The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: FInTech (page 1 of 2)

SPOTLIGHT ON JOBS: STAKD

Members of the Brandeis GPS Community may submit job postings from within their industries to advertise exclusively to our community. This is a great way to further connect and seek out opportunities as they come up. If you are interested in posting an opportunity, please complete the following form found here.

Where: Stakd (remote position, but office space is available in Hoboken, NJ and Boston, MA)

About: STAKD is a mobile app to lend and borrow money with your peer network — like Venmo but for loans. Users can create, share, and pay down a personal loan within our app. We have 4 software engineers, 2 non-technical Co-Founders, and are members of 3 prestigious incubator programs that provide us office space in Boston, MA and Hoboken, NJ. Still, our founders based out of New York City.

Position: UI/ Graphic Designer

Position Details:  STAKD is seeking a talented junior-to-senior level graphic designer to design our mobile app from scratch, for both Android and iOS. You’ll have access to our current mockups, which have been user tested, to draw on for UX patterns — but we expect you to inject unique and original UI elements, states, transitions, and animations to result in a simple yet effective consumer product.

Responsibilities:  Design STAKD’s mobile app

Qualifications:

  • Proficient with Photoshop, Sketch and/or Illustrator
  • Experience designing iOS or Android apps
  • Color, typography, and interface design
  • Experience with prototyping
  • HTML/CSS a bonus
Compensation:
From STAKD: We will issue a monthly stipend of $300 to $500 at the onset of this project — but after a 3-month period, we will, additionally, issue an equity stake in our company to engage you as a lead designer and partner. Hourly commitments will be 15/wk. *note this is a remote position and candidates are free to accept concurrent positions — be them full-time, part-time or freelance.

To receive full consideration for this position, candidates are asked to submit a Resume/CV to Adam Zeiff at adam@stakd.io.

Please make sure to reference seeing this position through the Brandeis GPS job spotlight post.

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Five ways to close the gender gap in FinTech

By Ashley Nagle Eknaian

It’s no secret that women in both banking and technology tend to be in the minority. When you combine those two fields into the phenomenon that is FinTech, “super minority” becomes a more accurate label. In recent years, organizations like Girls Who Code and Girls Who Invest have made a tremendous effort to encourage young women to take an interest and pursue careers in STEM fields. Supporting and championing these types of programs are vital to create meaningful change for the gender gap in the coming decades. However, we also need solutions that can benefit women currently in the workforce. Here are five things that can help increase gender diversity in FinTech today:

1.  Show woMEn the money. Startups with at least one female founder received only 10 percent of all venture investment from 2010-2015 . Attracting more capital to startups with at least one female founder isn’t about equal opportunity. It’s about funding scalable, profitable businesses that research shows post greater returns for their investors over time. For investors out there looking for the next unicorn, women-powered startups are an underrepresented resource for potentially big ideas.

2.  Welcome aBoard! Currently, women make up only 8 percent of FinTech directors globally. However, studies indicate that diverse teams perform better and deliver stronger financial outcomes. Different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, etc., are what inform our own unique perspectives on the world. Collectively harnessing the power of “different” by forming diverse teams promotes an environment of professional challenge and diversity of thought. If you are a founder looking for advisors, or a board member with no female counterparts, consider the power of “different” and make a difference by adding female board members.

3.  Help wanted. Managers tend to hire people with similar backgrounds, which can lead to homogeneous teams. If you are hiring, make sure you have a diverse (including both male and female) pool of candidates for any open positions. There are some fabulous companies/technologies out there that can help hiring teams mask demographic data at all stages of the recruiting process to level the playing field for both gender and ethnicity. Fun fact: In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra pioneered the idea of blind auditions (performing behind a screen) to mask the identity of performers. It took decades, however, these types of auditions were instrumental (pun intended) in increasing the number of female orchestra performers by 30 percent.

4.  Pay it forward. According to a recent study, only 54 percent of women have access to senior level mentors. If you have been successful in finance, technology and/or FinTech, mentorship is a great way to support others who are still climbing their way up.  Be the mentor that you needed early in your career, share your experiences, and encourage future women leaders to break down barriers standing in their way. This isn’t just a one-way street either; reverse mentoring is a great way for leaders to keep pace with a multi-generational workforce, changing consumer expectations and the latest tech trends.

