In this interview with Bridgette Hall, Stephen Richardson, Vice President, Head of Product Strategy and Business Solutions of crypto firm Fireblocks shares:
- The challenges and opportunities in pursuing a career in the crypto industry,
- Why the industry is facing a talent shortage and how to deal with it,
- Future trends in the crypto space when it comes to employee engagement, and more.
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Q: The crypto space is expanding rapidly across the world and the region, what kind of roles are in demand?
With the increased popularity of crypto in the APAC region over the past couple of years, companies are looking for talents across a variety of roles, such as, and customer experience officers to support the expansion of their business. As the fintech sector is truly a niche industry, businesses are also looking for experts who have the appropriate and relevant technical resources, education and experience in areas like blockchain technology. Their expertise will enable crypto firms to develop the best offerings for their customers and users, keeping the industry vibrant and exciting.
Q: Why is the industry facing a talent shortage?
Firstly, the industry is still relatively niche, therefore not a lot of professionals are readily equipped with the technical expertise and skills needed for the job. Therefore, any prospective hire with the relevant skill sets would be very high in demand.
Next, there are limited education and upskilling opportunities for students to have the academic foundation for industry’s technical requirements. While there are more and more academic programmes being introduced today that cover fintech and blockchain technology, this development is still new and slow to meet the growing demand and popularity of the fintech sector in APAC.
Additionally, because the industry is still new and is somewhat unexplored, there is a reluctance amongst new talents and graduates to enter this space. Just like there are uncertainties in buying cryptocurrencies, talents today are not as forthcoming to joining a new and unfamiliar industry.
Q: How can crypto organisations respond to the talent crunch?
The utmost priority should be no different from any other industries - have a strong corporate culture that supports growth, development and is flexible to employees’ needs.
Having a healthy and vibrant culture will hopefully attract talents to join and stay in the company.
This past year, we have seen major shifts in the way we work and engage with colleagues. More people are increasingly embracing and enjoying hybrid working arrangements, and this trend will be here to stay. Therefore, companies need to ensure that there is flexibility in ensuring that various work arrangements can be adopted by workers, so that they can work at their own comfort and convenience.
These factors, coupled with having strong product offerings, will hopefully make the industry and workplace exciting and attractive to new talents. From working with new technology and collaborating on new products, new talents should have the opportunity to not only learn about the company but experience working in an exciting and constantly evolving crypto space.
Q: Are young talents unaware of the opportunities, or are they reluctant to pursue a career in a highly volatile industry?
It is safe to say that while its momentum and popularity is picking up, young talents are still not yet familiar with the industry and what it has to offer, due to the lack of exposure in academic institutions or offerings.
In addition, the crypto sector is still seen as a highly volatile and unfamiliar industry. Therefore, young talents are more likely to pick career paths that are more common which provides them a perceived sense of security.
That said, the industry is quickly growing, especially in APAC which has been identified as a crypto hub. This means that there will be greater exposure to the industry, more fintech-related courses available in academic institutions, and soon, more employment and development opportunities in this space.
Q: With crypto companies expanding in Hong Kong, what does this mean for jobseekers and the talent pool in the industry?
The crypto space in Hong Kong is growing rapidly. In fact, recently Hong Kong Land Holdings, the biggest landlord in the heart of the Asia financial hub signed a lease with a crypto asset firm for the first time in a move to embrace the crypto sector.
As more crypto companies are starting to set foot in Hong Kong, and more organisations start digitising their financial offerings, there will be more jobs available in the market. Once more individuals secure a job in crypto, and share their experience with peers and other job seekers, the popularity of jobs in this space will definitely skyrocket and hopefully we will reach a point where talent crunch will no longer be an issue in this industry.
Q: What are the skills and qualifications that crypto organisations look out for in potential employees?
Depending on the role, organisations look for different degrees of skills, experience, and qualifications. While having a certification or relevant background in crypto or blockchain technology is greatly ideal, we have to acknowledge that the number of individuals with those offerings are still very limited.
Therefore, it is also important for recruiters to look at softer and transferable skills such as communication, problem solving ability and teamwork - skills that would make it easier for these individuals to excel in the workplace.
The crypto and fintech landscape is constantly evolving - and having a great desire to keep learning, upskilling and acquiring knowledge of the space and industry will definitely be a value-add for potential job seekers. The industry grew tremendously just within the past few years, and we can only imagine the speed of growth and transformation that the industry will continue to experience. To keep up with this pace, all employees, new or experienced, will need to remain agile and adaptable to changes and new challenges.
Q: What are the challenges and opportunities in pursuing a career in the crypto industry and how will Fireblocks ensure talent growth and development in this region?
Even though there are limited institutions that offer educational opportunities in the crypto sector, young talents have a world full of learning opportunities. At Fireblocks, we have been doing special lectures and sharing sessions with universities, exposing them to the space and sharing insights on what they can expect within the industry itself.
From working with universities and working in crypto startups to online courses, there are ample resources out there to tap on and build a foundation to pursue a career in the crypto industry.
At Fireblocks, we understand that the crypto sector requires a deep understanding of the industry which is why we have put in place robust training programmes for new hires to prepare themes for a meaningful career in the industry. In the crypto space, change is constant and at Fireblocks we have created a culture of teaching and learning. We are regularly conducting seminars and training sessions to ensure that our existing employees are kept up to date on the latest developments and skills sets needed to thrive.
Q: What are some future trends you predict in the crypto space when it comes to employee engagement?
While we still ride through this pandemic, remote working will continue to be the norm for organisations. In this highly digital space, remote working has provided organisations with the flexibility to not only work from home efficiently but explore cross-geo employment where we can tap on experts across the borders where needed. We can have a physical office in Hong Kong, but it is definitely possible for us to hire someone based in other parts of Asia.
As the use of digital assets and having digital wallets become a thing of a norm, crypto organisations can take advantage of the industry’s specialty and explore different modes of remuneration for their employees. In the near future, what we can also anticipate is the possibility of paying employees with digital assets.
Q: What makes working in crypto attractive for you? How did you get into the industry?
Crypto and digital assets are very dynamic parts of the financial services and technology industries today. The exciting part about working in this space is that it is constantly evolving and there are new products and services that are constantly being developed and introduced into the market. This makes staying on top of key trends and market shifts a very challenging yet exciting experience on a daily basis.
I started in the crypto asset space in 2016. I had been working at Accenture Strategy, and I was introduced to a friend who had invested in a start-up focused on fiat infrastructure for FX and digital asset companies. I didn’t know much about crypto, but as I started to learn more about it, I felt that we were on the frontier of disrupting the financial services industry. In fact, the ability to re-design and re-think the operating models in the financial services space, in the context of digital assets, was the reason I decided to leave Accenture and move into crypto. From that point forward I have been involved in the digital asset space, and I am always impressed by the work my colleagues around the industry are doing to re-shape financial services.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
The crypto space is starting to be a competitive industry today. For young talents who are looking to venture into this industry, it is important to demonstrate the ability to learn independently and showcase genuine interest in the industry.
It is not sufficient to just know about crypto, but what sets one candidate apart from another is the ability to showcase their knowledge, and that desire to continue learning and growing. Keeping a growth mindset and believing in the digital asset journey will help talents propel their career within the crypto space.
Image / Provided (Stephen Richardson, VP, Head of Product Strategy and Business Solutions, Fireblocks)