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New MathWorks Research Finds Graduates Lack Skills Demanded by Financial Services Industry

62% of finance professionals believe there is a skills gap affecting the industry 

MathWorks, the developer of MATLAB and Simulink, today releases research into the skills gap facing the financial services industry.  Financial services professionals stressed the need for graduates with a strong combination of maths and IT skills and experience of solving real-world problems.  62% of those surveyed confirmed there is a skills gap affecting the industry and 34% felt it has worsened over the last three years.

These results support those from other international surveys, such as the 2013 edition of the programme for international student achievement (Pisa) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which found UK students are underperforming in maths and science, in comparison with other countries.

Experts from the Financial Services industry discussed the skills gap – the difference between the skills required of graduates by industry, and those that they actually possess and the results made for uncomfortable reading. Given the extremely data-centric nature of their industry, a majority of those surveyed felt that most students were falling far short of requirements, with more than one in three suggesting that the divide has increased over the last three years.

With a focus on practical solutions, the experts suggested approaches to bridging the gap. Key paths to success that were identified included the application of real-world learning, with academia and industry collaborating to enhance student preparations for their careers, and the combining of multiple STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects to merge theory and application and provide a strong basis in data analytics.

Key findings:

  • Over 60% said that there is a skills gap affecting the financial sector
  • 34% of respondents felt it is worsening over the last three years, while 53% felt it had stayed the same
  • 44% felt that integrating real-world problems into curricula could help close the skills gap
  • 40% felt secondary schools in the UK should provide a stronger focus on IT and Maths
  • 37% felt university students should be encouraged to combine IT and Maths skills
  • Respondents felt graduates needed improved skills in maths, statistics, and data analysis

Steve Wilcockson, Industry Manager, Financial Services, MathWorks explained: “Effective models have become the key to success for financial firms, as they seek to harness the wealth of data they hold, and gain a competitive advantage over their rivals. As such, the Financial Services industry seeks to recruit graduates capable of both understanding complex mathematical equations, and of implementing them through code. Our survey has made for worrying reading, as finance experts describe current student cohorts as potentially lacking the core skills required to succeed in their industry.

Science, technology and maths skills are fundamental for students taking up careers in the financial services industry that now demands strong data analytics.  Industry and academia need to work together to address this problem and ensure students are well prepared for their future careers by understanding the needs of industry and reflecting this in curricula.  Whether through guest lectures, providing practical examples of real-world problems or by internship programmes, industry needs to become more engaged in the development of graduates.  Also, integrating industry standard software, hardware and thinking into the curriculum, students can effectively prepare for their future careers and enhance their ability to hit the ground running once employed.”


The survey was conducted through 43 in-person interviews. While the survey was carried out in London, the majority of the firms represented have a global presence.

Respondents were drawn from the buy- and sell-sides and academia. This includes hedge funds, institutional investors, banks (including proprietary trading desks), broker/dealers and university lecturers.

Respondents’ job titles ranged from Quantitative Analyst, to Head of Quantitative Research on the sell-side; and from Investment Research Director, and Fund Manager, to Partner, on the buy-side.