It’s interesting how a trip to Australia can spur many things: a fondness for prawns, a fear of crocodiles, a rousing game of knifey-spoony. For Associate Professor of Finance at Creighton University Lee Dunham, PhD, a vacation down under gave him the idea for a new finance and technology (FinTech) major.
Dunham noticed a huge national investment in FinTech in Australia, particularly in the startup space.
“I thought, okay, maybe there is something important here if a country is investing significant money into supporting a FinTech hub. So I started looking deeper and deeper,” Dunham said.
The result of this discovery is a highly relevant FinTech major offered by Creighton’s Heider College of Business. The FinTech major grounds students equally in both finance and technology. Students take five courses in each discipline. Tech classes include Python Programming, Machine Learning, Blockchain and Foundations of FinTech.
Students will emerge with the requisite financial knowledge and technical facility to be competitive in a job field where technology is constantly shifting the landscape. Creighton has hired two new Business Intelligence and Analytics (BIA) faculty to support the program, beginning in the Fall 2019 semester.
“Compared to five years ago, the field of finance has become far more data driven in all subdisciplines of finance,” Dunham said. “Having finance majors just acquire the relevant finance textbook knowledge is increasingly becoming insufficient to be competitive in the workforce.”
Dunham felt that the college could do better to prepare students for today’s job market.
“Our students are always getting jobs, but I just think they’re having a harder and a harder time competing lately,” Dunham said. “I think that had something to do with the fact that we had not invested in our curriculum to give them the tech skills background needed to be a finance person, in general, in the profession.”
Students will gain some background in multiple kinds of programming during their time in the FinTech major, especially Python. Dunham said Python has become the go-to language for structuring data to be used by machine learning algorithms. This knowledge will make them eligible for jobs at a wide range of organizations, from cutting-edge startups to massive global enterprises.
Dunham said that although most people associate FinTech with startups, larger enterprises are starting to implement automation, AI, machine learning, and data-driven decisionmaking into their work as a matter of course.
“For example, First National Bank right here in town has created a new innovation group. They are not a startup, but they know they’re about to get their lunch eaten by startups, potentially, so they’re getting out in front of it and trying to do something about it,” Dunham said.
Ultimately, Dunham hopes the new FinTech major will help students be successful after college, whether they start a FinTech company of their own, join an existing startup, or pursue a career in a large enterprise.
“The skill set requires them to have a tech background more so than it did ten years. That’s the hole we’re trying to fill,” Dunham said.
Tom McCauley is digital content producer at the AIM Institute and a terrible standup comedian.