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The Finance Fast Track with Naomi Boyd

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The Finance Fast Track with Naomi Boyd

Five ways the Finance department is building – and disrupting – the future

The Chambers College Finance department is on the fast track to the future. Fred T. Tattersall Chair and Center for Financial Literacy and Education Executive Director Naomi Boyd explains how her team is moving mountains to propel West Virginia University students and West Virginia Forward.   

1. Faculty are producing high-quality research that is the driving force of the future of finance.

WVU’s R1 Research classification designation – ranking us among the most prestigious research universities in the nation - propelled our faculty to jump into their research with both feet. They consider it an opportunity to contribute to this mission through their scholarly activities, including grants and the production of high caliber research, placement and generation of doctoral students. They are working to ensure the longevity of our R1 status, as well as to provide increased quality to all of our programs.

We have built a group of energetic junior faculty that include Assistant Professors Bingxin Li, Gulnara Zaynutdinova, Ryan Chen, Pawan Jain, and Helen Wang. They are passionate about their research, and they are driving full-speed ahead to elevate the Finance department. Associate Professor Ann Marie Hibbert’s acceptance of her paper entitled, “Heterogeneous beliefs and return volatility around seasoned equity offerings” at the Journal of Financial Economics and Professor Alex Kurov’s acceptance of “Index Options Trading Activity and Market Returns” at Management Science are just two examples of research being produced that is changing the landscape of scholarly work that transcends WVU and impacts the entire field of finance. Over the past two years alone, our finance faculty have published 50 articles in top-tier journals such as the Journal of Financial Economics, Management Science, the Journal of Corporate Finance, the Journal of Banking and Finance, and the Journal of Futures Markets, to name just a few.

Professor Paul Speaker and Assistant Professor Bingxin Li are leading the college in the production of extramural funding in excess of $2.4 million. Faculty are also creating impactful regulatory research responsible for eliciting change in capital markets and transitioning their research to industry. Finance faculty are truly paving the way for excellence in finance research; they are an absolute force of high-quality production.

2. Fintech is changing the world – and the Finance department has a powerhouse team that will prepare our students and state to lead the next wave of change.

Financial Technology – or fintech, for short – is helping companies better manage their financial operations with specialized software and algorithms that can improve the delivery and automation of financial services to consumers. We began the process of strategic hiring for fintech expertise two years ago, which has enabled us to provide innovative restructuring in the finance curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The recent additions of Teaching Assistant Professor Brant Hammer and Assistant Professor Pawan Jain, who joined us from the University of Wyoming, has created bandwidth to provide a finance curriculum grounded in data analytics and innovative technologies. Pawan is also a certified Blockchain expert and served on the state of Wyoming's Blockchain Coalition; he is an expert in market microstructure and fintech. David Fragale joined our team this fall as an Executive in Residence from Boston’s fintech sector and brings a wealth of expertise around capital markets and disruptive technologies, focusing on decentralized systems such as bitcoin and cryptocurrencies from his time working in Fortune 100 businesses and venture-backed startups.

This powerhouse team is working to develop curriculum, teach new courses, create empirical research and drive thought leadership in the fintech space. They are preparing our students to not only learn about disruptive technologies, but to also build them through innovative opportunities that will attract more entrepreneurs to the state as West Virginia stands up its regulatory fintech sandbox. Our investment in this team is a testament to the power of academia partnering with private industry to lead transformational change.

3. The future of finance is data analytics. We’re working with our Business Data Analytics program and corporate partners like Leidos and Bloomberg to make sure our students are ready.

The relationship between finance and business data analytics is becoming more intertwined in functional areas of business. Financial organizations are harnessing the data that is being generated by transactional systems to build useful business insights. We have to prepare our students to understand both financial systems and big data. Our work with Assistant Professor for Business Data Analytics Brad Price, Executive in Residence David Fragale, and several Chambers College alumni has resulted in requiring data analytics coursework in our undergraduate program and integration of data analytics across the curriculum. Additionally, we are working towards an area of emphasis in Data Analytics for our Master of Science in Finance program that will begin next fall.

Brad and I also work closely with Fortune 500 science and technology leader Leidos; they are growing and have recently built a new office in Morgantown. Our partnership with them has fostered experiential learning opportunities and career pathways for our Finance and Business Data Analytics students. They are sponsoring a seminar series for the 2020-21 academic year titled “The Future of Business.” It is designed to explore disciplines that are disrupting the business world, including cybersecurity, data analytics, cloud computing and the world of fintech.

Additionally, a new partnership with Bloomberg, forged by WVU alumni working at the firm, has created a pathway for students who are involved in the SMIF program for placement at Bloomberg as analysts. Our integration of the Bloomberg terminal to conduct research and analysis across our entire curriculum, as well as the hands-on experience students receive from the SMIF program, sets us apart in how we train our students to lead on the other side of their diplomas.

Industry partnerships with leaders like Leidos and Bloomberg are at the core of our programs, as they give students the ability to learn by doing and form valuable connections with practitioners in their field that can lead to internships and job placement. 

4. PRA Group has given The Center for Financial and Literacy and Education a generous $210,000 donation to fuel financial literacy in the state as part of our land-grant mission.

We know that when students are empowered to make sound financial decisions, they are better prepared to succeed in college and in their careers. PRA Group, Inc., a global leader in acquiring and collecting nonperforming loans, has given us a gift to fund two seminars on financial literacy in civics, business, and math to maximize impact across the state. The first seminar in October 2020 was presented in partnership with WVU Extension Service to provide financial literacy training to agents who work across all 55 West Virginia counties. The second seminar will begin in February 2021 and will focus on primary and secondary educators. The gift is also helping to support activities on campus that has the potential to positively impact more than 3,500 West Virginia students. They will also support financial lunch and learns across the state for high school seniors preparing to go to college, college students and adult learners. This substantial donation will allow us to broaden our programming during this critical time for our community, arm our citizens with the tools and resources to plan for their financial futures that may now have been affected by COVID-19, and reach more people who do not have equitable access to financial education. 

5. Our Finance professors are teaching rising portfolio managers from United Bank through an Executive Training Program gift.

The Center for Financial Literacy and Education, in conjunction with the Finance department, received a generous $38,000 Executive Training Program gift from United Bank this fall, cultivated through the 2019 Banking Summit. Teaching Assistant Professor Brant Hammer has led the training program, developed the curriculum and taught the 15-week course. 

Teaching Assistant Professor Frank DeGeorge and Executive-in-Residence David Fragale are also teaching sessions to a group of rising portfolio managers from United Bank. The Executive Training program is designed to enhance and build upon the basic credit analysis skills needed for commercial lending. The topics covered provide portfolio managers with a foundation on which to base sound credit decisions. Subject matter includes financial statement analysis, industry life cycle characteristics, cash flow calculation, debt service coverage, guarantor analysis and loan structuring. We are elated for the opportunity and look forward to a continued partnership with United Bank.