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Centre for Digital Finance (CDF)


The rapid pace of technological innovation over the last two decades has transformed both the academic study of finance and the way the finance industry functions. The Centre for Digital Finance (CDF) brings together researchers from diverse disciplines to study this new financial world.

Our Vision: The Centre for Digital Finance aspires to be a global leader in understanding the complex interrelationship between finance and emerging transformational technologies.

Digital Finance

The financial markets are the largest and most important electronic marketplaces in the world today, by far. Digital Finance is the application of cutting-edge computer technologies to financial problems and products. These technologies include: Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning, Agent Based Simulation Models, Natural Language Processing, Big Data and Post-time-series Statistical Analysis. Digital Finance draws together researchers from different academic backgrounds for collaborative research and innovation for the purpose of gaining deeper insights into financial system dynamics. We also work with industry partners to develop solutions for contemporary business problems.

Transformative changes in financial technology range from the emergence of an alternative virtual money (cryptocurrencies) and the direct, internet-mediated access to investors' capital (crowdfunding), to the explosion of new data types (e.g., social media, text) and new analytical techniques (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing). These changes trigger shifts in industry practice and they can both empower and subjugate consumers. Historically, the global investment banks and fund managers were siloed organisations who jealously guarded the intellectual property in their systems and models, as they considered these their competitive edge. In recent years, they have all come to embrace the Financial Open Source (FinOS) movement and now openly share their cherished in-house data management systems and pricing algorithms with each other. The reason for this shift in behaviour is that they understand they cannot out-compete the emerging wave of FinTech technology and so they are adapting to it in order to position themselves to prosper in a different financial world. The philosophy underlying cryptocurrencies aims to engage and empower communities at the expense of disintermediating corporate entities. However, scammers, programming errors and poor operational practices have exposes neophyte cryptocurrency investors to losses. At the same time, corporations gain greater influence over their customers via richer, personalised tracking data and sophisticated classification and forecasting methods. Regulators are wrestling with this new landscape with a view to protecting consumers.

Bitcoin cryptocurrency is one type of financial instrument that is built on the Blockchain. Another fast-growing Blockchain technology is Decentralised Finance (DeFi). This automates financial functions (distributed applications or "dApps") that were historically the preserve of banks and other financial institutions. These new financial instruments pose a new educational need: the engineering and programming skills, combined with the understanding of finance, required to build the financial products and services of the future. This in turn presents a new research need: the capacity to test the efficacy of new dApps, to examine their impact on financial system dynamics and to provide a conceptual framework to help policymakers to monitor and regulate these new systems.

As an empirical approach, Digital Finance has the same objective as traditional time series econometric analysis but use different tools. Namely, it aims to test theory from finance and economics. Digital Finance's empirical tools have roots in computer science. In some settings, Digital Finance complements the econometric approach. In other settings, it can provide an alternative view and can often offer new insights, e.g. via simulation, where the historical data required by the econometric approach is lacking. Digital Finance draws in finance researchers from a broad set of background disciplines and perspectives, most notably computer science but also from engineering, physics and mathematics. This rich diversity of backgrounds and philosophical outlooks is reflected in the wider array of academic journals in which Digital Finance research is published. While much Digital Finance research finds a home in finance and economics journals, a good deal of it is published in Information Systems or Operations Research journals, which are receptive to research on the effects of technology on business and finance.

A relatively simple technological advance, hardware improvements that speed up order routing, led to some high frequency traders gaining an advantage over rivals because they could place orders milliseconds earlier. This spawned the industry of high frequency trading. To study the latter requires working with data of such high resolution (tick data) that it is not evenly spaced in time and the time in milliseconds at which assets trade do not line up with each other. Traditional mainstream financial time series econometrics tools become useless in this setting. Digital Finance provides a set of new, post-time-series, statistical tools for analysing irregular high frequency data.

New technology also offers finance researchers an alternative tool for testing theory: a simulation sandbox called agent-based modelling. On the one hand, this is an alternative tool to empirical analysis of history for validating finance theory and which can yield new insights into financial dynamics. On the other hand, this tool has the additional power of being able to simulate the likely impact of new policies and regulations. Agent based modelling involves coding up automated trading behaviour (the "agents"), which will be triggered when selected by a simulation programme. Large scale simulations are run in which different agents (programmes) are randomly selected, paired and made to trade. The resulting prices are recorded and used as input for the subsequent trade. And this step is repeated. These simulations produce price paths, along with volume and volatility patterns. Tens of thousands of trades can be easily simulated. Different sets of simulations can be run with different prevailing conditions and the variety of emergent behaviours can be observed for each. An important feature of this approach is that it enables endogenous behaviour to emerge within a complex adaptive financial system. This contrasts with traditional financial theory and empirical approach which is inherently deterministic and does not allow for endogenous outcomes.

