The independent news organization of Duke University

Pratt to launch new financial technology master’s program

A new Master of Engineering in Financial Technology program is set to arrive at the Pratt School of Engineering in 2020. 

FinTech services, such as Venmo, ATMs and mobile banking, aim to use technology to make financial interactions faster and more efficient. To learn how to work in the field, students in the new program will take three semesters of classes ranging from computer science and finance to management and strategy, said Emma Rasiel, teaching director of the Duke Financial Economics Center. 

“Today’s combination of smartphones, artificial intelligence-based algorithms, and the emergence of blockchain-based technologies will fundamentally change the financial services landscape in the future,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, the Vinik dean of engineering at Duke, in a news release. “This future will be built by technologically savvy professionals with the kind of knowledge base students can gain in our new FinTech master’s program.”

A project-based capstone course will tie together the concepts that students learn in their classes and allow them to gain hands-on experience with the tools of the industry. Students will be required to complete an internship during their studies.

The University of California, Berkeley is the only other institution in America to run the program out of an engineering school as opposed to a business school, Rasiel noted.

“Engineering is where this kind of learning belongs,” said Jimmie Lenz, academic director of the program and executive in residence in the Pratt School of Engineering. “It’s much more attuned to what engineers do because engineers build things. They’re taught in a hands-on kind of way, which is the way I’ve always taught.”

Running the program out of Pratt will allow students to engage in a more detailed and rigorous course of study in technology, Rasiel said.

“One of the things that we hear all the time from financial firms is that they don’t have people within the firm who can communicate both with the technology folks,” Rasiel said. “They need people who understand both sides of the equation who can bridge the gap between the technology and the profitable operations of the firm.”

Students will graduate from Duke’s program ready to tackle both sides of the industry, she added, generating solutions while remaining knowledgeable about the financial context. Duke is currently accepting applications for the program.

However, Rasiel explained that the program is training students for managerial and strategist positions, not coding jobs. 

“FinTech is revolutionizing the ways we bank, travel, buy things, take out mortgages, refinance student loans—the potential for students is almost endless, but so is the demand for these skills,” Lenz explained.

He added that he also expects FinTech firms to offer to collaborate with faculty and students in the program.

With regard to both new faculty and students, Lenz added that bringing new perspectives into the program is crucial for students to fully understand FinTech as a global industry.

“There’s as much FinTech innovation going on in Asia as there is in North America,” he said. “I really hope we have a global class that students can appreciate and use to learn from their colleagues, their peers, about different elements of FinTech they may not be as aware of because of the geographic limitations.”

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