Dr. Larisa Yarovaya: Innovating for a Sustainable Digital Banking Ecosystem

Dr. Larisa Yarovaya
Dr. Larisa Yarovaya

In 2018, a new chapter unfolded in the Department of Banking and Finance at Southampton Business School when Dr. Larisa Yarovaya stepped into her role at the Department of Banking and Finance. Taking charge with vigor, Dr. Yarovaya swiftly delved into curriculum development while taking up the leadership role at the Centre for Digital Finance. Since then, she has spearheaded numerous collaborative research projects within the digital finance domain, resulting in the publication of over 70 articles in esteemed peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Yarovaya’s contributions extend beyond academia. Her global recognition is evidenced by her inclusion in Stanford’s top 2% Global Scientists list and her accumulated over 9,000 citations. Her work has been featured in prominent media outlets such as BBC, MarketWatch, Financial Times, CBC, Euronews, and Bloomberg. Moreover, she has shared her expertise on platforms like CNBC’s series on ‘Ethereum’ and ‘Stablecoins.’

Among her proudest achievements is the establishment of the inaugural Cryptocurrency Research Conference in 2018, which has evolved into the premier annual academic event in this niche. Its success culminated in the recent 6th edition hosted at the International University of Monaco in 2023 fostering international collaboration and innovation in the field. Digital banking represents a captivating frontier within decentralized finance and Dr. Yarovaya has been at the forefront of this discourse. Her involvement in significant events like the FT Global Banking Summit, where she facilitated a masterclass on CBDCs, underlines her commitment to fostering invaluable exchanges with industry leaders and peers.

Reflecting on her journey, Dr. Yarovaya is immensely grateful for the enriching collaborations and encounters that have shaped her trajectory in this dynamic field. She recognizes the collective efforts of passionate individuals who continue to drive meaningful progress and eagerly anticipates the future advancements that lie ahead. As the Associate Professor of Finance and Director of the Centre for Digital Finance at Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, UK, Dr. Yarovaya is stepping up the pace of innovation in Digital Banking and Finance.

Protecting Consumers
“As the Director of the Centre for Digital Finance,” says Dr. Yarovaya, “my journey into a leadership role in digital banking has been driven by a passion for making scientific advancements accessible to a broader audience and maximizing the impact of research on society.” In her role, she emphasizes bridging the gap between academia, industry, policymakers, and global media fostering collaborations to push the frontier of digital banking research.
Dr. Yarovaya acknowledges that navigating a traditionally male-dominated field like Fintech, Banking and Finance has presented challenges. However, she sees these challenges as opportunities to inspire and support female colleagues encouraging them to strive for success and fostering a supportive community.

Initially, Dr. Yarovaya viewed the DeFi industry as a challenging landscape, akin to the Wild West, with a lack of transparency and integrity among players. However, her perspective has evolved over time. She notes a positive shift within the industry, marked by increased transparency among leaders. This transformation, she believes, is due in part to the efforts of regulators and media outlets prioritizing unbiased opinions from academic scholars grounded in scientific results.

This shift towards transparency, not only benefits industry players but also serves to protect consumers. It enables the identification and support of honest participants contributing to the establishment of a more efficient global regulatory framework. Dr. Yarovaya firmly believes this change is crucial for the continued development of the digital banking sector fostering an environment that is accountable, secure and conducive to sustainable growth.

Innovative Insights
In her current role, Dr. Yarovaya strategically drives innovation and digital transformation in the banking sector through four key priorities. Firstly, she emphasizes championing Fintech literacy by overseeing a comprehensive rebranding of global Finance educational offerings resulting in the successful launch of the BS Finance and Financial Technology program. Secondly, she prioritizes consumer protection through targeted outreach activities, aiming to empower consumers in the digital financial landscape and foster trust.

“Third,” Dr. Yarovaya states, “I foster collaboration between industry, policymakers and academia to push regulatory frontiers and create an adaptive regulatory framework.” Lastly, she actively cultivates high-quality global partnerships in research and enterprise positioning the Centre for Digital Finance as a global leader in advancing knowledge and practices in the digital finance domain.

