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MSc in Financial Data Science course equips students with in-demand skills

  • Date: Mon, Sep 20, 2021

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The new UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School MSc in financial data science programme is aimed at equipping students for a career addressing the growing need for data science expertise in business generally and particularly in the financial services industry.

The programme will provide students with the skills, knowledge and background to begin a career in fintech and financial data science and to progress quickly to leadership roles.

“Fintech, the fusion of finance, data and technology, is transforming financial services,” explains Dr Richard McGee, assistant professor of fintech at the UCD School of Business. “New and emerging technologies such as big data analytics, blockchain, machine learning and AI, cloud computing and cryptocurrencies are transforming how business is conducted.”

The programme has been established to meet growing demand for data science expertise and to address a shortage of skills in the area, he adds.

“We are now at a point where businesses are able to monitor a huge amount of data in real time,” says McGee. “There is a vast amount of data available to them. Financial institutions need people who can analyse that data.

“Hedge funds are using millions of gigabytes of data to make investment decisions, banks are becoming like tech companies. They are looking for data science skillsets and they are looking for people with a combination of financial services knowledge and data science skills.”

Decentralised finance

He points to the emerging area of decentralised finance, otherwise known as defi, as another source of growing demand for those skills. Defi is a blockchain-based form of finance that doesn’t rely on centralised and costly intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges or banks to offer traditional financial instruments, and instead utilises smart contracts stored on blockchain databases.

“For centuries, we’ve had the concept of the broker who takes a commission on transactions with the amount related to the size of the transaction,” he adds. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have the commission rise with the size of transaction as the cost of the transaction is the same irrespective of its size.

“With blockchain, you can do without brokers or other intermediaries. It opens up banking to people without a lot of money. Defi opens it to everybody. It has huge advantages. The key thing is that it eliminates the middleman by enabling peer-to-peer transactions. It’s no wonder the credit card issuers want to get into it.”


The programme provides students with the knowledge and skills to appraise, evaluate and manage opportunities in the emerging fintech landscape, he adds. Students learn to utilise software skills and leading-edge data science to inform key business decisions in finance and insurance, including investment, risk management and lending decisions.

“They will also develop a deep understanding of the economic underpinnings of the finance and insurance sectors and gain an appreciation for the legal, regulatory, accounting and taxation aspects of finance and the impact of the fintech and regtech revolutions in these areas,” McGee points out. “They will also develop the cultural, negotiation and organisational expertise to operate in a truly global business.”

The course takes theoretical knowledge and applies it to real-world financial data sets. In many cases, the theory in lectures is further enhanced by small group tutorials. Industry leaders will contribute to the programme through guest lectures and seminars.

Jobs market

UCD College of Business has a significant number of academics who are leaders in the area of financial data science and digital technology and financial services.

“Given this critical mass of academic expertise, and a growing gap in the jobs market for professionals with excellent data and technological skills in a finance context, we felt it was the right time to launch a programme which will equip students with the market knowledge and financial data science skills to succeed in this new and emerging digital environment for banking and financial market transactions.”

There is also an option for students to do an internship in the financial sector and there is a start-up incubator option as well.

“Students can work on a product or an app for end users,” he explains. “We bring though them through the start-up journey and we have the Nova UCD centre here to help spin start-ups out of UCD.”

That real-world application is a strong feature of the course. “Professor Cal Muckley teaches the machine learning module on the programme. He has worked on a fraud detection product for elderly clients which has been licensed to a financial institution.”

The programme has attracted a diverse mix of students from different backgrounds. “The idea is that you can come from a technology or business background and get the knowledge to complement your existing skillset. It’s a very exciting space to be in.”

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This article was originally published on September 16, 2021 in the Irish Times. 



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