Fintech in education – Preparing the next generation of business leaders

UF Warrington Dean Saby Mitra spoke with four business leaders at SoFi, Blackstone, Declaration Partners and Soroban Capital Partners about what students will need to learn today to be prepared for the emerging financial technology industry.

As the University of Florida seeks to build an AI university and transform the future workforce, financial technology has emerged as an area of focus, especially for the Warrington College of Business.

“The emergent focus on fintech is a natural evolution of the UF AI initiative,” said Dean Saby Mitra. “As the flagship university in the state of Florida, we have an obligation to educate the workforce of the future in this industry.”

As part of a recent panel discussion, Mitra spoke with four business leaders about financial technology, or fintech as it is commonly known, and how the University of Florida can build programs that prepare students for careers that will incorporate fintech.

Saby Mitra

University of Florida Warrington College of Business Dean Saby Mitra.

The panel included Partner and Co-Founder of Soroban Capital Partners Scott Friedman (BSBA ’01), Blackstone Global Co-Head of Technology Investing and Head of Blackstone Growth Jon Korngold, SoFi Head of Operations Micah Heavener (MBA ’08), and Partner and Co-Head of Growth Equity at Declaration Partners Brian Stern.

Despite it being a popular term, Mitra noted that there is still some confusion around what fintech is and what it means for the future of business. Stern noted that while we should still think of financial services and technology as separate disciplines, fintech provides the opportunity to converge the two areas for the benefit of industry and society.

“[Fintech is] the guts that enables us to do what were once cumbersome tasks [in finance] extraordinarily efficiently, fairly and in a trusted manner,” he described. “That includes balancing our checkbook or no longer balancing our checkbook. It includes buying things with one click. It will include having an insurance product delivered simultaneously with buying a car.”

Korngold added that in today’s world, there is not a single financial institution or aspect of financial services that is not technology enabled. As such, the two are inextricably linked.

“JPMorgan has 45,000 software developers,” he said. “It’s the largest tech company in the world, just to put that in perspective. What we’re seeing today is this proliferation of innovation.”

The panelists noted that there were a few areas where they see growth opportunities within fintech over the next five to 10 years, like the electronification of payments, the mortgage and real estate purchasing process, and embedded finance in a variety of transactions.

Stern described embedded finance as the financial experience being embedded into the customer journey. He shared the example of the online retailer Rent the Runway.

“It’s a clothing business and a logistics business, but it actually starts with a financial services word,” he said.

Stern also noted that it’s not just about companies using fintech in the customer experience. He sees financial service companies focusing on creating their own fintech products.

“I think the financial services firms [will be] going back in the other direction and creating products that delight their customers that are not just financial services products,” he said. “For example, insurance companies are going to help monitor our driving and are going to provide crash detection and instant claims filing at the moment of an accident.”

With the proliferation of fintech in the business world, the panelists shared the skills they believe are necessary for the future workforce.

It begins with the basics, the panelists agreed – training students on the core business skills and then incorporating technology training into their specific areas of focus.

“When I was at UF, I had a classic finance, economic and accounting [education],” Friedman said. “If you ask students 5 years forward or 10 years forward to look back, they’re going to see the blending of all of these [technology and business] forces coming together. We’re moving from an analog to a digital world.”

Korngold added, “You have to make these business-focused people equally fluent in understanding the technology so they can use it to improve [business outcomes].”

He also sees change management, process reengineering, and legal and ethical considerations around AI as critical areas of understanding. Stern added behavioral finance and the history of financial services as other important concepts for today’s students as they prepare for their future careers.

The panelists also agreed that the University of Florida was among the places with the most potential to develop a workforce prepared to take on the future challenges of employers in financial services and beyond.

“[Florida has] deep expertise spaces on the disciplines around running a financial institution,” Heavener said. “When you…partner with the people who can understand what the risks are and the people that are extremely creative and bring in new technology to solve the problem, that’s where the magic happens.”

Stern added, “My experience with Florida is a very quickly growing population, extraordinarily entrepreneurial and innovative, and also has the nexus of all of the Americas, which as this becomes an increasingly powerful economic bloc, creates a great location.”

Learn more about Warrington’s AI initiatives and those across the University of Florida.