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Centre for Digital Finance (CDF)


The rapid pace of technological innovation over the last two decades has changed the way we do business and finance. The Centre for Digital Finance (CDF) brings together researchers to investigate this new electronic world. This includes research in electronic financial markets and banking, which are by far the largest and most important electronic marketplaces in the world today. It also includes the business and financial aspects of technology research. The Centre’s members come from a variety of academic disciplines and it aims to foster a deeper understanding and awareness of the complex inter-relationship between business and technology through research, consultancy and education.


The Centre was established in 2014 and has developed a track record of regular publication in international journals and successful research grant applications. In addition, group members regularly disseminate their research via seminars, workshops and international conferences. We actively seek joint activities with other international research centres and institutions.


The Centre for Digital Finance is to become a leading hub for innovative, collaborative and multidisciplinary research that transforms the existing understanding of challenges of technological innovations in finance and provides solutions for contemporary business problems. 


The CDF mission is in line with the Southampton University core principles:

One team working, planning and delivering
together, toward our shared vision. We believe that the best results can be achieved via collaboration, transparency and trust. We are committed to treat each other, our external partners, collaborators and other stakeholders with integrity and respect.

Our research is ambitious, original and relevant. We believe that our multidisciplinary research in digital finance, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies can make a difference to communities, advance existing theories, and inform policy-makers and financial regulators.

We are proud of our research work and we are committed to disseminate the results via seminars, workshops, international conferences, forums, and in the media. We are keen to organize international research events, build linkages with other institutions and work within international research teams.


We believe that our research in digital finance benefits society as a whole and our actions lead to financial, social and environmental sustainability.    We are keen to explore alternative funding sources to support CDF activities, manage costs and enhance productivity.



Area of Interests

The CDF research is centered around key themes: 

International and empirical finance: interconnectedness, contagion and safe haven; cryptocurrency as a financial asset; asset price bubble; portfolio construction and diversification benefits; efficiency/inefficiency; herding behavior; media attention and effect of announcements; price dynamics; price volatility; price discovery; market risk. 

Corporate Finance: crowdfunding; initial coin offering (ICO); fintech startups; the impact of digitalization on corporate governance issues, agency problem and transparency; new investment opportunities created by blockchain; impact of digitalization on traditional financial institutions. 

Multidisciplinary Research in Digital Finance: cybercrime, potential other uses for blockchain; fintech; environmental issues in cryptocurrencies; legal issues; financial regulation; future for digital payments; taxation; ethical issues.


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Latest news

Cryptocurrency Research Conference 2019

The Centre for Digital Finance organised the second Cryptocurrency Research Conference 2019 that took place on 15-16 June 2019 at Southampton Business School, Southampton, UK. Conference welcomed 75 delegates from 42 institutions, including presenters from the University of Sydney (Australia), Ministry of Finance of Japan (Japan), Yale University (USA), as well delegates from India, China, EU and the UK, among others. This was the largest Cryptocurrency research conference that has been organised to date.

The highlights of the conference were the keynote speeches delivered by academic and industry experts.

Dr Garrick Hileman (Head of Research at Blockchain, co-founder of Mosaic and research associate at London School of Economics) presented his research on Stablecoins, providing useful insights on adoption, landscape, and users cases.

Obi Nwosu (CEO and co-founder of Coinfloor) supported this conference from the initial launch of this series of conferences. Last year, during the Cryptocurrency Research Conference 2018, Obi joined the panel discussion “Cryptocurrencies: Opportunities and Challenges in the digital age”, and this year, as a keynote, Obi delivered an inspirational talk and shared his experience of creation and running of one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges.

The conference provided great opportunities for networking and sharing the ideas in this innovative field.

On Sunday morning our third keynote Dr Shaen Corbet (cryptocurrency expert, Associate Professor of Finance, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland) presented an overview of the cryptocurrency research “The Continued Evolution of Cryptocurrencies”, highlighting the most interesting findings in this area and directions for further research.

