In discussion with PCQuest, Bijesh Amin, Co-Founder, Indus Valley Partners, talks about the new fin-tech landscape and talent management.
How is the fin-tech landscape evolving and what are the new competencies that are needed to stay ahead of the learning curve? What are your recommendations for aspiring talents in this space?
Be curious. Many of the new business models that have emerged over the past 3-5 years blur the line between technical and business domains. Aspiring talents should be investing their time in cross-disciplinary areas e.g. non-relational databases, data visualization technologies, user experience mapping as well as specific financial expertise e.g. stochastic calculus, statistical modelling etc.
The emergence of credible fin-tech players across retail financial markets as well as capital markets has ensured that expertise in machine learning, AI, computational disciplines such as statistical analysis, data analytics/modelling etc. will be prized. The more academic the better; good news for Ph.D. and Masters students in these areas.
Similarly, expertise in cyber security, digital encryption, Blockchain and related technologies will also command a price premium. Some Academic institutions in the US and Europe are offering courses in cryptography and Blockchain, but there are few such credible courses in India currently. Indian engineers need to be proactive in learning about these technologies (e.g. attending MOOCs or virtual conferences/webinars) and demonstrating knowledge of real business cases that are leverage specific aspects of Big Data, cloud computing, and AI.
Please elaborate on the paradigm shift in businesses today, you have indicated earlier especially in the AAM space. Has it been the result of digitization?
No. The paradigm shift has been away from active management (which tends towards passively tracking stock indices) towards Exchange Traded Funds, explicit index tracking and alternative assets such as private equity, real estate, and hedge funds.
Digitization has enabled the cannibalization of analog business models and presented a slew of opportunities from an investment standpoint. It has also meant disruption or the fund management industry as a whole vis-a-vis robo-advisors/automated asset allocation, trading algorithms, dark pools, and high-frequency trading increasing market volatility whilst reducing liquidity.
How is IVP looking at building this new talent management model to boost growth?
We are running internal training which encompasses a combination of technology, domain, and design thinking across a variety of technologies and platforms (big data, cloud, mobile). At the same time, we send employees on external training around the world to keep abreast of the latest developments and innovations so we can incorporate them into our product suite.
The skills and competencies required by future business leaders are changing. How would you put it in perspective for the space IVP operates in?
Leaders need to learn how to both lead and when to follow. Knowing when to do which is key in today’s expertize-led organizations which require the real peer to peer collaboration to achieve the best results. Alongside deep domain expertise and technology literacy, these are qualities which we look for in our leaders.
What are your thoughts on workforce analytics? Do you think these tools can analyze skill gaps and how talent management decisions feed into broader corporate performance objectives? Is IVP using any such tool for talent acquisition in the AAM space?
IVP has been using KPI driven analytics across our internal performance appraisals for a number of years. What has changed is the frequency of on-demand feedback and the scope to analyze performance more scientifically as a result of the availability of more time-series data. Partly this is a generational mindset shift and partly this has been enabled by personal productivity technology becoming more embedded, ubiquitous and user-experience friendly (e.g. Facebook at work, google hangouts etc.
You have been doing lateral hiring in IVP from different domains at analysis level. What do you look in for people during lateral hire? What kind of skill gaps do you see and any recommendations/advice?
We look for specific skill sets (e.g. c# or asset class expertise) but just as importantly the attitude must be right i.e. the ability to learn on the job, strong communication skills and first-hand client experience. We see gaps when lateral hires do not make the transition to an intellectually dynamic, client-driven environment because they have been working for several years in a role which does not require them to display levels of initiative and pro-activity to succeed.
What are your current market share and your goal for 2017?
We are the largest specialist solutions provider to the global alternative asset management industry. We want to continue to build our market share and dominate the product verticals in which we operate.
What challenges are you facing in the India market?
Engineers with strong “soft skill sets”. As an employer with a great of client-centric work we look for technology and analytical skills combined with communication skills – verbal and written.
In the West, alliances are being formed between corporate and governmental bodies to fill the gaps in this form of “hybrid” education to prepare graduates for the “new collar” jobs of the future which will require a cross-disciplinary approach combining STEM (Science Engineering Technology Mathematics) and Liberal Arts skills. There is nothing like this taking place in India currently.
What is your strategy to deal with tier 2 and 3 markets?
India at this stage is an emerging market within an emerging market! SEBI is slowly encouraging AAMs to set up in India as domestically domiciled FIs. This is a good thing and needs to be encouraged. Also, we believe that AAMs stimulates the liquidity and depth of the Indian capital markets in general which is a good thing for the Indian economy as a whole. Our plan is to be strategically positioned to help stimulate the growth of the AAM industry in its current infancy. Our deep expertise, relationships with the biggest players in the industry and knowledge of the details on how to support these trading strategies and asset classes will hopefully prove to be invaluable for both domestic players as well as foreign institutions keen on entering India.
Our focus on India is more on talent acquisition and development. We have a great talent pool in India. The workforce is proficient in working English and has an international mindset. We have also built a unique business model for India which does not consider India to be a “back office” but quite the opposite – as a font of ideas and creativity – which can be harnessed to the benefit of our clients. Our employees from the most junior to the most senior constantly rotate to our clients across the globe on projects and product implementations to provide expertise and insight and not as a source of cost/labor arbitrage. This is unique and differentiating and something we are very proud of.