Some Public, Private MA Universities Adapting to Rise of Tech in Finance Industry, but Students Still Insufficiently Prepared

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New report recommends establishing additional coursework, certification and degree-program tracks addressing fintech

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BOSTON – A new report by Pioneer Institute shows that while the finance and insurance industries are changing rapidly, course requirements and skill-building opportunities at Massachusetts higher education institutions are still evolving to meet job demands, presenting an opportunity for state higher education institutions to create programs that give Massachusetts students a competitive edge in the age of fintech – diverse digital technology changes impacting banking, insurance, and other sectors of the finance industry.

In Preparing Students for a Future in Fintech, Eamon McCarthy Earls argues that colleges and universities must adapt their business and computer science programs to reflect changes and intersections in financial services.

“Financial services employs hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts and has long been a core strength and competitive advantage for the state,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute. “The region’s technology strengths are also well-known. With coming tech-based changes, we need to be ready to expand our advantages, and our public universities and colleges can play a crucial role.”

Although a recent Boston Consulting Group study found the use of artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning techniques could result in the loss of up to 90,000 asset management jobs globally by 2027, Earls argues that fintech innovation may not always have negative impacts on jobs numbers if students are prepared for the new demands.

“You need to have people with [an awareness of] software development, Python, C++ and the ability to have strong math skills,” said Mark Williams, a professor who developed a new fintech revolution course at Boston University. “Fintech’s much more quantitatively inclined.”

Earls highlights some of the efforts to “fill the skills gap” in light of these changes, both by private and public universities, including Brandeis University’s option of a fintech track with an MS in Finance degree. Other examples are the MIT Sloan School’s interdisciplinary course on fintech business model creation incorporating business, engineering, and computer science students, and UC-Berkeley’s course and certification program in Blockchain Fundamentals.

Massachusetts’ public universities and colleges have begun integrating fintech material into students’ coursework as well. The UMass Boston College of Management has started overhauling its Ph.D. to become more technically focused, while the UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management reports growing student interest in AI and machine learning. UMass Lowell and UMass Online also offer some fintech-related coursework.

However, Earls notes that apart from these initiatives, public universities do not necessarily prepare students for a changing finance workforce. “We find that as our students are hitting the job market, the questions employers are asking them [are different],” said UMass Boston College of Management Dean Arindam Bandopadhyaya. “They end up in finance companies doing technology-heavy jobs.”

Earls concludes that despite some recent changes, Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities must give students, particularly in finance and computer science tracks, additional preparation to be ready for employment in these industries. His recommendations include creating a statewide board to advise on the evolution of fintech that includes industry professionals, experts, and public university and community college personnel who would examine relevant course offerings, professional certifications, tracks within relevant degree programs and aligning those offerings.

About the Author

Eamon McCarthy Earls is a writer, researcher and Town Council member in the Town of Franklin. He is the author of multiple books and holds bachelor’s degrees in History and Geology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, as well as an MBA, and serves on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association.

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.