16 students take on FinTech in NYC: Here’s what we learned

Organized by Michigan FinTech

On Wednesday, February 28th 2018, 16 University of Michigan students traveled to NYC for Michigan FinTech’s first annual FinTech Trek. Participating companies included IEX, Citi FinTech & Ventures, Orchard Platform and MoneyLion.

def michigan_fintech_trek_2018_init():
date = '02-28-2018'
num_students = 16
majors = ['business', 'computer science', 'data science']
companies = ['iex', 'citi', 'orchard', 'moneylion']
industries = ['trading', 'banking', 'pfm', 'wealth-management']
num_trek = 1

Here are our takeaways.


9AM: IEX, the Investor’s Exchange

IEX is a fair, simple, and transparent stock exchange on a mission to build fairer markets.

Speakers:

  • Elaine Wah (Market Quality and Ph.D. in Computer Science from UM)
  • John Shwall (Co-founder and COO)
  • Daniel Aisen (Co-founder and Head of Quantitative Strategy)

Key Takeaways:

  • The Stock Market is largely “rigged” to maximize the take of high-frequency/algorithmic traders at the expense of ordinary investors; these market participants exercise a “speed advantage” where milliseconds (even nanoseconds) make all the difference between how much money is made or lost on a transaction (recommended read: Flash Boys)
  • IEX aims to create a more equitable exchange by removing this speed advantage for institutional investors
  • Favorite Quote: “We noticed an injustice in the market we knew we had the power and people to solve.”

The company generously allowed us to ring the opening bell at 9:30AM to mark the launch of the markets!

10:30AM: Citi FinTech & Ventures

The best path to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

Speakers:

  • Himanshu Sharma (Head of Strategy & Partnerships at Citi FinTech and Ross MBA)
  • Adam Swider (Chief of Staff for the CEO of Citi FinTech and Ross BBA)
  • Hasan Kazmi (Head of Strategy & Partnerships at Citi Ventures)
  • Sumana Ramakrishnan (FinTech Management Associate)

Key Takeaways:

  • The FinTech & Venture arms of Citi hope to lead the 200+ year old financial institution into the next generation of financial services
  • Citi FinTech likened themselves to FinTech apps such as Robinhood & Betterment; these are their competitors, not other financial instutitions
  • Citi Ventures makes strategic investments in FinTechs such as Betterment, Chain, Plaid and Clarity Money
  • FinTech investment across financial institutions was highest for Practical AI at ~$5 bn; Blockchain investment came in at $.4 bn
  • Advice to students: Traditional banking roles now (and will increasingly) require an intimate understanding of technology; don’t disregard the importance of a tech background!

12:30PM: Lunch at Pret a Manger

2PM: Orchard Platform

Orchard Platform is a centralized marketplace where loan originators and institutional investors can come together to explore and evaluate opportunities for funding, buying, and selling loans.

Speakers:

  • Erik Goshin (VP Product Management)

Key Takeaways:

  • Orchard helps improve interactions between institutional investors and loan originators by building a new foundation for global credit
  • The company provides institutional buyers & sellers with high-quality data services, advanced analytics and reporting, and robust capital management tools through an innovative, end-to-end platform
  • Fun Fact: The company produces the Orchard US Consumer Online Lending Index — an industry-wide benchmark distributed on the Bloomberg Professional service

3:30PM: MoneyLion

MoneyLion was founded in 2013 to make money more approachable and to empower consumers to take greater control of their financial lives.

Speakers:

  • Dee Choubey (CEO/Founder)
  • Sruthi Lanka (Senior Manager of Financial Ops)
  • Zachary Kranzler (Director of Finance and Michigan Alumn)
  • Christoph Lentz (Data Scientist)
  • Sameer Lal (Data Scientist)

Key Takeaways:

  • Regulatory changes, new technology and changing consumer preferences will continue to drive big changes in financial services; expect to see more partnerships between incumbent institutions and agile FinTechs
  • MoneyLion empowers over 2 million customers to better their borrowing, saving and investing through personalized, AI-powered solutions; the company hopes to democratize access to private banking-like services typically reserved for high net worth individuals
  • Power moves only: The company launched its newest product (MoneyLion Plus) in December 2017 and finished a successful $42 million Series B equity round in January 2018 (bringing total equity funding to $67 million)

Acknowledgements

This initiative was the result of a tremendous effort of teamwork. As such, I would like to acknowledge the following individuals and their contributions:

  • Abiral Sawhney (BBA ’20) and Nikhil Vardya (Economics ’20), for their hard work, initiative and contributions in organizing this FinTech Trek
  • Our student members, for their thoughtful and active engagement during company visits (A+ on breadth/depth of questions!)
  • The 12+ industry professionals and thought leaders from each company, for their time and generosity in helping deliver FinTech education and innovation to our students

Here’s a nice note from a student on the trek:

The MFT Trek was an incredible experience where I could explore my passion for finance and technology with likeminded individuals. Learning and hearing from leaders in the industry and being able to inquire about the future of FinTech was incredibly useful. The experience as a whole opened my eyes to the possibilities for entrepreneurship and the advancement in FinTech.

It’s these experiences for our students/members that make all our efforts worthwhile. We look forward to continuing our work on campus in bringing financial technology/innovation to students at the University of Michigan.