Recently I had the joy of meeting none other than Dave Coker – a true pioneer in the world of FinTech education and computer programming at a recent online University of Wales St David (UWTSD) Learning Exchange on AI in Education. Dave’s background on Wall Street, coupled with his deep understanding of the intersection between finance and technology allows him to bring a wealth of real-world experience to his teaching. Dave’s innovative methods that integrate AI into finance education are helping to prepare the next generation of finance professionals for the rapidly changing landscape of the industry. With his ability to write and sell market commentary to several banks and hedge funds, Dave is not only a content creator and inspirator ,but a true innovator in the field of Finance and FinTech education.
Starting with AT&T Bell Labs in New Jersey programming Expert Systems, Dave embarked on a 25-year career in investment banking and financial services, rising to the position of Vice President of Global Risk Management in Deutsche Bank and working with companies such as ABN AMRO and Moody’s. In 2017, Dave made a bold move to academia in London, where he introduced innovative teaching methods that use AI to address students’ difficulties in understanding fundamental financial concepts. His contagious passion for integrating technology into education has been evident since then. He also continues to write and sell market commentary to several banks and hedge funds. In this interview, I spend time with Dave to delve into the mind behind ‘Educating Finance, Fintech, and AI.’
Dave, your career in finance has been nothing short of remarkable. What made you decide to transition into teaching?
After relocating to London from New York with Deutsche Bank, I found a balance in my work-life that allowed me to pursue postgraduate studies (MBA and MSc). It was during an MSc Quantitative Finance program where I first discovered my love for teaching. In one class, we used a programming language called RATS (Regression Analysis of Time Series), and I quickly found myself helping my fellow students during the hands-on labs. A few years later, my former lecturer reached out to me with an opportunity to work part-time running labs and helping students with their dissertations. I found that I truly enjoyed teaching, and for some reason, the students liked me too. Over time, I began teaching full modules while still working part-time in Investment Banking. However, the cutthroat and unethical culture of banking left me feeling disillusioned, and I decided to make a bold move and transition into a second career in teaching in 2003.
How would you define ethics and morality in the field of finance, fintech, and education, and how do you apply them in your work?
Morality in finance, are you serious? Ha! It’s recognizing that in all these fields they are people businesses. You must work with people and treat people properly to succeed. I would say that Fintech mitigates the role of rent-seeking intermediaries, and can lead to lower costs and higher returns for all in a more equitable manner. As for how I apply these principles in my work, I also carry this ethos over into my property business, where I focus less on the boxes I own and let, and more on the people in those boxes.
So, how has your extensive background in the financial sector influenced your approach to teaching FinTech and Finance?
In my time, I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates for investment banking jobs and learned the importance of explaining things in a simple or concise manner. Moreover, I always appreciated a demonstration of the practical application of finance rather than the theory. In my opinion, many theories are baloney. For example, the Efficient Markets Hypothesis suggests that asset prices fully always embed all publicly available information, but anyone familiar with the markets knows this is rubbish. Mispriced stocks are common. Another theory is Modern Portfolio Theory, which suggests we should hold a diversified portfolio of 25 or more stocks to reduce our risk. But most of us don’t have the time to properly select and monitor 25 stocks. As Warren Buffett once said, “diversification may preserve wealth, but concentration builds wealth’. I also believe it’s much more powerful to show students how finance works in practice. As an educator, I supplement my students to gain the necessary hands-on skills to support their learning. I also firmly believe whether its learning or investing, the details matter. People need to fully understand what they are learning or buying.
Dave, how do you integrate AI into your teaching methods?
AI in education is nascent, but I use AI to help students and staff understand how complicated or complex models work. I also assist in supporting others on how to use AI in ways that add value, for example, to explain topics simply or succinctly. But it requires ongoing synthesis. You use an AI model’s explanation and build upon it, then reiterate this process. Alongside, I develop and share podcasts on Finance Facts and FinTech Facts, which I hope will further contribute to the development of students’ understanding of financial models. I also have a YouTube Channel. In the main, they are targeted at students who don’t learn effectively from books. My podcasts help them build understanding from simple definitions and provide applied examples in what I perceive to be a fun and visual way. This approach is further nourished by my side hustle as the founder and editor of FinTech Flash News and another online report outlet soon to be launched. Under the name Deep Opportunity, I also write and sell market research to six financial institutions who redistribute, either in whole or part, under their own name. The latter became a thing following the Global Financial Crisis when deep personnel cuts in the sector impacted research outputs.
What would you say to those who worry about an over-reliance on technology?
Ha ha, I grew up using an outhouse and pumping drinking water from a hand-pumped well, so they should try that before moaning about technology. Keeping up with the technology is more of a concern. I recognize I’m unusually confident given my long-term experience immersed in programming in a wide variety of languages, building Market Analytics and financial software, but I am enthusiastic about the value of applied technology. I would say technology is key to unlocking the potential of sustainable finance. By automating tedious and repetitive tasks, we can free up resources to focus on the good stuff.
Dave, you have had a phenomenal career to date, who has most inspired you along the way?
I’ve read a lot of books along the way and particularly like bios. If there is an authorized biography, I’ll seek out the unauthorized version. So many people have become small parts of me, rather than one or two people becoming large parts of me. That said, I grew up in rural poverty in the US, and my grandfather who raised me left a powerful mark. He just kept at it, day by day, year by year. My passion for art and creativity has added a unique dimension to both my career and teaching. Art has played a significant role in my life since running two art galleries in Manhattan during the early 80s. To this day, I remain drawn to its enriching influence and constantly seek out new ways to incorporate it into my work. I also believe anything worth doing is worth doing to excess and want to bring content and outputs that are engaging and dynamic. In my mind, lectures must be beautiful. I like to deliver slides that engage and share a bigger story rather than swamp with walls of text.
What types of artworks are you drawn to Dave?
Too varied to list. I’ve recently bought some pieces from the East London collage artist Adrian Boswell, who combines the surrealism of Salvador Dali surrealism with humour. I also appreciate Abotz’s artwork which features colourful and abstract compositions. I think you can tell I do colourful!
What advice would you give to your younger self based on your experiences and insights gained in your career?
Don’t be such a wise ass and to trust people more.
Thank you so much Dave, for taking the time to share your inspiring journey and valuable insights. It was a pleasure to learn from your expertise in finance, fintech, and AI, and its application to education. Am so thrilled to have spent time with you.
More from Dave:
Dave currently teachers and programme manages at UWTSD, London Campus: https://www.uwtsdlondon.ac.uk/our-campus/Staff/David-Coker/
In May 2020, Dave was published in Wiley’s The AI Book, where he outline the possibility of using Machine Learning to avoid financial crisis – Deep Learning and Financial Regulation – The AI Book – Wiley Online Library
Finance Facts | Dave’s Podcast on Spotify
Dave Coker’s Fintech Flash News
Dave’s YouTube Channel – The Week Ahead @theweekahead9131
An extract of a Dave Lecture: LSBF Global MBA – Lecture in Portfolio Theory
David Coker’s Journalist Portfolio | Muck Rack -signposts to Dave’s content on Finance, Cryptocurrency, Fintech, Regtech, Trading, Risk Management, Regulations has published by The Guardian, CNBC, Daily Express, Evening Standard, Sputnik, Quartz, The i Paper, Finextra, Financial Adviser, Trustnodes, Hitech Glitz, The Avondhu etc.
Dave is also a polished and effective public speaker, sometimes presenting on finance to private clients in The City of London or Canary Wharf, with several media appearances.
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