GSU's Robinson College Opens Fintech Lab, First Business School-Based Lab in Georgia

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business has opened a fintech lab spanning data analytics, finance, real estate, and risk management and insurance, the first business school-based fintech lab in Georgia and among the first in the nation.

Data analytics, machine learning and blockchain technology will be important components of the lab, and collaborators will explore how these tools can help develop smart contracts and smart markets, support the study algorithmic trading, and help with credit risk modelling and lending decisions.

Atlanta has emerged as a national leader of an industry that uses new technologies to eliminate intermediaries in traditional payment processes, lower costs and shorten financial transaction times. According to the Technology Association of Georgia, Georgia fintech companies employ more than 30,000 professionals in the state and generate annual revenues of more than $72 billion, behind only New York and California. Industry estimates indicate fintech could potentially affect or disrupt up to $4.7 trillion in financial services revenues in coming years.

Robinson’s lab will provide an applied, experiential environment in which students, faculty and corporate partners can experiment with the technologies transforming financial services, insurance and real estate. In initial projects, lab users will work with stock market, real estate, insurance contract and property sales data, as well as company financial documents such as SEC 10-Q, 10-K and 8-Q reports, to explore the development, deployment and implementation of financial applications on alternative platforms.

“This new lab is the next step in the strategy Robinson has been executing over the past two years of integrating computer science and related disciplines into the core activities of the business school to better prepare our students for the business environment of tomorrow,” said Richard Phillips, dean of the Robinson College.

Uses of the fintech lab will vary by specialty.

Finance users will gain an understanding of the different layers of decentralized markets and obtain practical experience with the design and development of smart contracts in the new markets and economies based on blockchains. Among other activities, they will trade and settle virtual assets with private cryptocurrencies on secure blockchains linked to real datasets. They also will design and implement financial models on real events using decentralized applications.

Real estate lab users will simulate buying and selling residential real estate assets with real-time First Multiple Listings Service feeds. They also will learn how to value, negotiate, finance, settle, refinance, invest and operate their assets in the absence of third parties, with the lab simulating the roles of a central banker, tax collector and settlement agency.

Insurance and risk management lab users will apply blockchain technology to share insurance risks, settle insurance claims and apply machine learning techniques in quantitative risk management.

“We are encouraging our corporate partners to think of the fintech lab as an innovation garage where they can bring complex problems and collaborate with our data scientists and students to gain insights,” said Phillips.

The lab is the first step in a larger initiative that will include undergraduate and graduate courses. A master’s level fintech course will be offered in spring 2018.

“Students not only will learn about fintech,” Phillips said, “they also will gain experience applying their knowledge to practical problems posed by our corporate partners.”

The fintech lab will be housed in Robinson’s Institute for Insight at Georgia State’s Buckhead Center. Formed in 2015, the Institute for Insight brings students, faculty and companies together to solve business problems through the application of analytics, statistics, computer science and big data. Additional faculty will span the departments of Finance, Real Estate, and Risk Management & Insurance, as well as the Institute for Insight.

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