I’m now in financial tech! So what do I do?

I handed in my notice at the A and E where I work. I have taken a full-time position writing code for the financial tech company ASF. I’ve swapped the nights and weekends for Monday to Friday. So what am I actually doing?

First of all, it’s important to define financial tech. It’s different from banking. Financial tech is where technology is used to reduce cost, speed up, or simplify financial transactions. Bitcoin and PayPal are prime examples. The company I work for (ASF) is trying to replace the payday loan companies which have high interest rates, crippling borrowers. Before I obtained an interest in the field, I thought that this was purely down to greed. In my defense, a casual reading of the news implied this. The more mathematical modeling, and reading of economics I do, the more I realize that the mainstream media simplifies things, and tries to put a controversial spin on it. Nothing get’s an article circulated around social media like simplifying a situation and slapping a one-dimensional value moral judgment on it for people to share. The reality is that payday loan companies like Wonga were the early innovations of this area of financial tech. They pushed forward this notion of quick small loans. The problem was that AI was not what it is today, and they approved loans for anyone and everyone. As a result, they got high default rates, and they had to make up the losses with high-interest rates. One of the tradeoffs for growth and speed is that reckless lending was part of the parcel. If someone wanted to go out and get drunk but they got paid next week, they could take out a payday loan to do this, which is not responsible. What ASF does is work with the providers. Right now it’s working with car repair garages. People who work at these garages have accounts and they can process loans for people who need their cars repairing. Because it’s limited to these situations, and our machine learning algorithms are getting more and more accurate at calculating the risk of loan default per applicant, ASF offers a 3-month loan for the car repairs at ZERO percent interest. A fee is paid by the garage which they happily pay because offering this payment method gets them more customers. I hope to see this expand to other fields.

 

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Prime example of financial tech offering freedom to small businesses

So what do I actually do? I have a fair bit of range which varies on the tasks needed. I develop and test the machine learning algorithms that produce our approval criteria, I also code in python and javascript using the frameworks Angular and Django for the main platform. One week I am coding a data dashboard defining login credentials, data calling methods and views for the user on the main platform. The next week I am coding a process that obtains loan data, inspects it, cleans it, trains a machine learning algorithm in the inputs and outcomes, and then tests the accuracy of its predictions on another set of data. We then see the outcomes based on a range of acceptance thresholds and discuss the tradeoffs of acceptance rates and defaults. The work is rewarding. I have moved away from the simplistic hand to mouth logic that the 18-year-old me used to see the world. I don’t have to be infusing meds directly into a patient to comprehend that I made their life better, or helped them. In fact, I tell people who state that they want to save lives, that they should really train as a water engineer. Everyone is different, and they do jobs for different reasons, for me I took this transition because I love creating things, I want to increase the impact of my efforts, and I love the freedom that software development gives. There’s also the pay and lifestyle. I’m not proclaiming to be a martyr. I find most people who do to be disingenuous.

 

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Beer at the office on Friday evenings

In terms of the future, I haven’t completely turned my back on healthcare. I still give talks at conferences, I was recently invited to write an article for a Canadian ED journal on machine learning, and I have had meetings where they want to apply machine learning to cancer research. It’s just that right now, there is a misallocation of resources, and people deserve financial freedom. As Brexit is looming, financial tech is becoming more and more important for the UK.

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