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Duke x DTCC: Partnering for Future Success

By DTCC Connection Staff | 5 minute read | October 21, 2022

DTCC has partnered with Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering to help students become immersed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through hands-on internships with DTCC’s Internal Technology Research & Innovation team.

Leading the effort at Duke is Dr. Jimmie Lenz, Executive Director of the Master of Engineering in Financial Technology and Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity at the Pratt School of Engineering, where he teaches machine learning and blockchain, and leads the Digital Asset Research and Engineering Collaborative. Prior to working in education, he held senior management roles within the financial services industry for more than 25 years, including leading an NYSE broker dealer with foreign and domestic operations, Chief Risk Officer and Chief Credit Officer at a top three broker dealer, and the Head of Predictive Analytics for one of the largest wealth management firms in the U.S. 

DTCC Connection caught up with Dr. Lenz to find out more about DTCC’s partnership with Duke University:

DC: Can you tell us why it’s especially important for your students to have this type of internship and work experience before they graduate?
This is such a big question, it’s hard to know where to start. DTCC occupies a vitally important role in the global financial ecosystem. Yes, I did say ‘global’ as this role crosses boundaries around the world. I came up through the financial services industry, having a solid understanding of DTCC’s role in the industry. For our students to be able to gain experience with DTCC puts them at a distinct advantage as they look to move into the workforce.

Over the years, DTCC has embraced emerging technologies and leveraged their capabilities to create new offerings, both of which are very appealing to our students. In addition, the team at DTCC possesses a diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and perspectives -- something that is good for students to see and experience firsthand.

DC: The technology landscape in financial services continues to rapidly evolve and many firms are on digitization journeys. What do you see as the major, near-term opportunities in this space?
I have seen new technology embraced more and more in financial services. Something that remains constant in this industry is managing risk – more specifically understanding risks and knowing when to take them. For example, implementing new technologies can be seen as risky, in terms of resources, time spent, disruption and payback. Understanding each of these elements and weighing them against the possible returns is paramount.

I see digital assets, and the underlying blockchain technology as a near-term opportunity, there are some fascinating topics in the digital asset space that are just beginning to be explored. A few other opportunities are around data and thinking about better ways to collect, disseminate and store it. Cyber resiliency will become table stakes in the not-too-distant future. There are also newer computational approaches, like quantum computing, that will no doubt become more and more plentiful.

Related: Quantum Computing: How It Stands to Impact Financial Security

DC: While interning at DTCC, many of your students worked on projects that use artificial intelligence, exploring capabilities including chatbots and synthetic data. What do you see as best-fit use cases for this technology to solve industry pain points?
JL: As these tools become more prolific – and trust me they will – there will be a bigger need for more people who understand how they work, how to use them and maybe, most importantly, how to interpret the results. The opportunity for students to work with these types of tools on real world problems is the path for solving the pain points you mention. Students with the technical and financial wherewithal are uniquely equipped for this as they are not only extremely talented but are also very inquisitive. Coming full circle to what I mentioned previously, they are often willing to take risks that others may not because of their experience gained.

DC: What can we expect going forward for the Duke Pratt partnership with DTCC?
JL: DTCC recently presented at one of our Master of Engineering in FinTech seminars, and later this winter will be speaking at the Digital Assets@Duke conference. Beyond these short-term events, and the future internships and full-time employment for students, I would love to explore some research and maybe co-development opportunities. DTCC generates an incredible amount of data, which is the life blood of research and development, and I really can’t think of a better partner to work with on such an endeavor than DTCC.

DC: As we wrap up, do you have any final thoughts?
Markets will continue to grow, whether we are talking about digital assets, like cryptocurrencies, or more traditional assets like equities, debt and derivatives. Traditionally industry and academia have resided primarily in their own spaces. But as more people, like myself, enter academia, the time is right to fully leverage opportunities provided by both sides of this equation. My hope is that what DTCC and Duke have built here becomes not only a path forward for our continuing partnership, but also a model that can be leveraged by other financial services companies and academic institutions.

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Dr Jimmie Lenz - Duke University Executive Director, Master of Engineering in Financial Technology and Cybersecurity
Dr. Jimmie Lenz

Duke University Executive Director, Master of Engineering in Financial Technology and Cybersecurity

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