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Duke Launches New Master of Engineering in Financial Technology

FinTech master's students will build expertise in developing innovative technological solutions for everyday financial transactions

At the heart of every seamless financial transaction is financial technology, or “FinTech.” It’s the savvy code that lets you pay for your coffee with a wave of your smartwatch, and the machine-learning algorithm that lets you trade stocks from your phone. It’s the app that lets you pay your share of the rent while keeping your bank account number secret. From bitcoin to blockchain, FinTech is changing the way we think about financial services. 

Now, Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and the Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE) have partnered to launch a new Master of Engineering in FinTech, one that will fuel innovation in the finance industry by teaching in-demand computing and programming skills along with industry-specific business fundamentals. Among the first programs of its kind based in an engineering school, Duke’s FinTech degree is designed to prepare graduates to meet growing need for technical expertise in the traditional and emerging finance sectors.  

“Organizations occupying the drastically changing financial services arena are thirsty for employees who understand the practical application of both business and technology,” said Jimmie Lenz, the new program’s academic director, noting that an estimated 25 percent of Goldman Sachs’ current employees are computer engineers. “And,” he added, “it’s not just traditional banking organizations that are interested in diversifying their workforce. Ten percent of startups on last year’s AngelList were FinTech.”

"Technology, law and business professionals have designed our curriculum to serve the needs of both students and finance industry partners, showing that Duke remains at the forefront when it comes to developing solutions for the real world.”

—Ravi Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of Engineering at Duke University 

“Finance has always been math and technology friendly, but 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 University. “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. Technology, law and business professionals have designed our curriculum to serve the needs of both students and finance industry partners, showing that Duke remains at the forefront when it comes to developing solutions for the real world.”

DFE teaching director and Department of Economics faculty member Emma Rasiel, a member of the Duke FinTech steering committee, pointed out that the majority of financial technology programs in the US are run by business schools, while Duke FinTech emphasizes developing solutions using tools such as blockchain, machine learning and secure software development. “Our grads will understand business needs, but they will also understand the range of technologies available, and how to deploy them to address the evolving financial transaction landscape,” she said. 

Nate Rodland, founding COO of commission-free investment and stock-trading app Robinhood, agreed. “In making the Pratt School of Engineering home to its new graduate degree in financial technology, Duke has shown that it understands the skills that employers are looking for from students. Utilizing professors with deep industry experience, as well as impeccable academic credentials, sets this program apart,” said Rodland.

Rasiel stressed that the FinTech program is clearly distinct from degrees focused on what is known as “financial engineering.”  

“Financial engineering is about creating complex financial products for investors to manage return and risk,” she said. “FinTech is different. It’s about facilitating everyday financial transactions at all levels—for individuals, corporations, government organizations—and making them more efficient, more secure and more convenient through technology.” 

The FinTech curriculum consists of courses in programming and software engineering, financial institution products and services, business fundamentals, risk and asset management, and management of high-tech companies, in addition to internship and capstone project components. 

“Graduates of this program will be in great demand from financial firms, tech companies and the new breed of startups that straddle both fields.” 

—Warren Rabin MBA ‘01, JP MORGAN MANAGING DIRECTOR

Rasiel and Lenz said they expect Duke FinTech’s first class to be composed of students with a mix of backgrounds—some with knowledge in computer science or computer engineering but little experience in finance, and some with experience in finance or business who have had little or no exposure to coding. The FinTech program will leverage that diversity to support better outcomes, said Lenz, through blended teams that work to create prototypes for industry sponsors and capstone projects. 

“Duke’s new FinTech curriculum uniquely marries hard-core technological expertise with broad financial acumen,” said JP Morgan managing director Warren Rabin MBA ‘01. “Graduates of this program will be in great demand from financial firms, tech companies and the new breed of startups that straddle both fields.” 

The program is now accepting applications for 2020. 

 

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