5.  Mind the gap! Address the issue head on – there is a gender diversity gap in FinTech, and we cannot overcome this challenge unless we have real conversations with one another. Talk about it, talk with colleagues, peers, managers, investors, advisors, founders, mentors, and mentees. Share fears, concerns, goals, and aspirations. Ask questions and discuss things you can do to make a change (maybe starting with items 1-4 on this list). There isn’t a simple answer or a one-size-fits-all approach. The only guarantee we have, however, is that if we do nothing, we’ll make zero progress.

Ashley Nagle Eknaian is the program chair of the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis GPS.

Brandeis GPS to partner with inaugural Boston FinTech Week

For the first time ever, the city of Boston will be hosting Boston FinTech Week, a four-day event featuring some of the world’s biggest and brightest financial services institutions and the people behind them.

Sponsored in part by Brandeis GPS, Boston FinTech Week (which runs from September 11-14) is a collection of conferences, networking opportunities, workshops, and more centered on innovation in Boston’s financial services ecosystem. Throughout the week, attendees can expect to be submerged in everything FinTech, from insights and trends in Massachusetts FinTech to the integration of artificial intelligence into financial services institutions. A closing party in the Seaport District hosted by MassChallenge will conclude the weeklong festivities on Thursday evening.

Given the recent launch of our MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech, GPS is thrilled to partner with Boston FinTech Week and have a presence at several events. We hope you’ll join us at the following events (all times are EDT):

All events are free at Boston FinTech Week, but pre-registration is required. If you’d like to learn more about the event and programs offered, check out the event website here. Make sure to RSVP to events featuring Brandeis GPS faces so that you can reach out and talk to us, and don’t forget share your experience using the hashtag #BostonFinTechWeek.

Can mono-solution providers survive?

By Mike Storiale

When FinTech began its ascent, single-solution providers opened the door to expertise and simplicity rarely brought to the table by traditional banks. Solutions designed to meet unique needs created excitement from consumers and investors alike.

Throughout the industry, experts discussed the need for an open architecture from banks and FinTechs to empower customers to build a set of financial solutions that worked best for them. As the industry matured, however, it became apparent that a more rudimentary problem was holding FinTechs back – a balanced business model.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve witnessed the rise and fall of innovative companies that created a single solution with little diversification. The dot-com crash in the early 2000’s was full of well-intentioned problem-solvers who built great organizations, but lacked the contingency plan a balanced product offering affords. They were flying high without a net.

Customers Are Finicky

The mono-solution business model that most FinTechs chose excited customers who could relate to specific problems they felt their banks were not solving. When early entrants offered a better way to send money and alternative lending options, as well as simpler checking accounts, they seemed attractive in an industry that traditionally ignored outcries from its customers for better products.

Moreover, customers had often been plagued with the decision fatigue that came with traditional banks’ offerings of multiple variations of each product, few of which fit anyone perfectly.

But while consumers were willing to try new products that FinTechs brought to the table, they remained reluctant to leave the mainstream banking system for a new financial lifestyle. For banks, this gave them the opportunity to win customers back as they developed complementing products to compete with the innovators creeping in on their space.

Even though research showed that few consumers ever felt “warm” with their bank, often ranking them just slightly less hated than airlines and cable companies, it was difficult to leave the one-stop-shop that was completely intertwined with their everyday lives. Though cobbling your perfect financial offering together sounds utopian, for most consumers it was simply more work than they were willing to take on.

A Risky Model

While the boon of the early years may make some think otherwise, FinTech is not immune to typical business risks. One of the core rules of business is to diversify your product offering to protect yourself, though when we begin new technology ventures, we often believe that we will be able to succeed on a single solution. FinTech’s rise began during a time filled with historically low interest rates, massive changes in regulation, and a consumer base willing to try new things.

While this opened the door for success, it also meant that it mattered less if a start-up’s balance sheet was diversified enough to withstand market fluctuations, because fluctuations simply weren’t happening. Solutions that focused on lending to consumers outside of the traditional market didn’t have to experience the risks of a volatile rate environment. As the inevitable becomes reality, however, speculation circulates as to whether an unbalanced offering can withstand the storms the financial industry often faces.

In addition to market risks, the gap is narrowing in the “tortoise and the hare” race between FinTechs and Bank’s. Even the smallest banks have begun investing money into innovation, while the ones with significant capital have started entire technology hubs and enacted strategies to acquire their biggest tech challengers.

Although big banks continue to face regulatory scrutiny of their core business model, they have evolved and learned how to innovate, catching up in the race to grab customers with products that differentiate themselves. At the same time, FinTechs are finding it difficult to maintain the minimal regulatory oversight that enabled the rapid growth seen in the early years of innovation.

