The Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at Sofia University and the Bulgarian Fintech Association (BFA) are launching a fintech and e-banking course that will be part of the next Master’s degree program in Finance and Investments, starting in October 2020. The course will be supported by at least 15 Bulgarian Fintech companies*, whose representatives will join the curriculum, either as guest lecturers or student mentors.
Designed to acquaint the Master’s students with the latest trends in the financial field and to bring students closer to the private sector, the course should go beyond traditional lectures and exams. According to the program, learning will be supplemented with real-life case studies, conferences, guest lectures, and even a hackathon. The goal of the curriculum creators is to ease the transition from the university to the industry and “produce a critical mass of highly qualified specialists… who will eventually join or establish a Fintech business located in Southeast Europe”.
The future of finance comes to the classroom
During the 30-hour English language course, students will cover six modules dedicated to – introduction to the FinTechs as well as regional and global trends in the field; digitalization of the banking industry and P2P/ P2C lending; fintech regulation; applications of blockchain in the finance industry; the impact of AI, big data, and machine learning on the financial system; future of money, markets, and InsurTech.
The main lecturer will be Assist. Prof. Deyan Radev, who has over ten years of teaching experience at universities in Frankfurt, Bonn, and Mainz.
“The key message that I would like grade students to leave the course with, is that fintech and e-banking have completely changed the technologies that traditional brick and mortar banks have used. The main component of this shift (and of Industry 4.0) is interdisciplinary work, where specialists from different fields: economists, engineers, IT specialists, legal experts, and many others, join forces to create innovative products that provide value to a large portion of the financially active people,” says Radev.
To get the point across how valuable interdisciplinary work is, a hackathon will be organized as part of the course, which will be open to participants from technical majors, who will join the finance grad students in teams that will try to provide solutions to real-world’s problems that FinTech companies face, under the mentorship of Fintech industry professionals.
“The thing I’ve liked most since I started working is to relate the economical and financial theories to reality. It is very exciting both ways, whether you start from theory and apply it in the business or whether you take a real behavior or result and try to explain it with a theory. That’s what I would like to first share and transmit to the students. The other topic I believe is interesting is to point their attention to the most important matters they need to get from the academic curriculum to be better prepared for the professional world, either as an employee or entrepreneur,” tells us Loic Le Pichoux co-founder at Klear Lending and a mentor in the program.
Final grades will be based 50% on a final exam based on the lectures and 50% on the outcome of the hackathon.
The role of the region in financial innovation
“We want to explore what primary services do Fintech companies offer and what niches remain to be filled. Are these products complementing or substituting traditional banking services? Ultimately, are Fintechs and Banks foes or potential partners? We plan to present cases where there have been successful partnerships between banks and Fintechs, as well as cases where Fintechs successfully compete with or crowd out banks (or offer financial services to people ignored by banks – the ‘unbanked’ people),” shares Radev.
There will also be discussions on whether after Brexit, the CEE region, and Bulgaria in particular can substitute London as the new center for financial innovation in the EU.
“I have noticed that many of the companies in the region use the local markets as a low-cost business-model-validation or outsourcing center in an effort to eventually go global. Given that the region has a population of over 150 million people and most of these people do not have direct access to financial services, I will challenge the lecturers from the Fintech industry to present their views on how to promote their services to a larger portion of the local population in Bulgaria and the region, in order to reduce the share of unbanked people,” adds Radev.
The practical details
To join the course, the Master’s degree applicants should hold a Bachelor’s in either Economics or Business Management. The preliminary application deadline is July 20th with the regular one coming on September 9th. Graduates of the Master’s Degree in Finance and Investment should be able to work in the field of management and development of banking and non-banking institutions, as well as in the public sector and entities such as municipalities, ministries, and others. And, eventually, satisfy the shortage of business development, project management, finance, and sales specialists in the fintech field.
*The fintech companies that have so far committed to join the Fintech and e-banking course this fall: Mastercard, Paynetics, Phyre, Paysera, Reloyalty, myPOS, 7Security, Nexo, Vangavis, Klear, Iuvo Group, CREDiPORT, Sirma BC, and Credissimo.