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FinTech: How Georgetown McDonough Is Tapping Into The Blockchain Boom

Students at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business are queuing to take up a new fintech elective covering blockchain


Fri Apr 20 2018

Technology harnesses great potential to change lives, reduce social inequality, and lead financial institutions and business people down a path of opportunity. Business schools are making sure their programs are aligned to prepare students for this journey into a technology-based world.

Launched at the turn of the year, a new FinTech elective—FINC 258—offered by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business was oversubscribed the day it opened for registration.

Groups of students turn up week after week, despite not being registered for course credits or exams.

The course takes students on the evolutionary journey of Blockchain and FinTech, while diving into the disruptive influence of financial technology on the business landscape.

It’s led by John Jacobs, executive director of the school’s Center for Financial Markets and Policy, who teaches alongside Perianne Boring, founder and president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce.

Currently open to undergraduate students, Georgetown aims to roll out the elective across the university. The aim, John explains, is to incorporate the course into McDonough School of Business’ Full-Time MBA program.

He floats the idea of the class becoming one of the program’s Intensive Learning Experiences—a selection of short, experiential one-to-two-week electives, covering topics like data visualization, crisis management, and energy policy in the age of climate change.

Student enthusiasm drove the creation of the course. “I have students who sit in every class who just want to learn,” John beams.

“We want our students to be prepared to walk out into the modern business world,” he adds. “You can’t look at business and organizations now without seeing that new technological applications are critical to organizational success.”

At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, interest in blockchain is booming. In March, the school hosted its third annual Blockchain Summit. There were over 600 attendees, and John moderated a fireside chat on the intersection of blockchain and Wall Street.

Speakers also included the director of Georgetown’s Center for Financial Markets and Policy, Reena Aggarwal, and Jim Angel, associate professor of finance at the school.

“Blockchain offers a tremendous opportunity to improve our financial systems,” explains John. As the technology keeps a record of every financial transaction in an easily accessible chain, it makes it difficult for hackers or corruption to sneak into the system.

Blockchain provides layers of transparency and trust that can help rebuild the way financial institutions are viewed by the public. That, John says, is why he thinks it will become as powerful as the internet.

“The financial system is going through systemic changes,” he says. “[Blockchain] will speed up processes, reduce risk, and get individuals their assets and payments faster.”

Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business graduates are frequently hired by investment banks and consulting firms. But, understanding the way Blockchain works transcends financial institutions.

Georgetown FinTech—a student club—is geared toward incubating a community of blockchain-savvy entrepreneurs among MBA students and undergraduates. A research team of three MBA students and Georgetown FinTech members—Charles Gallo, Anna Jumamil, and Pak Aranyawat—launched a white paper at the 2017 Blockchain Summit, entitled The Role Blockchain Technology Can Play in Accelerating Financial Inclusion.   

In New York City, a pilot government program is being trialed that aims to create digital IDs for 3,000 homeless people to allow them to access government services. The plan is to hand out a free smartphone that allows them to manage their digital identity, access shelters and food banks, and make use of financial services.

“It’s a great idea. It offers a better way for the government or city to deliver services to the homeless, or people underserved in society,” John concludes. “Getting people into the system—if you can do that in a trusted, non-threatening way—is a really good thing for society.”

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