“Our ideal candidate for employment,” a senior executive at Goldman Sachs said recently, “would be someone with a foundation in math and statistics, plus some computer science and technology fluency, plus a knowledge of finance and economics. Our problem has been, we just don’t know where to find students with that kind of full-spectrum education.”
The complaint is a common one, according to George Calhoun, Director of the new Quantitative Finance Program, one of the first of its kind in the U.S. at the undergraduate level. “We have heard the same message over and over, from firms in the financial industry as well as from nonfinancial firms hiring into their financial departments. They all want a student who comes with the ‘complete package’ of quantitative skills, computer knowhow, and a solid grounding in finance.” In
response, Stevens is re-thinking the core content of financial education, to develop innovative undergraduate and graduate degree programs that reflect the realities of today’s financial industry.
“The financial system has been transformed by advanced technology in the last ten years,” says Gregory Prastacos, Dean of the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Howe School of Technology Management. “Technology is creating new kinds of opportunities and risks, disrupting markets, and challenging the industry in ways it is not currently prepared to address. Firms are looking for a much more quantitative and technology-savvy student who can enter this new work environment and be immediately productive.”
Stevens is redesigning its finance curriculum from the ground up, leveraging its traditional depth in science, technology and engineering, as well as its premium location in the heart of the New York financial center, 15 minutes from Wall Street. As an example of its commitment to bring new technologies to the classroom, Stevens launched the Hanlon Financial Systems Laboratory, a half-million-dollar investment, in 2012.
Developing professional-level skills
The center gives undergraduate and graduate students the chance to certify professional-level skills on industry-standard technologies such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters. Sean Hanlon, a Stevens alumnus and successful financial industry executive and entrepreneur who provided the anchor endowment for the Lab, puts it this way: “If you want to study physics or biology at the university level, you expect to have a first-class lab facility. Well, finance is now at the same level on technology. Students need to learn the tools and systems of modern finance in the same hands-on setting.”
Since its opening last April, the Hanlon Lab has become the centerpiece of the Finance experience at Stevens. “Our facility is truly unique in that we mirror nearly the same identical systems that are used throughout the industry,” says Dinesh Verma, Dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises. “This affords our students holistic exposure to the entire spectrum of the global financial system.”
MORE: Explore the Hanlon lab
The center supports 15 graduate and undergraduate courses. “It has transformed the way we teach Finance,” says Calhoun. “We are now developing additional shortcourses and focused lab-tech sections, where students can rack up specific skill sets – from programming boot-camps for financial applications in languages like R, SAS or C++, to data visualization courses in which students work on cutting-edge financial systems to analyze large and complex data sets.”
As the data visualization initiative demonstrates, the Stevens curriculum goes beyond the boundaries of traditional finance. Fields such as financial cybersecurity, “Big Data” and financial analytics, and financial software engineering are all part of the new Financial Systems Center — which serves as a means to organize and focus the University’s research and educational activities in this rapidly evolving field.
Stevens is actively building and investing in its relationships with major financial industry firms, and regulatory agencies, to establish itself as a premier center for thought leadership in the contemporary financial technology-driven environment. “Eventually, we think a lot of academic finance programs will move in the same direction,” says Dean Prastacos. “But we have an opportunity here to be a leader, innovate the curriculum models, and build a reputation as a go-to institution for the best policy advice and the strongest intellectual foundation in this business.”