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Dr Garrick Hileman presenting his research on Stablecoins
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Obi Nwosu delivering a keynote presentation
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Obi Nwosu delivering a keynote presentation
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Participants networking
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Participants networking
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Participants discussing the presentations
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Questions to the presenters
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Dr Shaen Corbet presenting on cryptocurrency
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Dr Shaen Corbet presenting on cryptocurrency

Some of the papers that were presented at the Cryptocurrency Research Conference 2019 will appear shortly in the Economics Letters, IRFA, FRL, and Heliyon journals. Datasets used in these papers will be published in the Special Issue of Data-in-Brief. 

The Centre of Digital Finance would like to thank the Elsevier team for supporting this conference, and particularly:

Professor Joao F. Gomes for offering the Special Issue in Economics Letters.

Professor Brian Lucey (Trinity College Dublin) for providing publication opportunities in International Review of Financial Analysis journal.

Seminar Series 2018/2019


Date SpeakerRoomTime              
 20/02/2019  Dr Larisa Yarovaya (SBS)
58/1039 13:00 - 15:00

Dr Evangelos Benos (Bank of England))

 58/1039 13:00 - 15:00

Dr Dimitrios Chronopoulos (St Andrews)

 04/4055 13:00 - 15:00

Prof Matti Keloharju (Aalto University – Finland and Centre for Economic Policy Research)

 02/5033 12:00 - 14:00

Prof Claudia Girardone (Essex)

 TBC 13:00 - 15:00


Helping to Mend Britain’s Broken Pensions and Benefits System

22 May 2017
Professor Frank McGroarty and Dr Andrew Urquhart of the Centre for Digital Finance have been working with the pensions and benefits industry to help resolve well-documented problems in the sector. They organised and hosted a specialist focus group of influential representatives of public and private sector organisations to explore the important issue of “Interoperability”. This event was held at the Digital Catapult’s office in London on 16 May 2017 and was considered a great success by all participants.

In 2012, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) published a report titled ‘Seeing Through British Pensions: How to Increase Cost Transparency in UK Pension Schemes’ which estimated the annualised average fee charged by UK pension providers to be “…. 1.7%, and [this] had been rising over previous years, and that trading costs were [an additional] 1.4%, making a[n average annual] total charge of 3.1%. This was for an equity fund but if such a charge was applied over the 25-year life of a pension fund, more than half the poten­tial pension benefit would disappear”. This report prompted the then Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, to impose a mandatory cap of 0.75% on charges for all new pension savings from April 2014 onwards. However, an Office of Fair Trading report of December 2014 showed that older pension products continued to be subjected to much higher ongoing servicing costs.

There are two roots to the problem of ongoing high pension charges. The first, as the RSA report highlights, is the lack of Transparency – i.e. the customers cannot see the costs clearly and so do not seek to challenge them. The second is lack of Interoperability – i.e. the systems of the different pension providers’ platforms do not communicate to each other and so even if a customer does wish to move assets from one pension scheme to another, it is difficult and costly to do so. These two factors together stifle competition, with the result that prudent and responsible pension savers in the UK face much lower pots of capital at retirement than they expect. Professor McGroarty and Dr Urquhart perceived an opportunity to do some impactful research, which could help to find a solution to these market inefficiencies.

Initial discussions with the industry suggested that there was a potential research project based on the Blockchain, which is the technology that underlies Bitcoin, about which Dr Urquhart has published, and in which both researchers have a keen interest. However, further discussions made clear that this idea was too radical for the current state of the industry. At present, the distribution of pension products in the UK is via platforms (siloes) dominated by the large insurance companies. The distribution process is highly intermediated and insufficiently automated, which means that product administration costs and product transfer costs are high. At the heart of the issue is that there are no common open standards to which pension platforms must adhere, which is the reason for the lack of interoperability in the sector. Agreeing to and complying with common standards would permit interoperability, which would be the first steps towards increasing automation and getting administration costs down. While the industry has known this for years, it has not done anything to bring about common standards. No player in the industry wants to take a lead because that would require a unilateral investment of time and resources into something that would produce no competitive advantage. Moreover, competitors would view any unilaterally introduced interoperability solution with suspicion. Furthermore, it is arguable that pension providers are satisfied with the prevailing high-fee status quo. Correspondingly, the various government stakeholders have historically taken the view that the industry has abundant capital and therefore is not a worthy candidate to receive any public resources.

