FinTech Conference Brings Industry Leaders Together on Blockchain and More

On October 19, NYU Stern kicked off its third annual Fintech Conference. The conference was co-hosted by Stern’s new Fubon Center for Technology, Business, and Innovation. It was a tremendous success, with 560 people from various industries and geographies in attendance.

The emcee was Kathleen DeRose, Director of the Fubon Fintech Initiative and Clinical Associate Professor of Finance at Stern. This year’s theme was “Data Science Disruption in Fintech,” focusing on machine learning, Blockchain implications, data aggregation in financial platforms, and much more.

Continuing last year’s tradition, the morning keynote speaker was Matt Harris, Managing Director at Bain Capital Ventures. At the beginning of his speech this year, Harris noted: “The venture capital world has discovered fintech.” The industry, once considered nascent and risky, as it faced an uphill battle to revolutionize deep-rooted banking practices, is now firmly established and growing dramatically. Harris provided a detailed summary of the state of fintech and investment in the space.

Following Harris, there was an academic research session entitled “Financial Innovation via Machine Learning and Blockchains.” Stern’s own Professor Hanna Halaburda moderated the session and introduced Bryan Kelly, Professor of Finance at Yale School of Management, who spoke about asset pricing using machine learning algorithms.

Next up was Dr. Julapa Jagtiani, Special Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, who gave a presentation on how alternative data and machine learning influence the lending space. Finally, Lin William Cong, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, spoke about how Blockchain and smart contracts are disrupting traditional finance.

After the first research session, there was another academic session focused on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-assets that was moderated by Stern’s resident crypto expert, Professor David Yermack.

Professor Yermack gave a presentation on his joint research with Professor Sabrina Howell on how ICOs are becoming increasingly popular means of fundraising for entrepreneurs. Stern’s professor Yannis Bakos followed, speaking on how platforms use tokens (or crypto assets) to promote adoption. Lastly, Professor Katya Malinova from McMaster University DeGroote School of Business took the stage to speak about trading crypto assets.

Just before lunch, speakers from four up-and-coming fintech startups took the stage to give brief demonstrations of their companies’ products. Katya Chupryna, Chief Strategy Officer at Thinknum, showed how Thinknum’s platform enables investors to get data-driven investment ideas through company websites. Uday Akkaraju, the founder and CEO of Bond.AI, used an Amazon Echo device to demonstrate his platform’s innovative “Empathy Engine” and AI-driven personal financial advice. Following Uday was Laura Kornhauser, President and COO of Stratyfy, who showed how Stratyfy employs prescriptive analytic solutions to generate more accurate risk assessment for banks and insurance companies.

Ending the session was Michael Sanford, Senior Vice President of Dream Forward, who showed how his company’s product can help a massive audience generate greater savings for retirement.

During lunch, conference attendees were given the opportunity to mingle with startup founders, investors, and experts in various fintech verticals at 25 “table topics” set up outside the auditorium. The Patron’s Lobby was bustling with discussions on cryptocurrency regulation, Blockchain’s impact on global supply chains and how technology is upending insurance.

In the hour following lunch, Bloomberg reporter Julie VerHage moderated a panel focused on the rise of data aggregation and alternative data in fintech. The panelists were Nicholas Wood, Co-founder and Head of Product at Trident (formerly Lead Product Manager at Addepar); Alex Picos, VP of Enterprise Data Services at PayPal; Derlen Chiu, VP of Data Operations at Quovo; and Alisa DiCaprio, Head of Global Trade Strategy and Research at R3. All four panelists came from different areas within the broad fintech ecosystem, but it was obvious that data was a unifying topic that profoundly impacted each of their careers.

Stern’s own Professor Foster Provost moderated the next panel titled “Using Alternative Data for Credit Assessment and Payment.” The panelists were Alberto Corvo, CEO at Motive Labs and Senior Founding Partner at Motive Partners; Joseph Breeden, CEO at Prescient Models LLC; and Eric Starr, Partner at CapX Partners.

The conference was capped off with a closing keynote from Adrienne Harris, Chief Business Development Officer and General Counsel at States Title and former Special Assistant to President Obama. She spoke about financial health and inclusion. Her speech illuminated how technology can reduce financial stress but also warned of the problems we must consider as we enter into a world where machines are the decision-makers.

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