Last month, SoFi filed the paperwork to obtain an industrial bank charter, opening the door for the online lender to offer the same core banking services as its mega-bank counterparts. SoFi’s bold step is not the approach taken by all FinTechs, but many continue to look for partnerships with more full-service financial companies to ensure revenues continue to flow, even if their core business falls out of favor.

The Tipping Point

The outlook for the next five years in FinTech growth may closely trend with the growth in new bank charters. While de novo bank growth stalled after 2008, the up-tick in 2015 and 2016 highlights start-ups that believe they can become successful hybrid organizations; part bank, part FinTech.

Still, taking the hybrid path isn’t without its own challenges. Stringent capital requirements, intense regulatory oversight, and the difficulty of growing a balanced product mix can make it unattractive for entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Mono-solution providers should evaluate the future of their revenue stream to determine if diversification can help mitigate their risks in a changing market.  If they are able to take their innovation into new, multi-service arenas, we can expect to see unprecedented growth in the industry.

Mike Storiale is an Adjunct Professor in the Digital Innovation for FinTech program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. He teaches a graduate course on the global economy and the emergence of FinTech. 

FinTech is changing your life, and you don’t even know it

By Ashley Nagle Eknaian

Don’t believe me? Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have any cash in your wallet right now?
  2. Have you ever bought something using your mobile phone?
  3. Have you been inside a bank branch in the last 6 months?

Now, let’s travel back in time to the year 2007; would your answers still be the same? Probably not. My point here is that 10 years ago, your experiences carrying, spending, saving, transferring, investing, and borrowing money were very different than they are today. In 2017, I am willing to bet that you use some sort of fintech app for your everyday financial needs. Using your mobile wallet to pay for coffee/tea in the morning? Repaying a friend for lunch using Venmo? Donating to a crowdfunding campaign? Checking your bank balance? Buying insurance? Refinancing your student loans? Considering a Robo-advisor to handle your investments? Leveraging an auto savings app to build a nest egg? All are examples of FinTech innovation that we now have access to with a tap and a swipe on our mobile devices.

FinTech is changing your life and you don't even know it

VC’s & banks take notice

As technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives from social media to healthcare, why would our interactions with money be any different? Investment dollars have been pouring into FinTech the last few years ($17.4 Billion in venture backed funding in 2016 alone), which means that there are some very smart people trying to revolutionize every aspect of the financial services you use every day. While not all startups will be successful in this endeavor, the few that do will continue to transform the financial services ecosystem. And let’s not forget about big banks, top financial institutions have taken notice of the FinTech boom and taken action. These companies are building innovation labs, hiring top tech talent and investing / acquiring startups to ensure they stay relevant for customers in what has become a rapidly changing and competitive environment.

Technology rules

With all of the technology now available to create smarter, faster, and cheaper products and services, no corner of the financial industry will be left static. Take the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether – could there be a day in the not-so-distant future where physical currency becomes obsolete? You may think that sounds crazy, however, the next time you make a purchase, ask the company if it accepts bitcoin as a form of payment – the answer may surprise you. Technology will continue to change and be applied to financial services at a pace that we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, not to mention a little technology called “distributed ledger” will all play a role in fueling the next evolution of FinTech innovation for both institutions and consumers.

Global dominance

FinTech isn’t a regional, socio-economic or generational phenomenon. FinTech is global, and it will impact the entire financial ecosystem, from central banks to the unbanked. Get ready, because FinTech has only just begun changing your life.

Ashley Nagle Eknaian, program chair of the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis University

Boston Globe highlights Brandeis GPS FinTech program

In a recent article on the growing momentum among Boston’s financial start-ups, the Boston Globe profiled GPS faculty member Sarah Biller and her work within the FinTech sector. Biller discusses FinTech trends among millennials, and how she’s adjusting the content of her Evolution of Technology for Financial Services course to explore how the changing presidential administration may impact the industry.

Read the full article here, and request more information about studying FinTech at Brandeis here.

The Financial Technology Revolution

By Josh Deems

The saga of finance technology, dubbed “fintech,” is on a delayed start compared to other industries. When the proverbial innovation alarm clock rang around 2004, a digital revolution ignited media,telecom, retail, and other nimble segments into transformation. New ideas, technologies, and companies emerged and became entrenched in our daily lives. In the meantime, financial services hit the snooze button… but why?

