Ali Eshaghi, President of the Banking and FinTech Society and second year Finance and Technology (FinTech) BSc student, speaks about his experience on the course — and an internship which led to being featured in the Financial Times.
Why did you decide to study the Finance and Technology (FinTech) BSc over a traditional Finance degree?
Before doing my degree, I started researching the financial services industry and found the UK is set to become a leading FinTech hub. As I looked deeper, it became apparent to me that global financial services will never be the same as we know them. For example, a role that involves doing calculations, such as equity trading, will be done much more efficiently and precisely by a machine instead.
Additionally, I had a personal fascination with technologies and solving problems as a kid. I decided integrating financial and technological skill was an area of interest to me. The Business School at the University of Sussex was a school I wanted to attend, and it was one of the only few universities that offered the FinTech degree in Europe.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned during the course?
There is a world of depth to what you’re studying. A finance degree can be shaped into many different career paths and the same goes for technology. There is this flexibility for students on my course to take the specialization route that they’re most interested in.
Your degree allows you to have the necessary skills to be on many paths, like Software Developer, Business Analyst, Blockchain Consultant — among many others.
Tell us a bit about what you do as President of the Fintech and Banking Society.
It’s a mixture of learning and networking with amazing people. Being President of a society means you have to convene meetings and basically be an overseer for everything the society gets involved in. I work alongside other members to focus on studying emerging technologies that disrupt the financial sector through workshops, talks, live industry festivals and more.
I get the opportunity to meet fascinating and talented individuals, both from the society and the industry experts that we host. I believe every person has a story that can be a lesson for you. When speakers talk about their failures and triumphs, it sparks motivation in students to do what they love without fear of failing. It shows that even seasoned experts had to look around and change their life to be where they are now. I, alongside the committee, try to create a safe community with like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds, to better understand the world around us together.
How is the society connecting students during a global pandemic?
We have multiple platforms to interact with students and Discord in particular has gained popularity among students and societies. Everything is held online, and all the interactions are virtual, but we’re hoping to get back on campus in the following academic year. I think most societies are doing a good job to tackle the issue of connecting and turning it into an opportunity, through virtual gatherings and other activities.
Where did you undertake your summer internship and what was the highlight?
I interned for a RegTech startup based in London as a Financial Technology Analyst, and I had a fantastic opportunity to work on a project to support innovating startups that are affected by the pandemic through The Financial Conduct Authority. I also worked for a business based on blockchain as a global business developer. The highlight of it was being featured in the Financial Times alongside my peers, for our support in slowly innovating the legal sector into seamless digitization of legal documents.
You are currently doing a term abroad. What tips would you give to students wanting to get the most out of this experience?
Term abroad is an excellent experience and I recommend it to everyone! I love visiting different countries and getting introduced to new cultures. It’s eye-opening and a challenge to study with a different university. If you’re pondering over doing a term abroad, just do it. You’ll meet new people, get to study in a new environment, challenge yourself and develop personally and professionally.
How can FinTech help businesses innovate in an ever-changing world?
We’re living in an age of constant change and technologies. However, some services are still lagging behind. There’s no need for many of the retail bank branches around the city, as with Open Banking APIs everything is much more simplified for the clients. A relatively new startup will be offering the same (if not a better) banking experience on your smart phone, and with a cheaper price as well. This doesn’t mean that banks are obsolete, but keeping up with an innovative strategy based on the ease of banking for the end user must be at the core of their business. Banks have already started to adapt, and one could say it’s the push from the FinTech industry. Innovation Labs and right regulations can be crucial in making any FinTech ecosystem thrive, as seen in Singapore.
How do you think FinTech can be used to address real-world issues?
One problem is the access to finance for many households, even in today’s age. In fact, many people in developing countries don’t have access to financial services and that’s when FinTechs step in to solve this issue. FinTechs utilize an open banking API to offer data to the clients and help with anything money related, from daily bills to money management tips. I believe, in the near future, the same apps that handle our financial data can turn into “lifestyle apps” and offer much more than an open banking experience. Perhaps, being able to order a double cheese margherita from the same app that handles our money? WeChat’s platform is one leading example we see today.
Who inspires you?
My parents have been my strength and hope, they’ve encouraged me to leave no stone unturned and to show resilience through difficult times. I’ve learned from them to trust the process and be thankful for what I have. “If you’ve never tasted a bad apple, you will not appreciate a good apple.” You have to experience life to understand life. They’ve pushed me to do more and I’m thankful for their sacrifices for my journey.
Find out more about the University of Sussex Business School’s Finance and Technology (FinTech) BSc in our prospectus.