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Financial Innovation — From Machine Learning To Blockchain — Gains Ground On MBAs

Employer demand for managers who can harness financial technology heats up

Business schools are accelerating their efforts to provide MBA students with an education in financial innovation such as machine learning and blockchain as employer demand for managers trained in those areas heats up.

“Data is the engine” that will empower the financial industry, says Christian Nelissen, senior VP for data and analytics with TD Bank. “To do that we need to foster the development of a strong culture of innovation and the talent to support it.” 

TD Bank has just donated $1 million to a new “FinHub” at Rotman School of Management in Toronto. The center will create new classes and learning opportunities for students in financial innovation in the school’s MBA, master of finance, and master of financial risk management programs. It will “attract the best researchers as well as students who are interested in studying financial innovation” says Rotman finance professor Peter Christoffersen. 

The cash injection highlights how the financial industry is, increasingly, turning to academic institutions in search of technological innovation and talent. The Global Risk Institute in Financial Services is also contributing $150,000 to the new Rotman hub. One recent study by LinkedIn found that the number of adverts for blockchain-related jobs posted on the business networking site had trebled over the past year. “Our students want to become the leaders of large organizations that use fintech, for example in banking,” says Urs Peyer, associate professor of finance at INSEAD. 

Rotman is not alone in its effort to provide fintech content to its students. Oxford University’s Said Business School recently created a new online program to help meet the challenges of the rapidly changing financial services industry.

Banks and other financial institutions such as asset managers are scrambling to harness the power of fintech in a bid to slash costs and speed up processes which run on their legacy IT systems. According to Oxford, between two million and six million jobs will be lost over the next decade due to disruptive financial technologies like artificial intelligence — which includes machine learning — and blockchain. At the same time, there are massive opportunities in the fintech space, with thousands of new ventures in all segments of finance. 

“Technology and the mobile revolution are rapidly transforming financial markets, institutions, and business models,” says Peter Tufano, dean of Oxford’s business school. The program “will provide entrepreneurs and executives with the insights and knowledge necessary to navigate this changing landscape, and adapt and progress in their careers”. 

The course features over 60 experts from banking and technology such as Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and Anne Boden, CEO at mobile-based Starling Bank.

While there are many short programs for working managers, business schools say such content will become a growing part of the full-time MBA curriculum in the coming years. “Fintech and AI — these are techniques that are improving the analytical capabilities of data scientists and therefore they are capabilities that MBAs need to know about,” says David B Yoffie, professor of international business administration at Harvard Business School. 

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