The fintech landscape is rapidly growing and evolving. It is revolutionizing the way product managers and leaders do business. And many people are starting to notice the potential and power of fintech. So, how do you go about breaking into fintech? Uprise Co-Founder and CEO Jessica Chen Riolfi shares insights on career growth and how to break into the hottest fintech companies. 

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On important questions to ask when breaking into fintech

In big companies, especially in financial institutions, it’s very hierarchical. The senior person tells a junior person what to do, and they do it. If your goal is breaking into fintech, there will be nobody to tell you what to do, you have to figure it out for yourself. Everybody in the fintech landscape is trying to invent the future. It’s about making a positive impact on humanity and the world. These are some questions to ask people are breaking into fintech:

  1. Do you know what it means to put customers first?
  2. Can you roll up your sleeves and do whatever needs to be done?
  3. Do you know what an MVP is?
  4. Can you roll with lots of ambiguity?
  5. Do you dream big about making a huge impact on humanity?
  6. Do you have an ownership mentality and resilience?
  7. Are you cool with a flat(ish) hierarchy?

On the foundation of fintech

Much like in product management, the fintech space is customer first, focuses on the lean methodology, and has a hustle culture. Fintech is a mission-driven space that aims to democratize finances for all. Breaking into fintech requires you to be passionate about changing the world for the better. The belief is that every person deserves to have a financial advisor in their pocket. Here is the foundation for breaking into fintech:

“The foundation of FinTech is customers come first, lean methodology, and hustle culture. Do whatever it takes, and move fast in order to get the product out there for customers and make a positive impact.”

“I’m going to tell you what exchange rate I’m getting. And I’m gonna be upfront and transparent with my fees. I’m going to work really hard to push down those fees as much as possible so that I’m cutting into my margin because customers come first. And then, it’s about the hustle and the lean methodology in terms of iterating fast, and building for customers and learning from that.”

“We believe that it’s important to find a way to narrow that gap and to make sure that everybody has access to that kind of resource and financial optimization. So, this is the foundation to getting into FinTech, which is nothing really about finance and everything to do with being mission-driven and understanding like core product tech kind of methodologies. And if you have that foundational layer, that is like 90% of the way there in terms of getting into fintech.”

On the mission of fintech

There is an old saying that we have all grown familiar with, money is power. And that is very true in this day and age. Having control over your finances means you have the freedom to make your own decisions and to change your and others’ lives. The ultimate goal of people who work in fintech is to put the power back in the hands of the people. Breaking into fintech means that your mission is people-centric. You want to help change the world. This is the mission for breaking into fintech:

“The really unique thing in my experience working in FinTech is that the people inside really really believe it. I remember making a trip out to our office in Tampa and meeting people for the first time. And hearing from them of how mission-driven they were, and how much they believe in really making a positive impact for customers.”

“I was really struck when I was at Robin Hood, how when you ask the employees why they joined Robin Hood, the first thing that they said was not it’s good for my career. Or, it’s good for my wallet. They really believe that people need to be in control of their own finances and that Robin Hood is doing this for them and is fundamentally changing the world.” 

“There’s so much jargon. Acronyms like 401K, IRAs, and Roth traditional. What do all these things kind of mean? This complexity serves to ensure that there is a financial services industry people need to rely on. And because it keeps the rich getting richer. We believe that it’s important to find a way to narrow that gap, and to make sure that everybody has access to that kind of resource and financial optimization.”

On skill sets necessary for breaking into fintech

In every industry, there are a specific set of skills that are required to be successful. You must learn the trade of an industry in order to thrive within it. Breaking into fintech requires a diverse set of skills. It is often difficult to find a culture fit, as well as someone who has knowledge of the fintech space. You need to know the talk topics and be able to think with a tech hat on. For fintech, in particular, it is really important you know good data security. Check out these necessary skills for breaking into fintech:

“There are two different types of roles within FinTech companies. There are the tech generalist things, which every single company needs. And then there are the FinTech specific ones.”

“Having people who have regulatory experience or compliance experience, or knowledge of it was so useful. In these FinTech-specific roles, there aren’t very many people who know these talk topics but also can think with a tech hat on. They don’t understand what it means to put customers first,  iterate fast,  build quickly, and experiment with new things.”

Every single industry is very different. But there are unique skill sets that are needed for that company. For Fintech it is particularly important that you know good data security. And this is something that was also very difficult to hire for.”

About the speaker
Jessica Chen Riolfi Earnin, Head of Product Member

Jessica Chen Riolfi is the Co-Founder and CEO of Uprise, the financial technology company that designs personalized, Wall Street-level financial plans for young professionals, entirely for free. Long-term, Jessica and the Uprise team are working toward making high-quality private wealth management accessible to everyone. The company is backed by some of the country’s top VCs, including Contrary Capital and Hustle Fund, as well as founders and execs from Stripe, Robinhood, SoFi, and Cash App. Prior to starting Uprise, Jessica spent her career at the intersection of technology and finance, helping develop some of the world’s most well-known fintech products (Earnin, Wise, and Robinhood). Previously, she worked as an investment banker at J.P. Morgan and led growth at eBay. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Dartmouth College.

About the host
Maheep Bhalla AT&T, Product Management Lead

Maheep is a customer-focused Product Leader. He believes that a Product Manager wears multiple hats but should always champion the voice of the customer.

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