"What do you think of Bitcoin?"
This is a question students from all over campus keep asking me. The frequency and diversity of the population asking that question - from freshmen to those working on their Masters' theses, tells me two things: people are wildly interested in cryptocurrencies and they are woefully underinformed about them.
Apparently, I'm not the only person fielding such questions; nor am I the only one who recognises that there is a gulf between interest and availability of information about FinTech.
For a sector still experiencing growing pains - the FinTech industry is a mere 12 years old, it sure has made a lot of waves. And promises to make many more.
Until recently, FinTech has been the purview of the coding culture. Even after the first Bitcoin was mined in 2009, nobody took the principle very seriously; everyone thought it was a fad (at best) or an elaborate pyramid scheme (at worst). Even today, some believe that FinTech must be a rich man's folly.
Not everyone thinks that way. In fact, many are beginning to see all of the possibilities inherent in blockchain technology and, to prepare the next generation of FinTech movers and shakers - and those of this generation, universities around the world are putting courses together.
|FinTech degree courses;|
|University FinTech courses in the UK: University of Edinburgh, University of Westminster, Nottingham Trent University, University of Birmingham and others|
|Universities that offer FinTech courses in the US: University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Duke University, Georgetown University and others.|
|Where to find FinTech courses in India: IILM University, BSE Institute, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research|
|Where to study FinTech in Australia: Swinburne University, Monash University|
|FinTech courses in Europe: Harbour Space University, Spain; Milano School of Management, Italy; University of Malta; ADG Business School, Germany; and others|
Let's take a closer look at some of these offerings.
FinTech Courses in the UK
Judging by how many international students UK universities welcome each year, the secret must be no longer secret: the UK is home to some of the world's finest institutes of higher learning. We're not just talking about Cambridge and Oxford, either, although those two have lodged themselves permanently at the top of university league tables.
Though their main claim to fame is in traditional academics - maths, sciences and literature, these schools nevertheless offer more progressive fare, including courses in FinTech.
At Oxford, you would enrol in the Saïd Business School. Their six-week course could serve as an introduction to a full-length degree plan; it covers all the basics of FinTech... but, beware: it is geared more towards understanding FinTech's role in the current business and financial structures, not on FinTech as an industry in itself.
Besides, this course is offered only online. We'll go into online course offerings in this article's last segment. For now, let's use our valuable space to talk about UK universities that list in-person degree programmes designed to help you enter and succeed in the FinTech industry.
Nottingham Trent University offers a postgraduate FinTech course. This yearlong, in-house programme prepares you to mesh aspects of the current financial industry with the FinTech industry by blending elements of finance and computer coding into one seamless learning experience.
By contrast, the University of Edinburgh Business School offers a full graduate programme in Finance, Technology and Policy. The course title speaks for itself but we have to gush, just a little bit, about how well this course is structured and what you can learn.
As this is a Masters'-level course, you will have to already know about data value chains, financial valuations, principles of data analytics and, of course, Python coding. The school considers these elements as prerequisites, though not formally. Nevertheless, your first semester in the programme will be spent reviewing these concepts.
The second semester is when new material is introduced. You'll focus on subjects such as applied machine learning, today's financial market microstructure, and financial innovation perspectives. Their elective courses are particularly intriguing:
- blockchain and cryptofinance
- financial machine learning
- ethics and artificial intelligence
- pattern recognition in financial data
- technology entrepreneurship
That last subject, in particular, would provide valuable lessons if you, like so many others in the tech world, wanted to make the jump from work in a regular programming position in a tech firm to launching your own start-up.
FinTech Courses in the US
Thanks to the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, no country can claim credit for the first official cryptocurrency transaction with any veracity. However, we can truthfully state that the US has generally been a leader of technological innovation, including FinTech.
Their list of schools offering degrees in FinTech bear that assertion out; just consider the illustrious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for starters.
