Online Duke FinTech Students share why they applied to the program and what classes they like most

October 3, 2023

The online students came to Duke last week for three days of in-person interaction with instructors, staff and professional development experts.

online students leaning about Graduate Student Programs and Services.

“I applied for Fintech because all the cool things in the world happen in this space,” says Khadeja Clarke, who works as a computer software developer at Jamaica’s National Commercial Bank

The Duke FinTech online students came to Durham last week for their residency. For three days, the students met on Campus with program directors, members of the management team, colleagues and experts from the Graduate Student Programs and Services group. Organized in interactive sessions, the residency program aimed to provide students with the opportunity to experience campus life and have in-person interaction with their peers and instructors with whom they only meet virtually on a regular basis.

All Duke FinTech students are employed and applied to Duke to boost their knowledge in the cutting-edge financial technology area, to advance or change careers. Yoshihiro Kawamoto traveled to Duke from Japan. For two decades, he has been working on the sales team at Invesco Asset Management Japan, based in Tokyo. He applied to Duke FinTech because he knows that fintech and blockchain practices will expand in Japan in the next years and he needs to be prepared. “Blockchain is currently being used in real estate and other areas. I expect that this will grow, and I wanted to be ready for this trend,” said Yoshihiro. Alexander Ilgenfritz, a US Marine Corps Veteran who is now employed as a financial analyst in North Carolina came to Duke to be trained in digital assets and crypto. He is determined to apply for a PhD in Physics and Quantum Computing after earning his Duke ME in FinTech degree.

Renee Khadeja Clarke traveled from Jamaica, where she works for the National Commercial Bank as a software developer. Kadeja was admitted in the FinTech Program this year: “I did my undergraduate studies in China; the exposure to technology opened my eyes. In Jamaica the economy is still cash based. I applied for Fintech because all the cool things in the world happen in this space,” she said. Like Alex, Khadeja wants to continue her studies with a PhD in Quantum Computing. Ryan Claypool is currently working at Amazon Webservices in Seattle; his interest during the program is related to machine learning.  

Established in 2021, the Duke Fintech Program has grown significantly in three years, and has become highly competitive. With strong connections and insights from the fintech industry, the program is giving students a strong grasp of fundamental skills of financial engineering while also providing business, policy, and ethical perspectives. Like the online residents who came to Duke last week, most Fintech students complete their degree in 5 semesters part-time, while on-campus students can graduate after 3 full-time semesters. The Duke FinTech graduates start or continue careers in many areas, including wealth management and trading, quantitative trading and analysis, liquidity analysis, risk management, digital assets, etc.

Asked which courses were most beneficial for him, Yoshihiro mentioned Fintech 510 - Programming for FinTech - taught by Professor Patrick Morrison. The course is designed to bring students up to speed on programming, data structures, and algorithms. C++ is the language of choice in this class because C++ is very commonly used in the financial industry. “This class gave me a foundation in programming which was very helpful. I had no such background,” said Yoshihiro. 

Fintech 522 – Asset Pricing and Risk management – in which students learn about various financial, macroeconomic, business, and technology risks, as well as the tools and methodologies for quantitative assessment of risk – is at the top of the list for Alex, who had Jacob Vestal as instructor. Vestal is also leading the Duke Trading Competition. “For me, this was the most helpful class. It had a great mix of technical and financial content,” Alex said. Ryan McClane Claypool really enjoyed FinTech 540, Machine Learning for FinTech with Alessio Brini.

In addition to informal and interactive sessions with FinTech faculty, the online residents met with career and communications experts who provided an overview of available services and invited them to make appointments for one-on-one sessions to boost their resumes and optimize their chances to access career development opportunities.

“We liked having the online students in Durham and look forward to supporting them throughout the program,” said Dr. Jimmie Lenz, the Duke FinTech founding director.