Centre for Digital Finance (CDF)

The CDF was established in 2014 and has built up an enviable track record of publications in top international journals and research grants on topics linking finance with technology. In addition, our members regularly disseminate their research via seminars, workshops and international conferences. We actively cultivate collaborations with other leading international research centres and institutions, as well as with industry partners.

Our Mission

  • Research Leadership: To be a global leader in curating knowledge and creating new knowledge and understanding about the co-evolution of finance and the emergent technologies which are reshaping finance.
  • Research-led Education and Dissemination: To equip the financier of tomorrow with the skills they will need to navigate and master a more technological world, to inform and guide policymakers, and to contribute to academic debates in order to advance communal understanding of Digital Finance.
  • Research-led Enterprise: To collaborate with industry to solve real-world business problems via sponsored research and consulting, and to contribute to a better society by participation in the formation of policies, regulations and standards by serving on boards and writing policy/industry reports.
  • Research Funding: To generate revenue to fund Digital Finance research via academic research grants and commercially sponsored research projects.
  • Profile Promotion: To generally promote and enhance the profile and reputation of the Centre for Digital Finance by engaging with external parties, serving on external boards and committees, presenting at conferences (industry and academic), participating in news media, writing industry reports, promoting our research on social media, etc.

CDF research centres on two broad research areas:

Cryptocurrencies, DeFi and FinTech: Blockchain technology is driving the evolution of new financial assets. We study the risk and contagion properties of these new assets, as well as their effect on portfolios of assets and on existing financial functions. We explore other potential uses for Blockchain technology, the future of digital payments systems, environmental issues around Blockchain mining and related ethical issue. We also study cryptocurrency and DeFi governance issues. We scrutinise the structure of DeFi dApps in order to understand how this affects its price dynamics and those of related dApps and cryptocurrencies. Other issues we study include crowdfunding and popular attention related to cryptocurrency environmental impact.

Empirical Research using Cutting Edge Computer Science Tools: We use tools like neural networks, support vector machines and random forests to model and to forecast financial time series. We use post-time-series methods to measure and predict the relationship between high frequency, irregularly spaced price series. We employ Natural Language Processing to obtain numerical measures of sentiment in texts. We use agent based models to run simulations to explore issues like congestion and spillover in financial markets and in the banking system, and to examine the effect of policy options.


For our most recent publications, please see each member's staff profile.

Cryptocurrency Research Conference 2021

The Centre for Digital Finance, University of Southampton and the ICMA Centre organised the 4th Cryptocurrency Research Conference on the 16 and 17 September 2021 in Microsoft Teams. Keynote Speakers: Professor Carol Alexander and Professor Campbell R Harvey.  
This event brought together an international group of academics conducting research in finance and related disciplines, as well as practitioners and policy makers to generate debates on current issues of cryptocurrencies and digital finance. This conference provides a forum for presenting new ideas, and discussing the future direction of cryptocurrency research. 
This is the largest, niche conference in cryptocurrency and Fintech area and this year attracted 400 registered participants and 48 presenters from around the globe.



Seminars Series - 2022-2023

Date SpeakerTitle of presentation
12 October 2022 Rongxin Chen 
(Phd student - Internal) 
Behavioural theories of investor behaviour: Empirical evidence from the limit order book 
19 October 2022 Dr Emmanouil Planatakis (U of Bath)  A Model-based Commodity Risk Measure on Commodity and Stock Market Returns 
26 October 2022 Chris McHugh 
(Phd student - Internal) 
Competitive Conditions in Development Finance 
16 November 2022 Dr Sasan Barak ( U of Southampton)  Order Placement: A Reinforcement Learning Approach 
23 November 2022 Prof. Emmanuel Mamatzakis (Birkbeck, U of London)  The response of household debt to COVID-19 using a neural networks VAR in OECD countries 
30 November 2022 Dr Livia Pancotto (U of Strathclyde)  Gender diversity in bank boardrooms and green lending: Evidence from euro area credit register data 

Seminar Series 2020-2021, 1st Semester

DateSpeakerTitle PresentationRoomTimeWebsite
14/10/2020 Dr Kornelia Fabisik (Frankfurt, Germany) “Why Do U.S. CEOs Pledge Their Own Company's Stock?” Online event 13:00 - 15:00 Dr Kornelia Fabisik website
21/10/2020 Dr Orkun Saka (U of Sussex) TBA Online event 13:00 - 15:00 Dr Orkun Saka website
28/10/2020 Prof Matti Kelloharju (U of Aalto, Finland) TBA Online event 13:00 - 15:00 Prof Matti Kelloharju profile
04/11/2020 Dr Renatas Kizys (U of Soton) TBA Online event 13:00 - 15:00 Dr Renatas Kizys staff profile
11/11/2020 Dr Ralph De Haas (EBRD) TBA Online event 13:00 - 15:00 Dr Ralph De Haas profile
25/11/2020 Prof Anastasiya Shamshur (U of Kent) TBA Online event 13:00 - 15:00 Prof Anastasiya Shamshur profile
02/12/2020  Prof George Panos (U of Glasgow) ‘Financial literacy and attitudes to cryptocurrencies’. Online event  13:00 - 15:00 Prof George Panos website
09/12/2020 De Emmanuil Platanakis (U of Bath) TBA Online event 13:00 - 15:00 De Emmanuil Platanakis website

