Fintech is the latest niche to become hot for bespoke training
Training and Development

Fintech is the latest niche to become hot for bespoke training

It seems like everyone wants a piece of fintech. With global investment in fintech continuing to scale – doubling to $8.4 billion in Q2 2017 –  it’s more than clear that there is a big opportunity afoot, but getting started can be a complex web.

The University of Oxford has become the latest prestigious institution to launch its own fintech course that aims to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Oxford Fintech Programme has been designed by the Saïd Business School to help executives and entrepreneurs to build their financial technology products and services and keep up with the technology that is constantly threatening to upend the traditional players.

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Some of the key areas it will focus on are blockchain, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing and the course will use rather broad brushstrokes to cover a multitude of different areas.

“Students have an opportunity to dive much deeper into one particular area that might interest them,” explains David Shrier, a fintech entrepreneur and business author who is running the course with Nir Vulkan, associate professor of business economics at Oxford Saïd.

The demographics for who might take part in this online course is split between two groups – entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. The former are people looking to start their own fintech business while the latter are professionals already working in a financial institution that are looking for ways to innovate with fintech within their corporation. The one thing that binds these people, says Shrier, is a common belief in the need to reposition themselves for major changes and job restructuring and losses in the finance sector, this so-called “new world order”.

The course material has contributors from different aspects of the finance sector, whether it’s entrepreneurs or regulators that can provide their insight. Shrier refers to this as the worked example. “These are people who are doing it themselves and they’re showing you how they think about the problem.”

“We’re seeking to reproduce the Oxford tutorial system,” he adds, where people will work online but in teams to develop their business plans and understand how their idea will interact with regulation.

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The organisers have sought to replicate Oxford’s hands-on approach to learning by dividing students into groups to deliver assignments and eventually a business plan. This is difficult to scale with an online course with hundreds of students though, so the course has been built on a platform created by edtech company GetSmarter, which Shrier says allows for better managing and oversight of students. Every few dozen students have a coach, every hundred or so has a mentor, and finally the main teaching team overseeing the entire course.

“That three-tier model is a way of delivering a very high touch digital learning experience and so the results of that we see is people get better learning outcomes,” says Shrier, claiming that this model leads to up to 20 times higher completion rates for the course. Online courses have been dogged by poor completion rates in the past.

Others prefer a more traditional model. MIT’s Sloan School of Management first introduced its fintech course in late 2015, with limited spaces for 60 people over seven weeks. It’s since been extended to a permanent semester-long course and is seeing increasing demands, according to Matthew Rhodes-Kropf, associate professor of finance, who teaches on the course: “I end up having to reject a number of people from the class.”

“The number one reason why it started was the interest from the communities and the students,” he says. “The main objective is to make sure people are understanding all that is going on in fintech, give them a way to start their firms.”

The MIT program follows a similar route to standard entrepreneur courses but comes with a mix of engineering, computer science, and business students.

“They’re coming together to start a fintech business of some kind, and this provides them [with] an [entrepreneurial] forum to go through, but with other groups of people who are working on fintech companies.”

Similar to the Oxford program, MIT enlists speakers and contributors that are doing things on a practical level in different areas – “Something on cryptocurrencies, something on regtech [or] something on insurtech” – and students are expected to work in groups to develop a viable business strategy.

MIT is just one of several major universities in the US that have developed online and in-person fintech programs to address the growing demand and interest around the burgeoning sector. Stanford, Columbia, and New York University’s Stern School of Business to name a few have all launched similar programs.

This has trickled down to smaller education institutions. Singapore’s finance regulator MAS, which has contributed knowledge to courses Stateside, is now supporting an initiative back home with Germany’s Fidor Bank to bring fintech courses to several of Singapore’s polytechnic schools. Ngee Ann Polytechnic will run the first pilot – the school has been quick to embrace new technologies, recently announcing plans to issue diplomas on the blockchain.

Courses like these will be necessary to help make sense of the constant changes in fintech but also the major opportunities, says Shrier, especially in creating new jobs and stimulating small businesses globally.

“We need to create 600 million new jobs in the next 15 years in Asia and Africa to prevent widespread catastrophe and the engine of growth for creating new jobs is small businesses. They create four out of five new jobs,” he says. “What’s holding them back is that 95% of those small businesses don’t have adequate access to credit and fintech can help solve that problem of giving small businesses access to the money they need to grow and create new jobs.”

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Jonathan Keane

Jonathan Keane is a freelance journalist, living in Ireland, covering business and technology

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