, podcasts, or videos. But it’s hard to find good learning material, and the discovery process is inefficient.

A paid course is a significant amount of time and money. How practical will it be? Fintech proficiency is a moving target. If you study modern finance, the pool of knowledge is relatively well defined and covered. Fintech, on the other hand, is in constant evolution. And it is defined by the activities of a myriad of startups.

Another option is to receive all the information by following the right people on Twitter and subscribing to the relevant publications. That’s like drinking from the firehose. It’s time-consuming, and the content will be more about news and analysis than discovery and understanding.

Finally, although fintech firms want to reach as many people as possible, people are not always eager. Tech has become a buzzword, but when mixed with “finance”, it loses its appeal. Many businesses that could leverage fintech are unaware of it or put off by its complexity. Those may need an easier or more entertaining way to discover.

Do we need a Fintechopedia? What could it look like?

There’s no fintech equivalent to what Investopedia’s did for investment and finance 20 years ago.

Investopedia was founded in 1999 by Cory Wagner and Cory Janssen and was launched as a comprehensive investing and finance dictionary at a time when your next best option was a textbook. The founders aimed to make finance and investing easier to understand and every definition featured both a matter of fact explanation as well as a more friendly layman’s version.

The platform is still doing great (at least based on Google results). However, the content is now also available on another website with the -pedia suffix (from Greek παιδεια = education) that was launched a year later: Wikipedia. And it’s widely spread across the web too.

A Fintechopedia would need to be adapted to the way we consume content in 2020, privileging video and audio. Given the abundance of content, curation would be a better approach than creating all the content.

You could offer greater visibility to selected “educators” and clarity for “students”. A paid course can compete after all with a great corporate blog. They are both in competition for our time. A

With that in mind, I’ve started a fintech education database in Coda. It’s called Fintechopedia 0.1.0, and it’s a framework, fairly light on content (you can add to it if you like). But I hope it can already be useful in its present form, so I’ve made it public.

It is classified by user intent.

  • For those just visiting, there is a selection of individual content: essays and videos.

  • If you are looking for gifts that keep on giving, there’s a curated list of publications about Fintech (YouTube channels, Podcasts, Newsletters & Blogs) that you can subscribe to for free.

  • For the studious, a space for formal learning with books and courses.

Individual content is classified by medium: video, audio, text.

Topics tag all content. If it’s a broad industry perspective, it will be in general fintech; otherwise, one piece of content can have multiple tags. You can read more about the choice of Fintech Taxonomy.

There’s a non-conventional element for selecting videos and essays: the “Entertainment value”. Is it something ‘light’ that you can consume while standing on the tube (when this happen again) after a long day at work or does it require your full attention? It’s not a serious classification, but it is a consideration to ignite more people's interest. This was the idea of our Fintech in Films series on YouTube which has been seen by over 100,000 to date. Every little helps.


Where does that leave us? I don’t think I’m about to build anything close to a fintech equivalent to Investopedia. Still, I believe there is value in a curated educational platform, so I will keep building it as a side project and see where it goes. I also feel that despite the abundance of option, there are gaps in the educational offering, and that’s something that I’ll be paying close attention to. I’m keen to find ways to fill these gaps.

Thank you for accepting me in your inbox this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. I’ve been writing about fintech mixed with social impact, media and marketing. Education is a combination of all those themes; you can expect more on that next year. I’m also working to align the Fintechorama YouTube channel and Fintech Files podcast towards more educational content.

I wish you a fintastic 2021!