These efforts collectively form the foundation for digital transformation. Additional initiatives, such as developing an MBA module on Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrency Investments highlight her commitment to providing executives with insights into transformative technologies, further establishing the CDF as a global leader in the field.

Striving for Change
In fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation in the dynamic landscape of digital banking, Dr. Yarovaya draws from the rich institutional experience of the University of Southampton, where the Centre for Digital Finance (CDF) is based. Leveraging the university’s legacy of pushing scientific frontiers and fostering a culture of learning, she continually challenges herself as a leader to expand beyond her academic expertise.

Recently she has taken on the role of Chair of the Athena Swan Self-Assessment team at the Southampton Business School, focusing on creating an inclusive culture and empowering female graduates to excel in fields like finance and fintech. This experience enhances her understanding of cultural nuances and inclusion, contributing to her effectiveness as a leader at the CDF.

“Additionally,” she says, “my secondment position as Advocacy Manager in the university’s Communication Department provides invaluable opportunities to engage directly with top media outlets and learn how academic expertise can benefit society.” This role strengthens her leadership and research skills by equipping her to navigate the rapid changes in digital banking and decentralized finance while fostering positive cultural shifts within her team and the industry at large.

Security, Innovation and Regulation
Dr. Yarovaya explains, “As a research entity, we are privileged to collaborate with the banking sector while adhering to the regulations and security procedures of Higher Education Institutions.” Therefore, regulatory uncertainty in decentralized finance indirectly affects us. She adds, “We invest a lot of time and energy in the development of education and research outputs, based on the assumption that blockchain technology and Fintech innovations will continue to thrive in the future.”

While they cannot predict the regulatory landscape in the UK and globally, it is crucial to maintain a continuous dialogue with all key stakeholders, stay up-to-date and whenever possible, influence this regulatory landscape. This proactive approach ensures that the Centre for Digital Finance remains adaptable and responsive to changes in regulations, thus enabling ongoing collaboration and innovation in the field.

Accessible and Safe
For Dr. Yarovaya and her team, a significant motivation driving research outputs is centered around consumer protection. She emphasizes, “I am dedicated to ensuring that our research results are widely accessible and easily understood by diverse audiences.” This commitment forms the core of all the projects in which the Centre for Digital Finance is engaged, emphasizing its dedication to assisting companies in making their products safe and user-friendly for their customers. While there is more work to be done, motivation drives them to continuously prioritize the enhancement of customer experience in the digital banking landscape.

The Future Is Now
Leveraging emerging technologies, such as AI and blockchain comes naturally to Dr. Yarovaya as a blockchain expert. However, she acknowledges, “I recognize that the benefits may not always be apparent to businesses who may be more focused on the potential of AI alone, overlooking the strategic advantages of integrating these two technologies.”

“I am confident,” Dr. Yarovaya states, “that this oversight will be promptly addressed.” At the Centre for Digital Finance (CDF), she explains, “We strive to anticipate future trends and as part of this initiative, we are launching several projects that combine the capabilities of AI with the security and transparency offered by blockchain.” Their goal—to drive positive changes in the digital banking and fintech landscape, emphasizing the synergies between these cutting-edge technologies.

Sustaining Excellence
“We do not face direct exposure to any risks stemming from digital banking ourselves,” Dr. Yarovaya clarifies, “rather, we are conducting research in this area to benefit the community and our partners.”

She acknowledges the distinctive nature of my leadership role, steering a transformative path within academia. To sustain a competitive edge for the research Centre, they consistently prioritize innovation infusing a multidisciplinary approach and expertise into its research endeavors. Their strategy, she explains, “revolves around placing a strong emphasis on the quality of our work and nurturing enduring relationships in all partnerships we establish.” To her, “these elements constitute the cornerstone of our ongoing success.” With this commitment to excellence and collaboration, the Centre for Digital Finance remains poised to continue making significant contributions to the field of digital banking and finance.