Seminar Series 2019/2020 2nd Semester

DateSpeakerTitle PresentationWebsite
12/02/2020 Dr Paraskevi Katsiampa (U of Sheffield) “Cryptocurrency market activity during extremely volatile periods: An analysis of the return-volume relation based on extreme value theory” Dr Paraskevi Katsiampa profile
  Dr Ahmed Elsayed (U of Durham) “Causality and Dynamic Spillovers among Cryptocurrencies and Currency Markets” Dr Ahmed Elsayed profile
  Prof Sushanta Mallick (Queen Mary, U of London)  “Inclusive Banking, Financial Regulation and Bank Performance: Cross-Country Evidence” Prof Sushanta Mallick profile
  Dr Marta Degl’Innocenti (U of Soton) “Development Banks and the Syndicate Structure: Evidence From a World Sample” Dr Marta Degl’Innocenti profile

Seminar Series 2019/2020 1st Semester

DateSpeakerTitle PresentationWebsite
09/10/2019 Dr Song Wei (SBS) “Recession Managers and Mutual Fund Performance” Dr Song Wei website
  Dr Hossain Jahanshahloo (U of Cardiff)  ‘Economist Herding and Accuracy in Macroeconomic News Forecasts’ Dr Hossain Jahanshahloo  profile
  Dr Daniela Fabbri (Cass Business School, City U) ‘Asset substitution and relationship lending Dr Daniela Fabbri profile
  Dr Louis Nguyen (King’s College, U of London) “Same-sex marriage laws and lending to same-sex couples.” Dr Louis Nguyen profile

Seminar Series 2018/2019 2nd Semester

DateSpeakerTitle presentationWebsite
20/02/2019 Dr Larisa Yarovaya (SBS) "The Volatility Generating Effects of Macroeconomic News on Cryptocurrency Returns" Dr Larisa Yarovaya profile
  Dr Evangelos Benos (Bank of England)) "Centralized trading, transparency and interest rate swap market liquidity: evidence from the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act". Dr Evangelos Benos profile
  Dr Dimitrios Chronopoulos (St Andrews) Taxation and financial intermediation evidence from a quasi-natural experiment Dr Dimitrios Chronopoulos profile
15/05/2019 Prof Claudia Girardone (Essex) “Financial fragmentation and SMEs access to finance”. Prof Claudia Girardone profile

Seminar Series 2018/2019 1st Semester

DateSpeakerTitle presentationWebsite
17/10/2018 Dr Lora Dimitrova

“Capital Gains Tax and Innovation”

Dr Lora Dimitrova profile
31/10/2010 Dr Thanos Verousis “Option implied information and stock herding” Dr Thanos Verousis profile
14/11/2018 Dr Leone Leonida “Is monotonicity of the investment-cash flow sensitivity empirically satisfied?” Dr Leone Leonida profile

The Southampton Business School has an international reputation for banking and finance. Financial research includes 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.

BSc Finance and Financial Technology

MSc Finance

MSc International Banking and Financial Studies

MSc International Financial Markets

MSc Risk and Finance

PhD Courses

We offer a combination of rigorous PhD-level training, supervised by leading researchers from the CDF. Postgraduate researchers have the opportunity to work with staff of the highest calibre within our internationally recognised centres of excellence. The CDF 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 CDF group within Southampton Business School, including attending seminars, workshops and providing short presentations on their work. 

We have a vibrant community of PhD researchers in the CDF 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.


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.

If you would like to receive more information about the Centre for Digital Finance please contact the centre directors:

Professor Frank Mc Groarty - Professor of Computational Finance and Investment Analytics within Southampton Business School at the University of Southampton.

Professor Simon Wolfe - Professor of Banking and Finance within Southampton Business School at the University of Southampton.

Dr Larisa Yarovaya - Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Southampton.

