Bankers are rushing to take Oxford University's fintech courses before robots take their jobs

Oxford UniversityDavid Madison / Contributor/ Getty Images

  • Bankers are rushing to take Oxford University's courses on fintech, blockchain strategy, AI, and other futuristic subjects before robots take their jobs.
  • More than 9,000 people, aged 39 on average and predominantly working in financial services, have taken Saïd Business School's online open courses in less than two years.
  • AI is expected to generate $300 billion in cost savings by 2030, partly through the dismissal or reassignment of more than 1.3 million bankers.
  • View Markets Insider's homepage for more stories.

Bankers are rushing to take Oxford University's courses on fintech, blockchain strategy, algorithmic trading, and artificial intelligence before robots take their jobs.

More than 9,000 people from upwards of 135 countries have taken the online open courses, which focus on digital transformation in business, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University told Markets Insider.

The fintech course, the first of five to be launched, has run 12 times and attracted nearly 4,300 students in less than two years. The average age of participants across the courses is 39, and two-thirds of them came from the financial services sector, suggesting experienced professionals are returning to school to understand how their industry is being disrupted and learn the skills needed to weather the changes.

Bankers' fears of being replaced by robots are well founded. AI is expected to generate $300 billion in global cost savings by 2030, according to IHS Markit, partly through the dismissal or reassignment of more than 1.3 million US bankers. For example, Citigroup's investment bank told the Financial Times it could halve its 20,000 technology and operations staff within five years as machines replace humans.

"Everything that can be automated, will be," said Huy Nguyen Trieu, a fintech lecturer at Oxford University, in an interview with Quartz. However, finance professionals can save their jobs if they develop the right skills to capitalize on the technologies disrupting the industry, he said.

Craig Bond is one such individual, according to Oxford University. He previously worked as a regional chief executive at Barclays and Standard Bank and is currently taking Saïd's fintech course. His current role is chairman of Envel, a company building an AI-powered digital banking service that autonomously manages users' money. Envel was founded by Steve Le Roux, who took Saïd's first fintech course.

The financial sector is experiencing sweeping changes. Algorithmic trading is forecast to grow 11% a year and reach $19 billion in 2024, financial institutions are pouring about $1.7 billion annually into blockchain, and global digital transactions topped $3.4 trillion in 2018. Apple's upcoming virtual credit card and Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency are two more examples of the shifting tides that bankers need to navigate.

Several universities are working to meet the needs of financial professionals. GetSmarter, which partnered with Saïd to create its online open courses, has created similar ones including fintech at Harvard University, AI and blockchain at MIT, and data science, AI, and machine learning at University of California, Berkeley.

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