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.
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.