Still in their infancy, fintech and regtech constitute a sector with huge potential, as more and more banks and financial institutions turn to AI. Ray Horan, CEO of compliance analytics firm Emotics, says there are exciting opportunities for professionals willing to take on a challenge.
What trends have you seen shaping the regtech and fintech sectors over the last few years?
The big three trends are AI, blockchain and cloud computing. Pretty much every solution on the market now at least claims to have some form of AI component, whether that be in consumer fintech applications that provide trading recommendations, or on the enterprise regtech side where large volumes of data are being analysed and compliance processes are automated.
Cloud computing has been with us for the better part of a decade, though the large financial institutions have been slow to adopt cloud services. Over the last few years we’ve seen them gradually becoming more open to using cloud solutions.
Blockchain has been the big buzzword of the last couple of years – promising to provide a whole new world of decentralised services, automated smart contracts and immutable records.
What effects are these trends having on careers in the sector in Hong Kong?
I think they’re really bringing hard technical skills to the forefront of finance. The staff members making the biggest impact in financial institutions aren’t exclusively the traders and major dealmakers anymore. The engineers, developers and designers are making just as big an impact on how their companies are generating revenue from new products.
What are the current recruitment challenges for firms like Emotics?
Like every company in Hong Kong, providing for the high cost of living, particularly housing, is always a challenge. Many young people are under pressure from their families to go for what are perceived as “secure” jobs. With AI poised to replace many finance roles, particularly in the back office, graduates are now looking to start-ups as a viable long-term career option.
Has Emotics made any changes to its recruitment strategy recently?
The biggest consideration is if we can source employees from lower-cost environments to supplement the work carried out in Hong Kong. Aside from that, we’re always eager to speak with smart, passionate people who are willing to take a risk to achieve something really interesting.
What separates a great professional in your field from just a good one?
Experience goes a long way. Being able to manage yourself is particularly important in a start-up environment. The ability to identify opportunities and take the necessary steps to capitalise on them is vital.
Can you outline the path your career took to get to your current role? Is this typical?
I haven’t had a traditional career path, having tried lots of things in my career. This is my 25th role, ranging from bar and restaurant work to various roles in sales, marketing and management in the software trade. I trained in auditing but didn’t want to stay in accountancy so regtech is probably the most typical move I’ve made and, naturally, you see a lot of people migrating from finance to fintech and regtech.
What formal qualifications would you recommend professionals in your industry, or those hoping to get into it, acquire?
As tedious as I found it at the time, a professional accounting qualification gives you a very strong grounding in the operations of a business. As a career though, it will be mostly wiped out in the coming decade by AI, so I’d recommend anybody interested in the industry supplement those financial skills with either computer science or soft skills such as negotiation and sales, which computers won’t be able to replace for a long time.
How easy is it for professionals from other sectors to move into regtech? What do they need to consider?
It shouldn’t be a massive leap for finance or law professionals. Tech professionals can also make the transition, but it may take some adapting. The industry is still in its early stages and there’s limited consolidation or large acquisitions thus far. That means you’re likely to get paid less cash than you would in a corporate job.
What is the hardest part of your job? And the most rewarding?
Dealing with larger organisations that move a lot slower than you would like to can be frustrating. You want to, and need to, move quickly as a start-up.
I really enjoy speaking at conferences and interviews, especially TV and radio. There’s definitely a lot of nerves beforehand but once you go live it’s quite exhilarating. Another plus is the incredibly smart people you get to meet and interact with at conferences and networking events.
Is a good work-life balance possible in your line of work? Do you have any tips on how to achieve this?
As CEO, you don’t ever really get to turn off and the business is both your hobby and your passion. It’s three years since my last real holiday, other than a couple of weekends away here and there. But the business has taken me to some great places, and introduced me to some amazing people.