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Bitcoin Blockchain: Elite B-Schools Set To Launch New FinTech MBA Programs

New courses highlight enthusiasm for financial tech

Thu Feb 11 2016

Two top-ranked US business schools are developing fintech programs for MBAs, BusinessBecause has learnt — highlighting the growing enthusiasm at elite schools for the business world’s sexiest topic.

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business this year introduced a new course on fintech for MBAs that explores topics such as payments and the blockchain — the record of asset ownership that underpins bitcoin.

A stone’s throw from Silicon Valley fintech groups such as Square, Stripe and Coinbase, the school has moved away from the finance department’s roots in investment banking.

A number of students are now flocking to the San Francisco school because they are keen to join start-ups shaking up finance in the Bay Area.

“There is a lot of demand from employers and the start-ups here for people who understand fintech,” said Adair Morse, assistant professor for the Haas Finance Group.

“The big banks are very interested in integrating more technology,” she said, adding that students have a lot of opportunities to be part of a new wave of innovation.

MIT Sloan School of Management plans to significantly expand its fintech offering. It is developing content to extend its FinTech Ventures program into a semester-long course.

It has been approached by financial institutions including BlackRock, the world’s largest fund house, which are interested in involvement in the course, potentially sponsoring student teams.

“Existing players are really interested in this space,” said Antoinette Schoar, MIT Sloan professor of entrepreneurial finance.

MIT Sloan’s FinTech Ventures program focused on helping participants build fintech businesses and explored payments, trading and the blockchain. “A number of students are launching start-ups in fintech [sectors], from peer-to-peer lending to ‘roboadvisors’,” Antoinette said.

Elite students are surging into the nascent industry, lured by the promise of MBA jobs, fast-growth and disruption of the world's biggest banks.

“Fintech — apps and digital services for banking and making payments — is a growing area,” said Sue Thorn, director of careers at Warwick Business School in the UK.

In Hong Kong, the fintech industry is forecast for “relatively positive hiring”, said Tina Lee, director of CUHK Business School’s Career Management Center.

The frenzy has seen a number of business schools dive into the topic over the past year. They are following the lead set by NYU Stern and Duke Fuqua, which offer MBAs programs focused on bitcoin and the blockchain.

USC’s Marshall School of Business in January launched a formal fintech course. Themes being explored include alternative lending platforms, big data, bank disintermediation, innovation in payments, and digital currencies.

Top fintech executives have also been lined up as guest speakers, including from SoFi, the $4 billion peer-to-peer lender founded by a throng of Stanford business school students.

USC Marshall is “at the forefront of fintech education” said James Healy, VP of business development at FastPay, the payments start-up, who will be a course instructor.

Wharton Fintech, thought to be the first fintech professional club at a business school, has hundreds of members, who have secured jobs at companies in the space such as Apple Pay, Wealthfront, and Nerdwallet.

“Fintech has graduated to buzzword now,” Paulynn Yu, a Wharton MBA candidate, recently wrote in a blog post. Wharton School could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile IE Business School of Spain and Imperial College Business School in the UK have recently teamed up with large financial services firms including Citi and Santander to explore the impact of the blockchain and to help fintech start-ups raise venture capital.  

“There has been a very recent increase in interest amongst MBA students in fintech,” said Mark Davies, employer relations manager at Imperial College.