Hong Kong pioneers fintech education as field looks set to ‘take off’

Academic experts amazed at the speed of development in AI that enables new technology delivering financial services

November 10, 2019
Source: iStock

Financial technology is about to “take off” and is an emerging field of teaching and research for universities in Hong Kong, according to speakers at a major Asian event for the industry.

The city’s universities were a prominent presence at Hong Kong FinTech Week, Asia’s largest event dedicated to fintech – the growing market of new technology used in the delivery of financial services.

“The fintech industry will take off. It’s not just hype – it’s here to stay,” one of the speakers at the event, Kar Yan Tam, dean of the business school at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told Times Higher Education.

“Hong Kong has been fast emerging as the regional hub for fintech innovation,” said another speaker, Miranda Lou, executive vice-president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

Professor Tam sounded incredulous when he described how far the field had come since he was a postgraduate student at Purdue University in the US, at a time when the term “fintech” did not exist. “When I did my PhD in AI applications in finance, the technology and hardware were not ready – it was really too slow. Machine learning requires a lot of computational power; but now, it’s technically feasible.”

In a concerted push, all six Hong Kong universities ranked by THE have embarked on new fintech programmes within the past year.

The University of Hong Kong is offering a BASc (fintech) option as part of a series of new interdisciplinary bachelor of arts and sciences degrees introduced in September.

But its pioneering work in bringing fintech education to a broader audience began last year with Introduction to FinTech, a massive open online course that was the first of its kind in Asia. It has attracted more than 46,000 learners worldwide and has been nominated as a finalist for the 2019 edX Prize, which will be announced on 21 November.

PolyU is offering a new BSc (Hons) in financial technology and artificial intelligence degree, starting this academic year. It was a logical step after PolyU became an early entrant into the field in 2017, with its BSc (Hons) in financial technology top-up programme. Looking ahead, PolyU is developing the city’s first PhD-level programme in financial technology, with the introduction of a doctor of fintech scheduled for 2020. PolyU is also home to the AMTD FinTech Centre, the first university-industry collaboration of its kind in Hong Kong.

Professor Tam emphasised the importance of building industry links, as well as giving students the chance to acquire practical workplace skills and qualifications. A collaboration with Microsoft AI Business School, announced in November, will allow HKUST MBA students to take an elective in artificial intelligence starting early next year.

Another 400 HKUST students have already started classes to achieve a cross-border professional qualification for fintech practitioners, which will be recognised by the China Banking Association. HKUST calls it a first step to “establish a nationwide qualification framework and enhance professionalism for the fast-moving fintech industry”.

joyce.lau@timeshighereducation.com

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