The 2021 Future of Finance (FoF) Conference will be taking place online on March 6th. Bringing together the brightest minds from all across Europe and top executives from leading industry disruptors, FoF is THE premier event for financial innovation and entrepreneurship.
Hosted by 6 of the LARGEST careers societies from leading global universities, this event is proudly brought to you by UCL FinTech Society, LSE SU FinTech Society, LSE PRIS, Imperial Finance Society, Warwick Entrepreneurs Society & King's Business Club.
We are delighted to introduce one of our speakers for the FinTech Panel, Mark Watson. To learn more about our speaker, check out UCL Finance & Technology Review's exclusive interview with Mark below:
Mark Watson joined WorldRemit in 2018 as Chief Technology Officer. Prior to joining WorldRemit, Mark worked at IBM, Causata Inc. and Tivoli Systems. He also co-founded Volantis Systems and Skipjaq, where in each case he served as both CTO and CEO. Mark holds a BA in Politics from the University of Nottingham.
1. Coming from a non-STEM academic background, can you tell us more about how you have found the transition from studying a politics degree to working in the technology roles of engineering and software development? What has been the biggest obstacle along your path?
To be clear, I made the transition a long time ago and before Computer Science degrees were common (and at a point where far fewer people in the UK went on to university — at my school in my year it was 2%). So I benefited from a supply shortage. When I started my career, at IBM, of the new graduates on the programming team I joined (which, by the way, was writing S/370 assembler as its main programming language), non-STEM students were in the majority. As a group, at that time, STEM graduates tended to gravitate to sales, which had a better career path and maybe reflecting the possibility that they had made better calculations when they picked their degree. The obstacle I had early on was avoiding the gravitational pull of non-tech management roles for career development. In the end, I became a CTO by founding a company. Subsequently, it's not so much a challenge of STEM vs non-STEM but generational — there's a constant pull between new and old tech that you have to bridge in order to make best use of the people you employ, whatever their background.
2. In the Covid-19 business environment, companies have been placing more focus on technology transformations. How has this trend impacted your day-to-day decisions in your role as the Chief Technology Officer? What are the new challenges you have to adapt to?
From our point of view, we had a number of internal challenges to ensure everyone could work from home. Thankfully, we had most of the software in place but in the initial outbreak we had very significant challenges on the hardware supply side. Over time, it's been the case that some individuals have been able to adapt — usually due to personal circumstances and pure dumb luck — to remote working better than others. If they're in management positions, this creates wider knock-on issues. On the more general "transformation" idea, there is a constant tug — pre-Covid and now, to balance investment in technology transformation at a platform level with the delivery of new capabilities to customers, that the transformations enable.
To learn more about innovations in the FinTech space, join the FinTech Panel (10-10:45am GMT) during the Future of Finance Conference on 6th March. The virtual conference will be streamed via UCL FinTech Society's Facebook and Youtube page.
Follow the Facebook event for updates.
Interviewed by Solomon Wong (UCL) and Shivam Bathija (LSE)
The UCL Finance and Technology Review (UCL FTR) is the official publication of the UCL FinTech Society. We aim to publish opinions from the student body and industry experts with accuracy and journalistic integrity. While every care is taken to ensure that the information posted on this publication is correct, UCL FTR can accept no liability for any consequential loss or damage arising as a result of using the information printed.