Our Members

Alfhaili, Faisal

Dr Manuel Nunes

Dr Christoforos Andreou

Professor Nicky Marsh 

Dr Sasan Barak

Dr Martin Enilov

Dr Markus Brede 

Professor Cesario Mateus

Dr Héctor Calvo Pardo

Professor Tapas Mishra

Dr Raju Chinthalalpati

Dr Sovan Mitra

Alexander Culley

Dr Mohamed Bakoush

Professor Patrick Doncaster

Professor Mahesan Niranjan

Dr Jeremy Eng-Tuck Cheah

Dr Tahir Nisar

Professor Alex Frino

Dr Ramin Okhrati

Dr Enrico Gerding

Dr Panayiotis Papakyriakou

He, Mengjie

Professor Georgios Sermpinis

Israa Al Malkawi

Shuyue Li

Professor Johnnie Johnson

Dr Sophie Stalla-Bourdillon

Dr Renatas Kizys

Dr Charalampos Stasinakis

Professor Gerhard Kling

Dr Suhee Kim

Dr Gabriele Lepori

Dr Nongnuch Tantisantiwong

Dr Sha Liu

Dr Thanassis Tiropanis

Professor Brian Lucey

Dr Simon Troup

Dr Yun Luo

Dr Andrew Urquhart (Reading page)

Dr Tiejun Ma

Dr Zhuan (Jason) Zhang

Dr Ahmad Maaitah

Dr Si Zhou






Simon Wolfe and Alexander Culley “Algo trading, use of AI and Machine Learning: What does it mean for conduct rules?”

Algo Trading Conduct Risk A Culley video

Learn more about our current and past projects

Investor Sentiment Scores Derived from Social Media Posts

A pioneering study on the firm-specific investor sentiment content of social media posts was led by Professor Frank McGroarty, sponsored by US firm Visible Technologies (now owned by Cision) along with their UK affiliate, Channel Creator. Visible Technologies supplied a unique 350GB database containing 100million social media messages about the S&P Index of the 500 largest stocks for this study. The data consisted of text from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and specialist blogs and forums, which was studied alongside positive and negative stock price movements. The team developed a brand new statistical technique, Signal Diffusion Mapping (SDM), which is used to map the relationship between news event sentiment and subsequent price reactions.

Finance, Business and the Internet-of-Things

Professor Frank McGroarty led the business and financial modelling for a large technology project, which was part of a €3.4million EU-funded research project called IoT-Lab (which stands for Internet-of-Things Laboratory). This was an 8-partner, 6-country, European, industry-academia research consortium. The main project was to develop and deliver a mobile Internet-of-Things testbed with crowdsource functionality which uses a distributed network of smartphone sensors and smartphone users. The business and financial modelling component of this research included an analysis of the various stakeholders and their roles, establishing and evaluating the financial costs associated with setting up and running different mobile IoT-Lab testbed configurations, developing a Business Model Canvas for IoT-Lab, evaluating a variety of possible revenue models, value chain analysis, identifying potential value-added services and developing pricing models for these, governance structure and also a framework for analysing the economic/social impact of IoT-Lab experiments.

Improved Risk Measurement and Models for Seven Investment Management

Centre of Digital Finance team members worked on a number of research projects sponsored by Seven Investment Management, many of which were led by Professor Frank McGroarty. One research project produced a method for computing robust optimal weights for various asset classes in a portfolio. We also worked with 7IM in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project to develop an optimal way to combine implied volatility information from the options market with volatility derived from historical prices, for portfolio risk monitoring and management. Two further 7IM sponsored research projects involved a cloud-based method for portfolio risk analysis and an ongoing study on Artificial Intelligence driven factor asset selection model.

Our COVID-19 research projects

The members of the CDF are actively involved in research on financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and working on funding application in this area.

Dr Renatas Kizys considered the question: Do government interventions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 affect stock market volatility? In his recent paper “Infected Markets: Novel Coronavirus, Government Interventions, and Stock Return Volatility around the Globe” published in the Finance Research Letters

Dr Larisa Yarovaya analysed the time-frequency relationship between COVID-19 outbreak, oil price, geopolitical risk, economic uncertainty and US stock market, and published the paper “COVID-19 pandemic, oil prices, stock market, geopolitical risk and policy uncertainty nexus in the US economy: Fresh evidence from the wavelet-based approach” in the International Review of Financial Analysis.

Members of the centre also upload several working papers on COVID-19 to SSRN:

Yarovaya, Larisa and Matkovskyy, Roman and Jalan, Akanksha, The Effects of a 'Black Swan' Event (COVID-19) on Herding Behavior in Cryptocurrency Markets: Evidence from Cryptocurrency USD, EUR, JPY and KRW Markets (April 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Yarovaya, Larisa and Brzeszczynski, Janusz and Goodell, John W. and Lucey, Brian M. and Lau, Chi Keung, Rethinking Financial Contagion: Information Transmission Mechanism During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (May 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Yarovaya, Larisa and Matkovskyy, Roman and Jalan, Akanksha, The COVID-19 Black Swan Crisis: Reaction and Recovery of Various Financial Markets (May 27, 2020). Available at SSRN:

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
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