Fintech courses put facts at the fingertips

    PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 9:36am
    UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 9:36am

    Financial technology, or fintech, has long been regarded by financial institutions as the major source of disruption in their industry. Surprisingly, however, a large number of institutions still have no reliable fintech strategy to deal with the existing and expected disruptions.

    With ambitions of supplying fintech leadership beyond Hong Kong to mainland China and the international job market, local universities are launching several postgraduate courses in fintech in 2019 for people working in finance, technology, regulation or fintech itself.

    Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has been designing a postgraduate programme for the best part of 2018, to be launched during the next academic year.

    Combining the university’s main strengths, the one-year fulltime master of science in financial technology (MScFinTech) is jointly offered by HKUST’s schools of business management, engineering and science.

    “The three schools are in synergy, with the directorship rotating between them every two years to avoid silos. Each school contributes courses,” explains professor Tam Kar-yan, dean of the school of business and management. He adds, “We work closely with industry, and talk to banks, asset management firms and regulators. That is why it took us [so long].”

    The eight core courses, which all students must take, include artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, data analysis, corporate finance, financial data mining, fintech regulation and compliance, foundation of fintech and investment analysis. The three schools offer electives and students need to complete 30 credits of coursework.

    Tam also points out that fintech, which is driven by changes in technology, is a fast-changing field and the programme will regularly need to revise its curriculum.

    When working in this constantly evolving industry, Tam also wants to remind prospective students to remember the foundations. “For me, it is back to basics, the very basic transferrable skills: communication, working with people from different backgrounds, positivity, curiosity and working creatively,” he says.

    Programme graduates are expected to be able to analyse the engineering mechanism and financial principles of financial technologies. To get the best out of their programme, they will have the opportunity to participate in workshops, speaker events and other platforms, where they will learn about the most up-to-date questions and problems, as well as their solutions, keeping up with developments in the industry. These events allow them to meet industry representatives, and network. Due to the serious shortage of talent, students also get to work on real fintech projects for companies, giving them excellent work experience.

    People with a heavy workload and long working hours who might prefer to follow their own schedule, will find the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) FinTech Certificate Program, available on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), very convenient.

    Introduction to FinTech, an interdisciplinary professional certificate programme, was launched in May this year, and is awaiting an additional two courses to be launched next year. Together with the upcoming FinTech Ethics and Risks and Blockchain and FinTech: Basics, Applications and Limitations, it will comprise the FinTech Certificate Program. Developed by three faculties – law, business and economics, and engineering – under the leadership of professor Douglas Arner, the fintech course director and chief course designer, the Introduction to FinTech’s design was supported by outstanding academics from a range of disciplines, industry leaders in financial services, technology, legal and compliance, and startups.

    It received support and input from a range of companies and industry chiefs, including Microsoft, Standard Chartered Bank, Thomson Reuters, WeBank, King & Wood Mallesons, Investment Navigator and the FinTech Association of Hong Kong.

    Although it was only published seven months ago, the programme was recognised in the edX Global Forum 2018 as edX’s No.1 Business and Finance Programme, and has reached learners from 198 countries.

    In Hong Kong, it has attracted more than 5,000 learners, with good potential for a wide impact. Apart from fresh graduates and professionals working in finance, technology, regulation or fintech, or students studying business, law and engineering, the course is also mooted as a good introduction for those interested in learning about the interplay between finance and technology and exciting developments in the fintech industry.

    “The Introduction to FinTech MOOC is aimed at providing foundational knowledge of what fintech is and how disruptive technologies, payment, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, AI, big data are driving the transformation of finance,” says Arner, who is also Kerry Holdings’ professor in law.

    Learners are introduced to regtech, regulations in fintech, and the major players in the market, including start-ups, techfins, traditional financial institutions and regulators.” The upcoming FinTech Ethics and Risks MOOC will contribute to the understanding of the ethical elements of finance, emerging technologies and fintech by shedding light on why and how individuals and organisations utilise and regulate AI, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and other fintech solutions.

    The Blockchain and FinTech MOOC, meanwhile, provides learners with a good understanding of the technology, applicability, limitations and “illegal” usage of blockchain technology. Students will learn the design rationale of blockchain technology and its emerging platforms and applications, while uncovering the opportunities enabled by blockchain applications, as well as their limitations.

    Jen Lee, a graduate of the Introduction to FinTech, says the MOOC was well structured, and conductive to quick learning. Lee also appreciated the industry news and supplementary readings.

    “After completing the course, I feel confident discussing topics such as digital finance, financial regulation and blockchain,” Lee says.

    Automation in finance is the main driver of change in the industry’s employment needs. The job outlook in the fintech field is exceptional, as there is a shortage of fintech experts worldwide, necessitating reskilling.

    The HKU MOOCs provide an all-round knowledge of fintech and help those seeking to enter a rapidly developing industry. “In fact, many professionals in financial institutions, law firms, insurance companies, and start-ups have taken our course to gain insights into the industry and boost their credentials,”

    Arner says. “The Blockchain and FinTech MOOC, in particular, will teach practical skills, such as basic coding for developing a blockchain-based platform, to ensure that learners are equipped with all the necessary knowledge and skills.”

    Lee also finds that the experience of completing MOOC was very helpful when looking for a job. “At every job interview that I attended, I was asked about my interest in and knowledge of fintech that I had written about on my résumé. The recruiters saw the certificate as a plus that set me apart from other candidates and were interested to learn more about how the course has shaped my perspective on finance and technology,” Lee says.

    HKUST expects high interest in its new programme. “Our alumni have already asked me about the course several times and they are interested,” Tam says. The university even has a dedicated team to support students’ efforts in looking for a job.

    They arrange internships, graduate placement jobs, send out information to recruiters, and also facilitate recruitment meetings. Career coaching and workshops are all available for future fintech graduates keen to snatch the best jobs on the market.