There is a growing understanding of Fintech’s potential to transform the future of finance.”
– Associate Professor of Finance Lamont Black
Four years ago, Associate Professor of Finance Lamont Black had the foresight to co-host a two-day workshop for business and computer science students on a subject few knew about at the time—blockchain coding. Since then, Black has become one of Chicago’s foremost academic experts on innovations in financial technology, known as fintech, and is frequently interviewed by the media about blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
“This is not just a fad,” says Black, a former Federal Reserve economist who serves as academic director of DePaul’s John L. Keeley Jr. Center for Financial Services. “There is a growing understanding of fintech’s potential to transform the future of finance.”
Black developed and teaches a graduate course focused exclusively on blockchain, the digital ledger technology that underpins virtual money known as cryptocurrencies. The course, taught in partnership with Deloitte and its blockchain lab, explores how blockchain can be applied to different business scenarios, from cryptocurrencies to supply chains and human resources. He is developing a similar course for undergraduate students, who view it as something that could give them an edge in the job market.
“The interest in cryptocurrency a few years ago was among high net worth individuals who were looking for diversification,” he says. “But what we’re seeing now with younger generations and my undergrad students is an interest in cryptocurrency as an emerging asset class and something that is discussed in the popular media.”
An estimated 4,000 cryptocurrencies exist to date. Only a handful, such as Dogecoin and Ethereum, have gained popularity thanks to dedicated communities of backers and investors.
However, earlier this year, the value of Bitcoin, regarded as the first cryptocurrency using blockchain, fell rapidly. One of the causes of its decline was a single tweet sent by Tesla founder Elon Musk, who wrote that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as a means of payment due to its environmental impact. But the falling price can actually have long-term benefits, Black says.
“I’m still very optimistic about the future,” he says. “The price decline has reduced people’s speculative behavior around cryptocurrency and will result in a more grounded and informed perspective. I think it will lead to more sustainable growth in the market.”
As blockchain becomes more mainstream and more integrated with the finance industry, Black says it’s crucial for the business college’s programs to embrace this new trend. “That includes what we teach, what we research and what we’re talking about,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to innovate and teach students about these trends so that when they graduate, they feel like they’re prepared to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. We’re not just teaching them the past, but also preparing them for the future.”
By Jaclyn Lansbery
View the video below to learn more about Lamont Black’s take on blockchain and cryptocurrency.