Imperial College Business School Takes the Lead in the Fintech Area

Imperial College Business School Takes the Lead in the Fintech Area main image

The Center for Global Finance and Technology at Imperial College Business School aims to teach you about the crossroads of technology, finance, business, and society. Established three years ago, the center grew out of a strategic relationship with Citibank, says center Director Andrei Kirilenko.

Interest in fintech has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. Schools, such as Imperial and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, have been leading the scholarship and teaching in this area. Their foundation in engineering and technology with prominent business schools makes them ideal headquarters for this new sector of study, says Kirilenko.  

“This area requires so many thoughtful eyes and well-trained people, so the more the better,” he says.

New home

In September 2019, Imperial’s center will gain a space at the school’s new campus in White City, London. Hopefully the campus will promote innovation, says Kirilenko.

“It used to be that you educated students and then sent them to go get a job,” he says. “Now, we need to educate students to go out and create new jobs.”

The center covers three main areas of study, and it will continue to focus on research and outreach. Some is aimed at regulators, hungry for such information.

  • Technology and financial markets: Some of the topics covered in this area may include new ways to connect buyers and sellers or automated trading. The gist is how technology, regulations, and finance come together.
  • Digital money and payments: Countries that are almost entirely cashless exist; most are moving away from cash to digital instruments, this includes credit cards but also instruments, such as World Pay. These transactions create loads of data, which can inform people about the future. Cryptosolutions and artificial intelligence are about to revolutionize these companies. One of the center’s projects is the Digital Money Index, which is a rank of nations based on their digital money preparedness.
  • Cryptocurrency/cryptoassets/cryptokens: Kirilenko is keen for the center’s participants to develop their knowledge in this space. “The technology is truly amazing,” he says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Although, Kirilenko says the technology was 40 years in the making, Bitcoin became its killer app, which has drawn the interest of academics, investors, and tech geeks alike. The center is looking at tokenomics and the use of blockchain technology, features of value, risk related to cryptocurrency. Soon, Kirilenko will release a taxology of cryptocurrency that he describes as a “kind of Periodic Table of Elements for crypto.”

Digital advancements

With this rigorous research, the center aims to reach, in part, regulators trying to navigate the newly established fintech zone.

“Regulators and the public need to be better informed about digital technologies,” says Kirilenko. “Outreach is an important part of the center’s mission.”

While some of the scholarship makes its way into class discussions or case studies, Kirilenko and his colleagues mostly reach students through courses. In Algorithmic Trading, students use an open-source platform to build a quantitative hedge fund. They consider everything, including risk management and automated execution, then, they pitch the idea to financial market participants. Students work in teams and part of the class is offered online.

Students also have gone to Cornell Tech on New York’s Roosevelt Island. There, they worked together and visited the New York Stock Exchange, IDX, and quant hedge funds. It’s an attempt to show them how things are done in the real world.

“We should be able to take students out of the traditional classroom and take them to an environment that closely resembles one they are being educated to join,” says Kirilenko.

Real-world experiences

In fact, he argues it’s almost impossible to teach at the intersection of financial markets and digital technology in front of a white board. So, the center and the school try to demonstrate theory, rather than merely lecture.

Now, there’s a student investment fund. Imperial provided a small portion of its endowment for students to manage, and they’ll use the new campus as a home base.

Imperial will continue to use its history as a hotbed for technological innovation to drive its presence in the fintech area. Kirilenko says he hopes the center becomes a voice for the future of financial markets as they become more and more influenced and taken over by digital advancements.

“We are driven by the needs of the industry and society,” he says. “This research and work has to be done. We as an educational institution are doing our part.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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