Bitcoin Blockchain: B-Schools Partner Citi, Santander, MasterCard Amid FinTech Frenzy

Imperial College, Warwick, IE explore financial tech tie-ups

Imperial College Business School has partnered Citigroup to delve into digital currencies such as bitcoin — following a number of top schools teaming up with the likes of Santander and MasterCard to explore the fintech frenzy.

The fourth digital money symposium came a few days after Imperial’s dean revealed that the London school was teaching its MBAs about the technology underpinning bitcoin, the blockchain — among the hottest business topics.

The event marked the release of a report which detailed global digital money adoption.

Excitement around digital currencies has grasped MBA students. Bitcoin MBA clubs have been set-up at Harvard, Stanford, and MIT Sloan, while NYU Stern and Duke’s Fuqua School are teaching formal courses on the blockchain.

Naveed Sultan, global head of treasury and trade solutions at Citi, said at Imperial’s event: “We are now entering the advent of electronic money, which is likely to have the greatest social and economic impact on the world.”

The symposium also marked the opening of a new Centre for Global Finance and Technology at Imperial’s business school.

Professor G Anandalingam, dean of the school, said the center will bring together leading academics to investigate the impact of technology on finance, business and society.

“We recognize that to become the leading centre of global fintech you need both intelligence and business acumen,” the dean said. “The new centre will help bring these elements together.”

Imperial has been a pioneer in the digital technology area, having recently setup the KPMG Data Observatory on its London campus, part of a £20 million tie-up with the professional services firm to explore big data.

“We’re already using data visualizations to teach people to identify critical events in complex live data streams — from money laundering to hack attacks,” said Dr Mark Kennedy, director of the KPMG Centre for Business Analytics at Imperial.

Meanwhile at Warwick Business School’s PayTech Conference in London, fintech leaders charted the growth of mobile payments. Warwick has teamed up with speakers from MasterCard, Atom Bank, Vodafone, and Lloyds Banking Group. It follows Spain’s IE Business School, which has partnered with Santander’s fintech venture capital arm to help start-ups raise finance.

There has been a battle between traditional financial services providers and a new wave of tech entrants, intensified by the launch of Apple Pay.

“Paypal, Apple Pay and Google Wallet have stolen an early march, certainly in the US and Europe, but there are many smaller players with great innovative products,” said Pinar Ozcan, Warwick associate professor of strategic management, at the conference.

The top business schools say there are growing career opportunities in the payments space. The growth of non-traditional finance players has accelerated job creation.

“Companies like MasterCard are competing for talent with other companies in the traditional tech space, such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Amazon, and Microsoft,” said Roxanne Hori, associate dean of corporate relations and career services at NYU Stern School.

Fintech start-ups are further fanning the flames. “We are certainly seeing an uplift in fintech companies hiring,” said Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School.

MBA students are enticed by the prospect of working at disruptive and innovative companies. Start-ups and innovation are “areas of strong interest”, said Sue Kline at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Lara Berkowitz, executive director for the Career Centre at London Business School, said “start-ups continue to be thirsty for talent” in the UK capital, where top fintech businesses such as Funding Circle and TransferWise have raised record amounts of venture capital.

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