CompareNI.com, Northern Ireland’s leading financial comparison platform, has announced the launch of a new fintech scholarship for higher education students, but it is only open to those studying something other than finance or computer science.

Debbie Eve, the company’s Head of Talent, explained:
“At CompareNI.com we believe that attracting students from a diverse range of academic disciplines is critical to addressing our sector’s looming talent shortage.

“In addition, teams that are more diverse also tend to perform better and create more sustainable growth for the business.

“At CompareNI.com we have a fabulous, high performance team and, as Head of Talent, I’ve seen first-hand how a diversity of academic backgrounds can enhance and enrich a team.”

The local tech firm’s approach to fostering greater diversity in fintech has been hailed by politicians, academics and business leaders.

Peter Oakes, former Director of the Central Bank of Ireland and the Founder of Fintech Ireland, the industry body for the fintech sector on the island of Ireland, said:
“Northern Ireland is an exponentially growing centre of fintech innovation but many young professionals assume the province’s fintech companies are only interested in finance and computer science graduates. That’s why the structure of this fintech scholarship, the fact that it is specifically designed to appeal to students from a diverse range of other disciplines, is particularly welcome.

Some of the most innovative and fast-growing fintech businesses across the UK and Ireland have been created by entrepreneurs from non-traditional backgrounds, and a greater diversity of experience (and diversity of thought) is sure to help strengthen the sector even more.”

Lady Borwick, past member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, former Deputy Mayor of London and staunch advocate of the urgent need to address the UK’s digital skills shortage, added:

“It is vital that we do all we can to create jobs and opportunities for the next generation, investing in our young people in order to enable them to drive innovation forward.

“Whether it’s in banking, financial services, technology, media or the arts, finance and technology training is vital. That’s why this scholarship matters – because it gives young people the opportunity to explore these vital skills, which can in turn help them to take advantage of all the possibilities and career options that arise for them in the future.”

Chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Development Committee, Alderman William Leathem, commented:
“Scholarships like the one being offered by CompareNI.com are a great way to attract students to the FinTech sector who previously would have not considered it. As a Council we are keen to attract businesses from this vibrant and dynamic sector to our area as well as taking a proactive approach to strengthening the talent pipeline for FinTech. This groundwork fits in with the Council’s ambition, under the Belfast Region City Deal pillars of Innovation & Digital and Skills & Employability, to develop the FinTech sector locally.”

Councillor Donal Lyons, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, emphasised the significance of the fact that this new scholarship focuses on a key growth area for Belfast:
“Fintech is one of the key growth areas identified in the Belfast Agenda, our strategy for the future development of the city, and the surrounding region, which seeks to create 50,000 more jobs within our urban economy… We are committed to supporting this growth and to ensuring that everyone is able to fulfil their potential to succeed and make a positive contribution to our city.”

Leading academics also recognised the new scholarship programme as an important way to foster greater diversity within the UK’s fast-growing fintech sector.

Chris Ivory, Professor of Technology and Organisation at Lord Ashcroft International Business School, said:
“This scholarship underlines the increasing realisation that the future competitive advantage of digital technology lies with people not technology. Those industries, sectors and nations that prosper are those that fully recognise that the real value-added of technology lies in how it is integrated with new work, skills, roles and organisational forms”.

Launched in 2009, CompareNI.com has grown to become Northern Ireland’s leading price comparison platform. Greg Wilson, the fintech entrepreneur behind the innovative fintech platform, had this to say about the company’s new Fintech Scholarship:

“Talented graduates are the lifeblood of the fintech sector, but our industry faces a looming talent shortage in the not-too-distant future.

“As an established player in this sector, CompareNI.com is keen to connect with students that may never have considered a career in fintech, and encourage them to explore how they can be part of this dynamic, fast-growing industry no matter what subject they’re currently studying.

“While tech companies like ours obviously need computer scientists, and many financial services companies depend on finance graduates, the fintech sector also has a lot to gain from attracting a diversity of other skillsets to the industry, whether that’s law students, liberal arts majors, engineers, philosophy scholars or life scientists.

“In fact, although I’m the CEO of one of the UK’s leading financial comparison platforms I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Queen’s University Belfast, which many of today’s students might not view as a typical entry point to a successful career in fintech. That’s why our new scholarship programme is specifically designed for students that may never have considered a career in this sector.”

Supporting Wilson’s assertion about a looming talent shortage, data from a wide range of research firms and government agencies, including the Department for Education, suggests the talent shortage is the single biggest concern for senior leaders in the financial services industry.

“The financial services industry has a lot to offer graduates,” Greg Wilson added. “But we need to demonstrate that our industry cares about these young professionals and is committed to advancing their careers, no matter which degree programme they complete.”

The deadline to apply for CompareNI.com’s Fintech Scholarship is Thursday 28th March 2019, and full details of how to apply are available here: https://www.compareni.com/fintech-scholarship.htm.

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