By Rachel Kenyon, Business Engagement Lead for FinTech, LegalTech & Cyber Security, The University of Manchester
The University of Manchester has recognised FinTech as a transformative and fast developing sector and has sought over the past year to formalise its network of academics from a range of disciplines working on projects relevant to applications of technology into financial services transactions.
We use FinTech as an umbrella term to describe a range of research relevant to the innovation of financial services and the impacts thereof on consumers and business.
What is FinTech?
Describing the digitisation of financial transactions to create new and innovative financial services products and processes, FinTech is impacting the whole financial services sector and has implications on associated sectors including legal services and retail. FinTech applications can enhance the operational capabilities of organisations, improve user experience & enhance security; this means it brings social questions around how and why people will use new products and services, implications for different demographics, how it will impact spending and saving behaviour and more.
FinTech is multi-disciplinary by nature and draws on a broad range of knowledge across areas where the University of Manchester is considered world leading. Encompassing mathematics, computer science, financial modelling, cyber security and business strategy amongst other fields, our FinTech academic community already benefits from the cutting edge expertise of researchers across six schools in two faculties. More than technical disruption, FinTech is about cultural transformation; this is where the University’s strength in inter-disciplinary working can add great value to innovation.
Why do academics collaborate with business and vice versa?
Academics love having a problem to solve. They might have proven a concept or tested a methodology and would like to try it out in different sectors or businesses; it could be that they want a big dataset and they want to do some analysis of it and see what they can find out. Business partners bring their useful insights to research, helping steer research into the most useful directions and creating positive economic and social impacts from our academic expertise.
“Business partners bring their useful insights to research, helping steer research into the most useful directions and creating positive economic and social impacts from our academic expertise.”
For companies there may be datasets from which they seek to gain more insight, or there’s tech available that they don’t know how to implement within their business. The methodology and rigour of academic research can provide business insights not available elsewhere, helping inform business strategy, leverage new technology to innovate, boost efficiency, or evidence-need for new products and services to get ahead of the game.
Mechanisms of engagement range from light-touch with setting student projects or facilities-sharing through consultancy work to assist with knowledge gaps and at the high-end commissioned and co-produced primary research projects with senior academics.
Focus on FinTech research activity at The University of Manchester
The University is ideally positioned to play a pivotal role in the development of FinTech. Throughout our history, we’ve been a home for world-class minds and a place of extraordinary achievement, making leaps in terms of understanding and knowledge to the benefit of society. We have a proven track record in delivering high quality academic research with 83% of our research ranked as world leading or internationally excellent in the most recent Research Excellence Framework. Our breadth of research creates a perfect environment for the study of complex global finance issues.
We’ve been helping connect both large and small businesses in the finance and FinTech sector with our academics, establishing a FinTech Research network, making investments in early career researchers and providing seed-funding for exploratory collaborative research projects. Our wealth of experience covers five broad themes:
- Distributed ledger technologies and their applications
- Machine learning, artificial intelligence and data analytics
- Financial, economic and mathematical modelling
- Information systems and business model innovation
- Regulation of financial services, consumer behaviour, user adoption and societal dimensions of new financial technologies and products
We have ambition to scale-up our activity in this field and in November 2017 hosted an Innovation Lab involving a number of financial services firms including Barclays, personal lender Together Money and international risk management consultancy Protiviti, with whom we have since embarked on new applied research projects. The Innovation Lab series has been very successful to date in providing a platform to initiate new collaborative applied research projects between our academics and industry partners; we will be running the second FinTech-themed Lab this October.
FinTech in Manchester and the Northern Regions
There is now a cluster of FinTech companies ranging from small start-ups to long established companies that support financial services in Manchester, the UK’s second most important financial hub. The inaugural FinTech North event was held at the University in 2018, attended by 240 FinTech businesses and policy makers. Our Business Engagement team is closely linked in with the strong business ecosystem developing in our city region and beyond, ensuring as we develop expertise in this area it is aligned with clear business and social need. This spring we joined forces with FinTech North to deliver the inaugural Manchester FinTech North conference to promote current activity and generate new collaborations in FinTech across the Northern Powerhouse, helping establish the region as a driver of innovation in the wider FinTech community.
It has been widely acknowledged that collaboration will be key to successful innovation in the industry; there’s great potential from partnerships between technology start-ups, incumbent financial services providers and academia. The University of Manchester’s ultimate aim is to be a force for positive change, and we are proud that Manchester, together with its business partners, is at the forefront of innovation in many areas.
Published: 29 August 2018