Discussions with individual stakeholders led Professor McGroarty and Dr Urquhart to the conclusion that greater engagement was necessary from all key stakeholders, but particularly from government stakeholders who need to form an alternative vision to the status quo and provide leadership on this important public welfare issue. As academics who were independent of the industry, Professor McGroarty and Dr Urquhart believed they could help to mediate a solution. The Centre for Digital Finance planned, organised and hosted an invitation-only specialist focus group of pensions and benefits industry stakeholders at the offices of the Digital Catapult in London on 16 May 2017. The event was attended by senior representatives from: Department of Work and Pensions, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, British Standards Institute, UK Accreditation Service, All Party Parliamentary Group on Fintech, Competition and Markets Authority, Digital Catapult, Government Digital Service, Cabinet Office, Pensions Regulator, Pensions Administration Standards Association, Transparency Task Force and SBC Systems (UK) Ltd.

A poll of the attendees at the close of the event showed that all unanimously agreed that they had gained a deeper understanding of the importance of Interoperability in the pensions and benefits industry because of the Centre for Digital Finance’s event. In addition, the participants concluded that a government-led steering group should be formed to take the issue of interoperability standards forward. A number of the attendees have already committed to serve on this steering group. This was the best possible outcome from this meeting. Professor McGroarty and Dr Urquhart expect this steering group to succeed in introducing a set of common open standards for interoperability among pensions and benefits platforms in the near future and that this would provide the setting for the Blockchain research project they originally proposed.

Professor Simon Wolfe with Hana Bawazir and Mohamed Bakoush
Professor Simon Wolfe with Hana Bawazir and Mohamed Bakoush

A second PhD student from CCFBA gains prestigious internship at the IMF

25 April 2017

Over the past twelve years, five PhD students from the Centre for Computational Finance and Business Analytics (CCFBA) and Southampton Business School have been successful in achieving internships at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The five PhD students are Klaus Schaeck (2005), Sarah Odesanmi Sanya (2008), Mohammed Amidu (2010), Mohamed Bakoush (2016) and Hana Bawazir (2017).

What they all have in common is that their PhD supervisor is or was Professor Simon Wolfe. This success places the University alongside Oxford, Cambridge and the LSE in terms of PhD students being offered internships.

Interns return to their studies with an enlightened vigour after experiencing three months working at the Fund. In addition, the experience prepares students for very high achievement in their future careers. Prof Klaus Schaeck (Bristol University) is an expert on banking, Sarah Sanya is a fulltime Economist at the IMF, and Mohammed Amidu is head of the Department of Accounting and Finance (University of Ghana).

Both Mohamed Bakoush and Hana Bawazir are currently PhD students in CCFBA, Mohamed is working on financial stability whereas Hana is researching bank liquidity.

Professor Frank McGroarty sat at his computer, smiling at camera, surrounded with work
Professor Frank McGroarty, Professor of Computational Finance

Chartered Association of Business Schools Conference

03 April 2017

Professor Frank McGroarty attended the Chartered Association of Business Schools conference on 28 and 29 March 2017. In an exchange with Jonas Nystrom (Head of Science and Innovation, HM Treasury) Frank extracted an admission that funding for Academic Research, which had previously been provided by the European Union, has not been ring-fenced by the government from other post-Brexit funding. In addition. Frank asked Paul Mason of Innovate UK why the Financial Services industry was poorly supported by public research funding - citing his recent experience with the Digital Catapult who pulled back from a research project on pensions that they had previously committed to being involved in. He made the point that not all entities in the financial services world are well-endowed banks and that there is need for publicly funded research on matters that affect public welfare, e.g. pensions servicing costs. Paul suggested that there may be a softening in the position of Innovate UK on this matter and that Frank should seek to re-kindle his conversation about pensions with the Digital Catapult


Selected Recent Publications

Cheah, E-T., Mishra, T., Parhi, M., & Zhang, Z. (2018). Long memory interdependency and inefficiency in Bitcoin markets. Economics Letters, 167, 18-25. DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2018.02.010