Innovation in finance has happened before

In the 1950’s, the invention of the credit card was thought to render physical cash obsolete. By the 1960’s, ATMs appeared, threatening the existence of live tellers and bank branches. Starting in the 1970s, stock brokers ditched phone and paper based trades for electronic systems. From 1998 on, consumers and retailers began transacting for goods and services through linked-bank accounts via the online payments system, PayPal.

Major advancements in banking technology have happened every decade since the end of the Second World War, but none harnessing the disruptive power of the revolution we’re facing today.

Why now?

Fast forward to 2008. New banking services materialized again, this time driven by the millennial thirst for digitization, the anti-establishment distrust of arcane banking processes, and the chutzpah of start-
ups and investors. Concepts such as peer-to-peer lending, digital wealth management, and the first fully electronic currency, Bitcoin, became the focal point of innovation. The theme shifted to the ‘unbundling’ of core banking services often thought as too large, too complex, and too regulated to face disruption.

<<Learn more about the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis>>

Overview of new services

Highlighted below are two of the more prominent technologies involved in the paradigm shift of the banking industry. Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology and buzzword associated with Bitcoin, and robo-advisors, or digital wealth platforms changing the way we manage personal portfolios.

Blockchain

  • What is it? Distributed, immutable, and fully secure database technology. Underlying engine of bitcoin, and supporting technology for peer-to-peer payments worldwide.
  • Key Players Open source blockchain providers (Ethereum, Hyperledger); enterprise blockchain companies (Chain, itBit, Symbiont); financial services consortium (R3, Post Trade Distributed Ledger Group); global payments (Ripple); bitcoin-enabled services (Coinbase, Bitfinex)
  • Potential Impact
    •  Send payments across the globe in seconds (remember Western Union, anyone?)
    • Tokenize and track the movement of assets across the world’s financial markets
    • Shared ledgers and asset records across regulators, buy-side, sell-side, and custodians
    • Immutable history of every financial institution’s transactions
    • Digitization of fiat currency (Bank of England is experimenting with this)
    • Automated compliance and settlement processes

Robo-Advisors

  • What is it?  Umbrella term for digital wealth management advice. Covers anything from fully-automated and algorithm-based portfolio generation to digital client engagement tools used by human wealth advisors.
  • Key Players Institutional (Schwab, Fidelity, Vanguard, BlackRock); Standalone Robo’s (Betterment, Wealthfront, SigFig, LearnVest)
  • Potential Impact
    • For consumers, cheaper investment advice, diversified portfolio with lower fees through ETF-based offerings, access to features (tax-loss harvesting and portfolio rebalancing) formerly only offered by professional managers to high net worth individuals
    • For advisors, broaden scope of managed portfolios beyond high net worth individuals and increase AUM, especially by engaging and targeting millennials. Enhanced market analytics and insights to provide clients.

How to stay ahead

From behemoth banks to lean start-ups, the appetite for seasoned bankers, savvy coders, and entrepreneurial-minded individuals who can bridge the tech and finance gaps is growing. According to LinkedIn data from September 16, 2016, there are over 450 fintech job recommendations between New York, San Francisco, and Boston, and over 650 in London. And these figures ignore the opportunities unlocked by starting your own fintech.

If you’re interested in learning more, a great place to start is the MS in Science for Digital Innovation offered by Brandeis University. The program condenses the fintech ecosystem, and blends the finance and technology skillsets required to build your own personal fintech toolkit. And the secret sauce? The program is taught by experienced professionals who are engaged in the academic, finance, and technology communities.

The finance digital revolution is upon us, and our economy is becoming increasingly mobile and on-demand. Become an active participant in the movement and take the opportunity to learn new topics, network with like-minded individuals, and explore how companies are changing the way banking is conducted worldwide. Soon, you will become the face of the fintech revolution as well.

Josh Deems is an AVP and business strategist at State Street Corporation’s Emerging Technologies Center. Prior to joining State Street, Josh was a management consultant, focusing on operating model improvement and digital experience for asset managers. Josh holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from the George Washington University with a concentration in finance.

Picture of the author, Josh Deems

Josh Deems

 

Innovation Experts Discuss the State of Fintech

On Aug. 18, 2016, Brandeis GPS hosted a webinar led by Ashley Nagle Eknaian, chair of the new Master of Science in Digital Innovation for FinTech, with Jason Zaler, FinTech Partnerships Lead at PwC. This interesting and interactive discussion helped us celebrate the launch of the program, which is welcoming its first students this fall.

