The University of Cape town (UCT) has become the first university on the African continent to offer a fintech degree in Financial Technology. From January 2018, students will be able to take a master of data science with a specialization in financial technology; a course that is designed to equip them with the requisite skills and knowledge to embrace the technology revolution in the financial services sector.
Dr. Co-Pierre Georg, the course convener and Senior Lecturer at the African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management (AIFMRM) at UCT says that their close and constant contact with the financial services sector has enabled them to learn about the shifting demand for skills. He notes that in the past, companies were looking for people with advanced mathematical and modelling skills. While there is still a demand for these skills, the largest demand is for people with a good understanding of finance as well as a thorough understanding of modern data analytics and software development.
UCT Fintech degree graduates are expected to gain the requisite skills in Blockchain technology and machine learning. In particular, at the end of the course, students are expected to have a mastery of machine learning methods and be able to develop their own applications.
The new fintech degree is highly interdisciplinary, informed by the fact that the modern work place requires a broad set of skills from different disciplines. The department of statistical science has also played a role in the development of the course. Francesca Little, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of statistical science, commenting on the idea behind the course says that the university started offering a master of data science in order to give students an understanding in the latest methods in statistical learning. This includes artificial intelligence and machine learning, a very exciting field. The idea was to bring together the best minds at UCT to design a unique degree. This led to the creation of the degree in financial technology.
The fintech course will also pay close attention to blockchain technology, a broad technology that enables companies to store information in a cryptographically secure and distributed database. The technology allows you to store information in a transparent and accessible but secure ledger. The best-known application of blockchain technology today is bitcoin, a digital currency that has seen a surge in value in recent months. Blockchain technology is also applied in automated supply chain management, health and insurance services sectors.
Georg says that there is a high demand for the degree. Cape Town based finance professionals will be able to do the degree part time and acquire the skills to thrive in the fast changing sector. The university will also offer full scholarships to students who will want to study full time; ensuring that nobody will be excluded financially. The course has a strong focus on entrepreneurship to ensure that graduates will not be going to look for jobs but will create them.