Bitcoin the rage at US universities

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Bitcoin prices rise after exchange giant CME Group announced it planned to launch a futures marketplace for the cryptocurrency in the fourth quarter AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) – US business schools are beefing up training in the software that underlies digital currency bitcoin, a technology expected to be a game changer in many industries.

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The move makes sense as more students seek careers in financial technology, or “fintech”, which has captivated leading Wall Street banks and been called “the most important technology since the internet”.

In January, the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley will offer its first ever course in blockchain software.

The Haas school, which is near San Francisco and Silicon Valley, will handpick 60 students from the departments of business, engineering and law and split them into groups of six to explore possible applications of the technology.

“When people think about blockchain they think about cryptocurrencies,” said Haas school lecturer Greg LaBlanc, who sees the technology as potentially disrupting many sectors.

“We believe it will have the biggest impact on contracting, logistics and supply chains, healthcare, public administration, assets clearing, property, transactions,” he said.

“Pretty much every function of businesses are going to be affected by this.”

Blockchain runs by recording transactions as “blocks” that are updated in real time on a digitised ledger that can be read from anywhere and does not have a central recordkeeper.

It was originally developed as the accounting method for bitcoin. But while that cryptocurrency remains controversial with some players in finance, bankers increasingly see exposure blockchain as a must.

Blockchain is “something we are very optimistic about”, JPMorgan Chase chief financial officer Marianne Lake said on a conference call last month.

Newer technologies could be “very transformational for the financial services industry and we are forward-leaning and optimistic about that”, Ms Lake added.

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