MIT is famous for developing radar technology (during the Second World War), designing the first digital circuits and developing several computer programming languages, among other discoveries. It is also home to the World Wide Web consortium. Thus, it should come as no surprise that MIT's Sloan School of Management pioneered one of the earliest FinTech courses.
Not to be outdone, Stanford University adopted a similar programme shortly after MIT launched theirs in 2016. However, this school takes a different tack; focusing more on the business narrative. Students explore the difficulties already-established institutions have with keeping apace of the dizzying speed of technological developments and how they can best prepare today's companies to adapt to those changes.
Of all US universities teaching FinTech, New York University's programme is the most comprehensive and progressive.
Their well-rounded course focuses on tech-enabled business models, specifically addressing blockchain technology and digital currencies; financial information systems - the boards you see in practically every stock market snapshot, and fintech risk management and personal finance.
Clearly, this is a school that gets why FinTech is important. If you wanted to know all you can about this burgeoning industry, the NYU programme would serve you well.
FinTech Courses Around the World
The UK and US are hives of FinTech activity but we can't ignore the excellent courses offered by other schools around the world.
India's Institute of Integrated Learning in Management, IILM University in Gurgaon offers one of the most comprehensive FinTech courses in the country. It is a two-year, on-campus programme that covers everything from emerging technologies for payment systems to tailoring consumer experiences to encourage the growth of the FinTech industry.
Germany's educational initiatives leave little to be desired; plenty of universities offer courses that, at least, touch on aspects of FinTech. But if you want the whole enchilada, you must direct yourself to the ADG Business School in Montabaur. You may choose between their Master in Banking and Finance track or Digital Information and Business Transformation track, both of which broach FinTech concepts.
If you've more of a hankering for sunny Spain, Harbour.Space University is the school for you. They've developed courses for many aspects of computer science, including digital marketing, cybersecurity, data science... but the jewel in their crown has got to be their FinTech courses.
Their full-time study programme calls for a few prerequisites; students should have a well-developed understanding of technology and quantitative skills. If you have those, you're welcome to learn everything you need to know about FinTech while picking up on the 'move fast and break things' vibe.
We round out this segment with Vrije University in the Netherlands. There, you will learn traditional elements of finance and study the latest developments in data science, including FinTech. Indeed, The Connected World is one of this institute's four interdisciplinary themes.
This is a full-time, in-person study programme, taught at their Amsterdam campus.
We could continue listing fine institutes of higher learning around the world that have embraced teaching about FinTech but, before we go, we should touch on one more avenue of FinTech education to consider.
Online FinTech Courses
It would seem a no-brainer to take courses in financial technology online; not just because the pandemic makes remote learning more or less essential but because technology is baked right into the subject. We'll not discuss the (many) merits of online education here; we only want to tell you about the top-rated online courses specializing in FinTech.
Topping the list is the University of Hong Kong's FinTech Professional's Certificate programme. It takes five months to complete and touches on all of the essentials needed to land a job in the field. It's a hybrid self-paced/instructor-led course that you need to dedicate at least four hours per week to - and that's just face time. You'll spend longer than that on independent work.
If you've researched or taken any type of online course, you might have your eyebrow raised right about now. The University of Hong Kong is the top pick? Not Coursera?
Coursera offers many excellent study programmes; indeed, they even have some for FinTech. Some of them are taught by the Hong Kong staff while others enlist different schools to lead the instruction, but all of them offer far less than the aforementioned programme does.
For instance, the Coursera class takes only 15 hours to complete, and it doesn't delve nearly as deeply into the subject matter. It is strictly a self-paced course; no instructor input to keep you motivated and learning. Finally, where the first programme we mentioned assigns you a hands-on project to complete as well as videos, quizzes and extra reading material, Coursera only offers the last three.
Coursera has lots of study modules related to FinTech - FinTech Foundations and Overview, to name just one but, even put together, they don't quite match the calibre of the University of Hong Kong's programme.
Although one of them has a nifty review on how FinTech got its start...
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