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Advancement essential in IT graduation programs to lift financial industry, says Shah

Despite increasing number of graduates entering the job market
in Pakistan, a vast majority of them lack competencies required
to meet industry’s evolving demands of digital landscape: Imran


Muhammad Umar Waqqas

KARACHI: A financial institution (FI) is a company engaged in the business of dealing with financial and monetary transactions such as deposits, loans, investments, and currency exchange. Financial institutions include a broad range of business operations within the financial services sector, including banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, and investment dealers.
The use of technology to transform, secure and improve financial processes is known as financial technology (or ‘Fintech’). It includes a wide range of digital products and platforms that make use of cutting-edge technologies like block-chain, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). These innovations are constantly enabling finance teams worldwide to be more and more competent & efficient.
The objectives of these pioneering inventions are often to enhance consumer experiences, streamline processes, control risks and promote financial inclusion. Fintech companies challenge established financial institutions by delivering cutting-edge services that meet the rapid changing needs of customers.
In 2001, only a tiny fraction of the population, specifically 1.3%, had access to the internet. However, by 2012, it had grown to 10.0%. As of July 2021, approximately 118 million citizens in Pakistan now have access to the internet, which accounts for 54% of the population. Notably, the mobile penetration rate has surpassed 77%, indicating a significant increase in mobile phone users. This shows that if provided with resources, fintech can be a booming industry in Pakistan. But what challenges are being faced by this industry in Pakistan to expand and how to eliminate the barriers?
The Financial Daily asked this question to the Senior expert of IT automations Mr. Muhammad Imran Shah, a skilled professional with 18 years of experience in the IT industry, whose areas of expertise are include project management, business process automation, managing heterogeneous database and application/Web servers, implementation of business intelligence (BI) reporting and dashboards, robotic process automation (RPA), and implementation of IT solutions.
He is experienced in managing 24×7 database and application services to the Custodian of Pakistan’s Capital Market, keeps ability to take the technical lead in projects and supporting technical implementation whilst working on multiple products and currently working in a demanding production support environment and managing large volumes of business critical data.
Muhammad Imran Shah says: “As financial institutions increasingly embrace digital transformation, the demand for technologically-equipped individuals with a deep understanding of both IT and finance has surged but the Pakistani Finance industry is facing a serious shortfall of such individuals. As the financial world continues to evolve, the synergy between IT and finance is proving to be a game-changer worldwide. The IT students bring their fresh perspectives, leveraging emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain to streamline processes and improve decision-making within the finance industry.
“With a keen eye on data privacy and cybersecurity, IT students can forecast and address the possible & growing concerns surrounding financial transactions. Their expertise is significantly crucial in fortifying digital infrastructure and safeguarding sensitive financial information against cyber threats, ensuring the integrity of financial systems.”
Shah said that “Despite an increasing number of graduates entering the job market in Pakistan, a vast majority of them lack the competencies required to meet the evolving demands of the digital landscape of the industry. The SBP’s report on the country’s economic condition last year also highlights the widening gap between academia and the real IT industry, posing a significant threat to the sector’s future expansion aim.
“It is highly concerning that only 10% of IT graduates in Pakistan are employable in the Fintech industry and the rest are not capable due to weaknesses in their technical and soft skills. The government has to play a vital role. Our Universities, IT institutions, and the Financial industry with the support of the government in Pakistan need to take certain steps which may bridge the gap between passed out IT graduates and the required skills for employment in the industry.”
While talking to The Financial Daily, Shah suggests a 10 points solution to be adopted by Pakistan’s educational institutions and industry with the support of government to overcome this alarming situation:
1- Pakistani universities and the financial industry should collaborate to design such a curriculum that bridges the gap between traditional IT education and the rapid evolving needs of the industry. This can include latest integrating courses on emerging technologies, data analytics, business intelligence, automations through RPA and cybersecurity within finance programs.
2- Universities should initiate industry-relevant Internship programs that provide students with real-world experience in financial institutions. This collaboration between universities and the industry will equip the students with practical skills and insights, making them more employable upon graduation.
3- Providing continuous professional development through joint-ventures between universities and industry organisations. This may include workshops, seminars and online courses to keep professionals updated on the latest industry trends and technologies.
4- Creating innovation hubs within universities that serve as collaborative spaces for students, faculty, and industry experts. These hubs can be great platforms for joint research, development of innovative solutions and incubation of fintech startups.
5- Universities and the financial industry should actively work in collaboration towards increasing diversity and inclusion. This can be achieved by implementing inclusive hiring practices, scholarships, and mentorship programs to ensure a more diverse talent pool in the finance sector.
6- Ensure that university curriculum remains adaptable to changes in modern technology and industry demands. This may involve regular reviews and updates to course materials, allowing students to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving technical and financial landscape.
7- Financial institutions should invest in Research and Development to support universities in their research initiatives, fostering innovation and advancements in financial technology. This collaboration can lead to the development of new tools, methodologies, and practices that benefit both academia and the industry.
8- Given the increasing importance of cybersecurity and resiliency in the financial sector, universities should incorporate robust cybersecurity education into their finance and IT programs. It prepares students to address the growing challenges of securing financial systems and data.
9- Government should facilitate networking opportunities between students and industry professionals through events, conferences and mentorship programs. This will help the students to build valuable connections and gain insights into the industry’s current needs and future trends.
10- Universities should integrate courses on regulatory compliance and finance within IT programs to ensure students understand the legal frameworks governing the financial sector. This knowledge is crucial for professionals to navigate the complex regulatory landscape effectively.
“With over 60% of Pakistan’s population under 30, I think it is safe to say that the younger generation will help push the adoption of fintech solutions. Meaningful collaboration between the universities and finance industry with government support would help promote innovative fintech startups and create a positive future for a financially aware, digital Pakistan.” Senior expert of IT automations, Muhammad Imran Shah tells The Financial Daily.