Financial technology revenues are expected to grow 600% in the next seven years, from $245 billion to $1.5 trillion, according to a report released in May by Boston Consulting Group.
In spite of challenges that have plagued the industry since early 2022, BCG predicts the fintech sector, which currently holds 2% of the $12.5 trillion financial services revenue globally, will grow up to 7% – and colleges and universities are taking note.
Last week, the Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute announced the creation of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in financial technology.
“The fintech sector has grown immensely. If we look at, for instance, ChatGPT, generative AI has been around for a while, but ChatGPT made some major strides. [Financial] businesses are looking to hire individuals with AI training that can come in and can take AI and apply it to business,” explained Kwamie Dunbar, associate professor of finance and director of the master’s fintech program.
“Technology is pretty broad, but understanding financial data is much different. In finance, we say that financial data tends to have long tails in the distribution system, and the tails are what we're concerned about because that's where significant losses [can be]. We just need one bad experience and you're completely wiped out,” Dunbar said. “Most banks are heavily involved in hiring talent that comes with training in AI that is applicable to finance where they could help to build tools.”
WPI is no newcomer to fintech. For the last 20 years, the technology school has operated its Wall Street/FinTech Project Center in New York City, where seniors work for seven weeks on a capstone project within investment banking or financial services.
The new degree offerings are WPI’s answer to the needs of its industry partners — big banks like Barclays and JPMorgan Chase — who’ve expressed a need for skilled professionals with not just financial know-how, but technology know-how as well.
Fintech degree programs have been popping up at colleges and universities across the country over the past few years. Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska was among the first in the nation to offer a fintech degree in 2019, born out of the understanding that financial services companies were seeking employees skilled in harnessing data.
“Compared to five to ten years ago, the finance field has become far more data-driven in all sub-disciplines of finance, including investments, corporate finance, banking, risk, and insurance,” Creighton Associate Professor of Finance Lee Dunham, who created the fintech major, told Forbes at the time. “Consequently, having students just acquire the relevant finance ‘textbook knowledge’ is increasingly becoming insufficient to remain competitive in the workforce.”
Dunham predicted then that Creighton’s position as one of the only universities offering a fully fledged fintech degree would be short lived, and he was right: New Jersey Institute of Technology developed a fintech degree in 2021. Programs have since popped up at the University of Central Florida (2021), Jacksonville University (2022), Augustana University in South Dakota (2023) and University of Utah (2023), among others.
Meanwhile, Creighton’s program has grown, too, to more than 70 undergraduate students, which a spokesperson dubbed as “pretty good growth.”
At WPI, Dunbar hopes to lean into Massachusetts’ prominence in the fintech startup world — he said the state typically ranks third in venture funding going to its companies, behind New York and California — in making WPI a hub of its own. The university will host its first annual Fintech for Inclusivity, Growth, and the Future conference from Oct. 19 through 21 alongside the Future Finance and Economics Association, a global fintech conference group based in Europe.
The conference, he said, is meant to bring together practitioners, academics and students to explore the issues fintechs face today and discuss the future of fintech research. It will mark FFEA’s first conference in the U.S.