The Fintech PhD research project falls within that Accounting, Finance and Economics Research Group (AFERG). This was established to foster an inclusive research environment that facilitates, supports and encourages research and collaboration both in a multi-discipline environment.  AFERG will co-supervise with the School of Computing due to the technical requirements of the subject. This is comprised of two focused research groups in Pervasive Computing and Artificial Intelligence.

The PhD Researcher will be based in the new £363m High Tech Belfast Campus. Belfast, along with Cambridge, was named the UK’s most tech centric city by Tech Nation, with 26% of all job vacancies in 2019 in tech and digital.

The term Fintech has many meanings but typically is used to describe financial technology driven innovation. It refers more casually to a subset of digital financial business models that have technology at their core. Ulster University’s Fintech activities are focused on a broad range of areas stemming from the Accounting, Finance and Economics disciplines. These include:

  • Establishing protocols for cheaper international remittances.
  • Fintech governance and risk. New methods for developing financial products using blockchain.
  • Methods for trading renewable energy and/or carbon emissions.
  • Micro lending and the use of Machine learning to improve outcomes.
  • Scaling the lessons from the Open Finance initiative.
  • The entrepreneurial aspects of the fintech ecosystem.
  • The linkages of credit ratings and overall systemic risk of the country.
  • The role of Central Bank Digital Currencies.
  • Traditional Machine Learning Algorithms with and Deep Learning in Financial Applications.

We are open to any research proposal within the broad remit of Fintech provided it is based on sound financial methods and relevant data.   We are particularly interested in proposals based on applied problems, including those arising from digital transformation and decision-making using analytics and/or computational methods. The scope of the research can cover all manner of innovations in financial services. These can be facilitated by digital technologies, big data and AI. This includes Open Finance and Decentralised Ledgers. It is also possible to focus on the transformative effect of financial innovation on the competitive environment in banking and financial services. Applicants are required to put forward an outline description of the research problem and existing literature on the proposed topic area.

We emphasise the multi-disciplinary nature of this studentship. The research can therefore embrace techniques from Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Analytics, Explanatory Statistics, and Computational Methods. The successful researcher would be expected to undertake advanced research and contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the field of Fintech. The research should be applied in nature, delivering a high-quality output that makes an impact on society and/or industry.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 70%

Funding and eligibility

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


My sincere thanks to Prof Pauric McGowan and Dr Alison Hampton for walking alongside me on my PhD journey.  The path was at times rocky; at times full of twists and turns; at other times offered some steep learning moments - but with a clear runway to the end and together we crossed the finishing line!  Their supervision was top class and will be for me true role model supervisors.

Breda O'Dwyer - PhD in Business and Management

I completed by BSc in International Travel and Tourism Management at Ulster which inspired me to go on and begin my PhD after 2 years in industry. My supervisors, Professor Stephen Boyd and Dr Peter Bolan have been fantastic throughout my PhD journey. My time at Ulster, in particular Coleraine campus, has been amazing through undergrad and PhD.I am most proud to have finished my PhD and survived the rollercoaster ride of many ups and downs especially during the past year and a half. I could never have got through it all without my office bestfriend, Natasha McClelland. We both started and finished PhD together. We've been on holidays, shopping trips and spa days. We've laughed (a lot), ranted and cried. Our sweetie jar was the best addition to the office! My advice for future PhD researchers would be to get yourselves a PhD bestie and just keep telling each other "You can do this!".

Nicola Allen - PhD in Business and Management

I'm just delighted to be sitting here as a PhD graduate - what a process and for anyone who completed their PhD part-time, an extra tip of the hat. I would never have gotten through this without the support and guidance from my supervisors - Martin, Judith and Alison, thank you! You are a crack team and I was fortunate to be supervised by you. Also massive thank you to my family! Your love and support meant the world and would not have been able to get through without your support and sacrifice, especially my wife Rebekah and kids, Isaac, Theo and Abigail. My proudest moment was my Viva - it was tough, fair but really enjoyable at the same time! If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be keep going and embrace the journey! Surround yourself with good people - you will need them along the way! Finally, congratulations to my fellow graduating colleagues - well done.

Ian Smyth - PhD in Business and Management

My journey in Northern Ireland began 11 years ago when I started my BSc in International Travel and Tourism Management at Ulster University and graduated with a first-class honours in 2015. During my first year as an undergrad, the professor who stood by me throughout all the years, mentioned the possibility of a PhD. At that time, it felt like a very distant and unlikely dream. He was also the one who inspired my research subject which combined two passions of mine, film and heritage, and became my main supervisor, Dr Peter Bolan. I also have to mention Dr Clare Carruthers and Prof Audrey Gilmore who completed my supervisory team and provided incredible support and encouragement throughout.My happiest moment during the PhD was when I discovered I was pregnant with my beautiful girl, Isabella! She did come as a bit of a shock and surprise and journeyed with me through my data collection. At seven months old, I am sure she must have been the youngest participant observer in the field.

Mihaela Ghisoiu - PhD in Business and Management

I completed my BSc Consumer Studies at Ulster University and graduated with a first-class honours in 2017. It was here that I found my passion, desire and academic support to undertake my PhD. My time at Ulster University has been amazing and I couldn’t have got through this experience without my supervisors - The Dream Team. I am deeply grateful for their guidance, invaluable advice, support, encouragement and for ensuring that my supervisor meetings were never dull. Ulster University has provided me with so many learning and training experiences and the opportunity to attend regional, national and international conferences, in addition to many external networking events. I was always encouraged and supported to progress my personal and professional development. Along the way I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Paul Dion, who helped me to understand statistics and has always remained in contact checking in every so often. In exchange I taught him some very valuable Northern

Natasha McClelland - PhD in Business and Management