Research Center Events

First Annual NYU Stern FinTech Conference

"Managing and moving money should be a right for all citizens,” noted Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal and Stern alumnus (MBA ‘86), at NYU Stern’s First Annual FinTech Conference on November 9.

Addressing a packed auditorium of students, alumni, finance and technology professionals, and academics, Schulman described the personal path that brought him to financial services as Group President of Enterprise Growth for American Express following a successful career in the technology sector where he served as president of the AT&T Operations Group and led Virgin Mobile’s IPO as the company’s founding CEO. A passionate social advocate, Schulman approached the CEO, Kenneth Chenault, to explore the possibility of a political campaign and found himself instead discussing a new opportunity to lead digital innovation and address issues of financial health, such as literacy and access for the world’s unbanked, on a global scale.

“I never expected to work on Wall Street,” he told Professor Charlie Murphy, who moderated the conference’s keynote talk. “But I saw how impactful financial services are in the world and what technology can do to change the shape of the industry.”

The democratization of financial services through technology was a key theme at the conference, evident in discussions of financial inclusion, transparency and accountability. Yet, with these advances and opportunities come challenges, and the day’s speakers – including a number of industry pioneers and leading researchers – openly debated the future of FinTech, including its applications, regulation, risk and privacy.

“FinTech is an opportunity, not a guarantee,” explained Professor Thomas Philippon, presenting his recent research to the group. Markets will evolve if nudged in the right direction by regulators, he said, describing how FinTech could be the way to do so more safely, easily and effectively. However, as Professor David Yermack added, there will inevitably be potential for risk, fraud and market manipulation until questions of regulation, jurisdiction and enforcement are settled.

Still, the rapid rise of FinTech, through such tools as the blockchain and alternative funding mechanisms, represent the possibility of more transparent business dealings (as Professor Yermack outlined), more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs (as discussed in the “Marketplace Investing vs. Venture Capital” panel, hosted by Professor Anindya Ghose) and more financial inclusion around the world (as described in the “Beyond the Blockchain and the DAO” panel, hosted by Professor Arun Sundararajan).

“Technology offers a way to serve different segments of the population in different ways,” Schulman said. Building on the increased information, security and trust that technology can provide, companies are redefining processes and developing more intimate connections with consumers, he explained. 

Dean Peter Henry echoed these sentiments in his remarks, setting the tone for the conference – as well as future conversations – as the intersection of finance and technology continues to evolve. “FinTech offers an opportunity for reinvention at a time when the finance industry is ripe for creative disruption,” he said.

“At Stern, our students – the future of business around the world – are eager to be at the forefront of this innovation,” Professor Raghu Sundaram, vice dean of MBA programs and online learning, remarked, noting the record number of students registering for courses within the new FinTech specialization. In a lunchtime talk, Kathleen DeRose, Executive-in-Residence and Stern alumna (TRIUM ‘11), outlined Stern’s goals to become a leader in FinTech research, to expand course offerings and to increase and intensify connections to the industry.

“Through ever-expanding course offerings, cutting-edge research opportunities and a series of events such as this, we can help prepare our students to manage the profound changes ahead for this industry,” Sundaram concluded.