Meet Caren, Mason Alexander's FinTech Expert
We were delighted to catch up with Caren Schwannauer to learn a bit more about her, her background, about MA FinTech and the FinTech Market! She also provides some useful advice for anyone who is looking for a new opportunity within the FinTech industry - with or without experience!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town outside of Stuttgart, Germany. My family is from there so I went to school and university there. I got my first job as an event planner when I was 14 and with 16 I joined a local consultancy that was specialised in turnaround management. I really loved working for those companies but I wanted to get more theoretical and in-house practical skills.
After finishing school I studied Psychology and Business where I was working self-employed on weekends as a Saleswoman on e.g. fairs and after university and I was working half-time as PR & Event Manager + Office and Accounting Manager for a Virtual reality network. During that time I realised how much I love to work for young companies and that I love to drive Start-ups forward. The Start-up landscape in Stuttgart is very limited so I decided to go abroad. I got an offer to build up a RegTech Start-up from scratch in Ireland which I took and that’s how I ended up here.
How did you get into recruitment?
MA reached out to me telling me that they would like to build out a division that is focused on FinTech’s because they’ve been working with several Fintech clients and saw that those clients need a very specific skillset (FS and Tech knowledge plus Start-up Mindset) and especially at an early stage they need additional support to identify their hiring needs. I saw the exact same with several FinTech’s I worked with before and thought it’s a great idea to help FinTech’s find the right talents.
I didn’t know too much about recruitment when I started because the recruitment industry in Germany is way smaller than the recruitment industry in Ireland but I understood right away how helpful it can be to have a competent partner at your side that 1) understands the industry and 2) understand what person suits into your company culture.
What is your role in MA?
I’m in Business Development which means my role is a bit different from usual “recruiter” roles. My colleagues on the recruitment side are specialised in certain departments such as Sales & Marketing or Software Engineering & Product. I work more on the client-facing side, helping them identify their hiring needs but also help with additional support e.g. when it comes to hosting events or roundtables, making introductions to investors, or connecting them with potential partners. FinTech’s, especially at the early stage, usually need more than just “a good hire” so we find them the best talents but also support them in growing their own network.
What is MA FinTech?
MA Fintech is a passionate talent solutions business focused on adding value to disruptive FinTechs and Start-ups.
What does a typical day at work / or work week look like for you?
First things first! I get a coffee – then I usually read the news in the morning to see what’s new in the Fintech scene e.g. new funding, expansion plans, board changes, etc.
During the day I have calls with clients, the team and I answer emails. We’re usually talking about their hiring plans, events, and content.
After work I unwind by going for a swim – the beach is just a 30 min cycle away and the cold water is great to clear my head. I’m trying to step up my reading game so if anyone has book recommendations let me know.
What is the FinTech market like at the moment?
Super busy! Compared to other industries the hit FinTech’s took from Covid was rather small. With an increasing demand for digital solutions within the Banking/FS sector, there has been a bigger demand for Fintech solutions.
Do you see any trends in the FinTech market?
Yes, I wrote a blog about my trend forecast for 2021 a couple of weeks ago:
I think the Fintech industry will grow a lot over the next couple of years and I see more niche players coming in to provide solutions for underserved groups. The biggest trend right now is Trading but apart from that Financial Health Apps will play a big role – I assume that through open banking they are going to bundle all the current and savings accounts of their users and will help the user to make smarter financial decisions.
Any tips for people looking for a new job in FinTech?
For people without any experience:
Keep in mind that especially Start-ups are more flexible when it comes to e.g. University degrees or years of experience. Therefore if you want to work for a company and you’re passionate about their mission – chances are high they will have at least a chat with you to explore future opportunities (and if you’re lucky they might as well hire you because they see your passion for the company)
For people with experience:
FinTech’s need people that understand Financial Services, but also have a Start-up mindset.
First and foremost FinTech’s want to deliver better banking and financial services and therefore need people that know the status quo of certain services and Pain points that need to be solved. If you’re working in an FS/Banking company right now and you feel that you’re always trying to implement changes and bringing in ideas but they are not heard – change to a Start-up. If you want to do your job better and certain measures need to be implemented faster for that – join a Start-up. If you’re okay with your current role, you love the 9 to 5 and you’re okay that decisions on requests might be taking months, then stay in a corporate environment.
What are the main FinTech companies you work with?
We work across all stages with Fintech companies, therefore we have seed/pre-seed stage companies, but also early + growth stage companies and “established” Fintechs. Our focus for pre-seed/seed companies is usually to set up a small Software Engineering team to build the MVP and someone that can handle Business Development and Investor relations. If the company is in a Growth stage we put more focus on a strong Sales and Marketing team that can drive the company forward. Apart from that, we’re looking for Software Engineers when the client is planning e.g. to include more features/new products in his services. Established client have their biggest pain point in finding the right people for their compliance department but at the same time need to scale Sales, Marketing, and Software Engineering.
What’s your favourite thing about working at MA?
Honestly, the first day I walked into the MA office I felt like I’m at home. The people at MA are just like family to me. That’s what I love about it – people and work culture. Everybody here is so dedicated to their job and at the same time so supportive to colleagues. No matter what happens – everybody is very supportive and understanding. I think the people at MA present a very unique mix of competitiveness and support. So, we’re all striving to be better than yesterday but at the same time we want our colleagues to achieve their goals as well and we are helping them anyway we can.
What's one thing that’s coming up in 2021 that you're excited about?
The vaccine? Haha, I can’t wait to go home and see my family again! Apart from that, I’m excited to see how people will react to the “back to normal” situation. Sure people started paying cashless and using mobile apps, but will it last? Maybe it was just a forced reaction given by the circumstances and people will *actually* go back to normal and pretend these things never happened.
I’m also excited to see the Fintech newcomers this year – I’ve talked to a couple of C-Level Execs last year that are building their own Fintech now and I’m super excited to see what they’re working on and how their ideas will take off!