Agility at the intersection of computer science and finance for FinTech

by Patty Mah

 Prof. James Thompson, Yuqian L, Mark G (standing behind Yuqian), Ethan M, Brian L, Vivan G, Timothy Z, Derek T

What do robo-investors, cryptocurrency, and your bank app have in common? These, plus dozens of other technology-based financial management software platforms all fall under the category and growing industry of FinTech.

Fifteen years ago, professors at the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) had the foresight and innovation to create and launch a new undergraduate program, Computing and Financial Management (CFM), to prepare graduates to meet the explosive growth of FinTech. Defined as technology innovations to improve and automate traditional financial systems in the delivery of financial services, FinTech is the fastest-growing area in the financial industry.

Within these last fifteen years, synthesis and integration between back-office and front-office accountability for investment firms have led to an emerging demand for expertise that can create synergies between coding and trading strategies. “This is where our students stand apart coming out of the CFM program,” states James R. Thompson, co-director of the CFM program. Professor Thompson has seen first-hand the demand for a breadth of expertise in both coding and financial management. “CFM grads have a solid tech and programming foundation but are also very strong in finance who can work on all sides of the firm.”

The recent introduction of three new courses to the program exposes students to the intersection between computer science and finance to further set the CFM program apart. CFM students learn to program in Python utilizing financial and stock market data in application projects all within their first semester of studies. The integrated curriculum coupled with paid co-op work experiences and opportunities to participate in hackathons and coding and finance competitions, means that CFM students can build a solid résumé to demonstrate their agility in both arenas.

“I feel the CFM program is one of the best programs in the country to prepare for FinTech careers which I don’t feel you can get from programs that offer computer science with business,” notes Thompson. “Our students graduate ready for diverse and exciting career paths in FinTech, but can easily be just as successful pursuing a career that’s solely software development or finance.”

The breadth of expertise CFM students gain translates to employability. As bitcoin and crypto prices continue to surge while banking institutions, tech entrepreneurs and software development firms innovate for the next e-commerce app, CFM graduates can be guaranteed that their expertise and agility in both computer science and finance will be desirable for a multitude of industries and firms under the FinTech umbrella.