Students Build Personal Finance Consulting Software for Chinese Patrons

Posted: March 19, 2014 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: March 21, 2014 at 6:51 am

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By Jenn Kleiner

undergraduates present research

Undergraduates present their research. Photo courtesy of the School of Management

Whether they are buying a house, an automobile, or even paying for yearly rental services, people in China use cash as their primary method of payment. Businesses even prefer to use cash for million-dollar transactions.

According to Yiqin Zhu and Jie Hou, two Chinese students at George Mason University’s School of Management, there is a strong distrust of banking in China. Patrons believe online security measures are insufficient to protect their money, and banks do not provide services to easily track transactions.

This issue, being in stark contrast to American culture, inspired Zhu and Hou to partner on a research project titled “Push China under the Impact of Globalization: Building a Business Model on Personal Financial Consultancy.”

“The way the market works here is different from back home in China,” Zhu explains. “We were fascinated by this difference and wanted to learn more.”

Zhu is a junior at George Mason double-majoring in accounting and information systems, and operations management. Hou is part of the Mason–China 1+2+1 dual degree program and majors in finance while minoring in mathematics. Zhu and Hou participated in the intensive Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP), which provided them with significant research time, funding and mentorship.

“Last summer, Mason’s URSP provided us with a chance to investigate this field,” says Zhu. “Jie wanted to investigate the algorithms behind the financial markets and what affects people’s financial decisions. I was interested in how to best manage people’s money and how technology that is integrated with business can impact our daily lives. Together, we came up with the idea to develop a financial consulting software, and we hope to bring this back to China.”

The team’s solution to China’s hesitancy to banking was to create a financial consulting software called DedaoFinance. The name originates from the Chinese words “de,” meaning “to gain and possess,” and “dao,” meaning “the way.” “Dedao” means “to harvest, to achieve, have the rights to manage something, to own something physically or emotionally.”

This tool is aimed at managing a person’s financial future. The system automatically categorizes bank transactions, checks for the latest financial news and calculates the current value of a person’s investment portfolio. The system is unique in its customized chat function that allows clients to have business conversations and share news, opportunities and thoughts related to finances.

The software has a solution for China’s typically cautious attitudes toward banking as well. “The exclusive security settings can be set with up to 10 different security questions or passwords,” says Zhu.

Zhu and Hou presented their research and product demo at the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research final presentation, where they received an award from Mason’s QEP Leadership Council.

“What we teach here is the tip of the iceberg,” says Shelly Canterbury, instructor of finance and minor coordinator for the School of Management who served as the mentor for Zhu and Hou’s research project. “Experiences such as these case competitions really give them real-world exposure to apply those skills outside the classroom. Not everyone gets to the finals in these programs, but they always learn something.”

While their research was recognized within Mason, Zhu and Hou are still in the process of achieving the goals they set out to accomplish.

“Our short-term goal is to build a personal financial consulting site and start our financial consulting business within two years,” explains Hou. “Our vision is to provide simple consulting services for every corner of the world. Our long-term goal is to establish a well-known financial consulting service initiated in China. With its impact, we hope to stimulate the market and push China’s financial investment onto a global stage.”

Zhu and Hou are currently in the process of building a multifunctional website that they hope to launch in fall 2015.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format on the School of Management website.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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