Just voted #36 in Onalytica’s list of top 100 FinTech innovators and brands, Zaler offered valuable insight into the evolving world of FinTech and the many industries impacted by this important technology. Zaler began the discussion by pointing out the many ways that most people use FinTech in everyday life through apps such as Venmo, Square, mobile banking apps, and robo-advice services. Because FinTech’s reach is constantly increasing, Zaler stressed the need to continuously reassess the industry.

“Learning so much about what was happening and seeing how fast it changed drove us to reevaluate the way we deliver insight and consulting,” Zaler said. “It propels us to develop a platform to provide that information to clients in real time.”

Zaler and Eknaian also discussed Fintech’s role in financial service institutions, technology companies, pay networks, and of course, FinTech startups. These groups are all trying to figure out how to best interact with one another to understand and maximize the new technologies available — to create the perfect marriage between financial institutions and technological innovation. The dialogue and new questions springing from these groups constantly draw many into this emerging field.

Competition with FinTech startups
Today in FinTech, some of the most important services exist on the backend of operations that consumers don’t often see. For example, FinTech services are used to clean up bank ledgers.

FinTech startups are essentially disrupters in the industry, knocking out other companies who would otherwise control this back-end technology. In order to help customers, big financial institutions are directly acquiring apps and cutting out big companies, making the process more efficient. As there is a lot of competition in this evolving industry, better products are constantly coming out for people to use on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s really an ecosystem where there’s a lot of movement, a lot of competition,” said Zaler. “The thing to be aware of is that as these companies jockey for a position, there is one benefit to the consumers: better products with better interfaces that you can use in your daily lives.”

Keeping customers through FinTech
Today, banks are working toward keeping their customers from the time they open their first account in college to an eventual retirement. To carry customers through their banking journey, banks now offer FinTech services for each stage of a customer’s experience. Zaler noted that customers today use an average of three to five FinTech products, so banks want to make sure their FinTech app stays on their customers’ phones.

FinTech around the world
FinTech is now a global industry, with major hubs in Silicon Valley, New York, London, Singapore, Israel, Dublin and Scandinavia. Regulations imposed on FinTech companies are what shape each country’s approach to FinTech throughout the globe. While Europe has more regulations that prevent FinTech companies from partnering with banks, the regulatory policies in China focus on making it easier for FinTech products to come to market, which causes major fraud issues and mistrust of these products in potential customers. With 30 percent of FinTech companies now under investigation in China, companies need to convince people they’re trustworthy before they can even begin to directly market their products.

Zaler also went on to discuss the benefits of large financial institutions relying on startups for services. He noted that there are three ways to think about how financial institutions can get FinTech services:

  • Buying them from another provider
  • Partnering with another company
  • Building their own

While many companies do opt to build their own or partner with other companies, often startups are cheap and have already developed the technology the large financial institution is looking for, making it more cost effective to just buy the technology.

This webinar, held in conjunction with the announcement of the new MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis GPS concluded with Zaler giving suggestions of how to stay up to date with FinTech news through following key influencers on Twitter and using the Denovo site, built by his company, PwC.

Study the evolution of FinTech online at Brandeis

Did you know that Brandeis GPS offers courses for professional development? Enroll in an online course this fall and network with new colleagues in a 10-week, seminar-style online classroom capped at 20 students. Registration is now open and we’re celebrating by profiling our favorite fall courses.

Get an introduction to the evolution of the financial industry landscape, the challenges and opportunities presented in today’s new era, and the drivers behind industry changes. With this 10-week, graduate-level course, you’ll analyze case studies of well-known FinTech companies and discuss leading business models, technology and trends. Topics will include:

  • The History of FinTech: from Mesopotamia to today
  • The digitization of banking
  • Big Data: structured and unstructured
  • Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and digital ledgers
  • Quantitative trading

Capture-2

Fall courses run Sept. 14-Nov. 22. Whether you’re looking to complete a full degree or advance your career through professional development, this course is designed to equip you with the necessary skills for making an impact in any industry or organization.

How it works:
Take a part-time, online course this fall without enrolling in one of our graduate programs. If you like what you learn and want to continue your education, you can apply your credits from this fall toward a future degree. Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787 or fill out our first-time registration form and we’ll be in touch.

 

Thought Leadership Webinar Recording: Learning from FinTech Startups

July’s thought leadership webinar was led by Timothy Bosco, Senior Vice President of Investor Services at Brown Brothers Harriman.

Read more FinTech insights from Bosco here.

Register for our next thought leadership webinar, The State of FinTech, here.

Access other GPS thought leadership webinars here.

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