Ask Feng Jiao about finance and he can talk all day about exchange rates, investments, forecasting and stocks.

But ask the University of Lethbridge Associate Professor what drives financial knowledge and decision making and he’ll sum it up in one word: data.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence driving change

“Naturally, most financial firms generate lots of data. Data, in turn, has revolutionized finance,” says Dr. Jiao.

“Machine learning has been used to provide real-time stock market insights, artificial intelligence helps fraud detection and prevention, and business process automation maintains accurate risk analysis. As the financial industry rapidly moves toward data-driven optimization, companies have begun adapting to these changes in a deliberate and comprehensive manner,” he says.

“All of these call for a significant demand for talents with strong data analytical skills.”

Thankfully Dr. Jiao is perfectly positioned to share his knowledge with students pursuing the Business Analytics concentration (BANA), a course- and project-based pathway in the MSc (Mgt) program.

Examples of analytics applications in business

“My previous teaching experiences in finance focuses on understanding how investors make investment decisions and how market participants could interpret information released by companies. Those augment the BANA concentration by applying data analytical tools through a financial lens.”

Dr. Jiao says industry examples of business analytics include combining data analytics and financial statement analysis to provide an in-depth analysis of a company’s financial data, helping organizations gain insights into their financial data, implementing indicative action to improve performance, and providing a new perspective to the financial data.

“Data analytics in the finance sector plays a crucial role in forecasting the future, calculating profit and sales, developing methods to improve business, and much more.”

Real-world experience for long-term success

Students taking the project-based BANA concentration will benefit from Dr. Jiao’s knowledge and expertise – he’s a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charterholder with real-world experience working as a Business Intelligence Analyst – when he teaches BANA 5005 (Time Series Models and Forecasting for Business).

“I believe any management student can benefit tremendously from the BANA concentration. One of the main benefits of data analytics is that it improves the decision-making process significantly. Rather than merely relying on intuition, managers are increasingly looking toward data before making a decision,” he says.

“Future managers could leverage their insights to enable rapid decision-making about new opportunities and emerging threats. I believe the BANA concentration provide a great opportunity to get ahead of the curve and lay the foundation for long-term success.”