Nunes, M., Gerding, E., McGroarty, F., & Niranjan, M. (2018). A comparison of multitask and single task learning with artificial neural networks for yield curve forecasting. Expert Systems with Applications. DOI: 10.1016/j.eswa.2018.11.012

Corbet, S., Lucey, B., Urquhart, A., Yarovaya L. (2018). Cryptocurrencies as a financial asset: A systematic analysis. International Review of Financial Analysis,

Corbet, S., Lucey, B., Yarovaya L. (2018). Datestamping the Bitcoin and Ethereum bubbles. Finance Research Letters, 26, 81-88.

Corbet, S., Meegan, A., Larkin, C., Lucey, B., Yarovaya, L. (2018). Exploring the dynamic relationships between cryptocurrencies and other financial assets. Economics Letters,

John, F.M. and Cheah, E.T. (2016) ‘Negative Bubbles and Shocks in Cryptocurrency Markets’, International Review of Financial Analysis, vol. 47, pp. 343 - 352 (ABS 2015 – 3*) (

Cheah, E.T. and Fry, J.M. (2015) ‘Speculative Bubbles in Bitcoin Markets? An Empirical Investigation into the Fundamental Value of Bitcoin’, Economics Letters, vol. 130, pp. 32 – 36 (ABS 2015 - 3*)(

Research Projects

We conduct high-quality research to gain a greater understanding of financial market complexity, electronic financial markets and banking and quantitative modelling. Current projects include:

  • Professor Frank McGroarty's successful bid to the European Union’s Seventh Framework (F7) Programme to fund IoT Lab, a European project that aims to researching the potential of crowdsourcing to extend IoT testbed infrastructure for multidisciplinary experiments with more end-user interactions. The €3.35m grant is being used to provide an accurate economic and business opportunity analysis for the IoT testbed, as well as cost and efficiency monitoring tools. It will then compare the various models and explore innovative business models and an opportunities analysis. Finally, the project will analyse and optimise the economic dimension of the project.
  • A project led by Professor Frank McGroarty and Dr Sha Liu, funded by a Web Science Institute Research Collaboration Stimulus Fund Grant of £15,000, and a further £15,000 from industry partner Channel Creator. The funds are being used to acquire a subscription to a data service provided by Visible Technologies, a brand leader in aggregation, storage and analytics of social media data. The immediate objective is to prepare a more substantial and complete research proposal on 'measuring financial sentiment in social media', which provides a unique opportunity to apply web science research in building the tools through which the finance industry will view the read-write web.

Education - undergraduate and postgraduate programmes

The Southampton Business School has an international reputation for accounting and finance. Accountancy is concerned with the provision and analysis of information for a variety of purposes. These include regulation, resource allocation, and a range of other decision-making tasks, both within and outside an organisation.

Our masters programmes in finance provide a solid foundation in finance and empirical finance. All three courses integrate theory and practice and provide the opportunity to take a number of specialist modules to focus on a particular area of finance.

PhD courses

We offer a combination of rigorous PhD-level training, supervised by leading researchers from the CCFBA. Postgraduate researchers have the opportunity to work with staff of the highest calibre within our internationally recognised centres of excellence. The CCFBA has access to state-of-the-art computational facilities, as well as data sources such as Bloomberg, datastream, bankscope and fame. Trainees are encouraged to take an active role in the activities of the CCFBA group within Southampton Business School, including attending seminars, workshops and providing short presentations on their work. 

There are currently 20 students studying PhDs in the CCFBA research area, each of whom is benefiting from the supervisory skills and interdisciplinary expertise of the Centre’s members. Our PhD programme is entirely research-orientated. 

If you already have a clear idea of your intended research topic, it is important to explore our members' research areas to find out where your own research is likely to fit. This will help you to identify staff members who may be specifically suited to your proposed area of research and, potentially, to pinpoint which members are actively seeking to recruit PhD students.

Find out more about applying for a PhD at Southampton Business School.

Apply online for a full-time or part-time PhD programme.

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