University of Utah President Taylor Randall and Stena Foundation founder Steve Smith speaks about the new financial technology Stena Center, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Monday. The new donor initiative aims to enhance the student entrepreneurial experience and Utah’s reputation in the financial technology space. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Monday continued its quest to become one of the nation’s top public universities, announcing a new donor initiative aimed at increasing students’ entrepreneurial experience and Utah’s reputation for financial technology — also known as fintech — innovation and education.
The United States will partner with the Stena Foundation to create the Stena FinTech Center.
“Fintech is actually the way we all do banking and transactions now,” said US President Taylor Randall. “It could be as simple as the app you use to do your banking. … It could be as complex as getting online and doing stock trading.”
Stena—led by founders Steve Smith and Jana Smith—has orchestrated up to $65 million in funds over the next 10 years to support the center, including industry-sponsored labs, startup incubators, venture funds, and fintech-focused certifications.
“In concert with its strategic partners, this progressive hub will fuel the success of the Utah fintech community and become a major hub for continued fintech innovation and real economic impact,” said Stena Foundation Chairman Steve Smith. in a statement.
Smith is the current co-chairman of Financial Data Exchange. He and his wife, Jana Smith, founded the Stena Foundation in Salt Lake City as a way to “advance economic prosperity through the building blocks of increased financial inclusion and access to a quality education,” according to a statement from the university.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox was on hand Monday to congratulate the US on adding what he described as an impressive fintech ecosystem in the Beehive State.
“We’ve seen 18% growth over the last two years (in fintech). Two-thirds of all industrial banks in the US are located here in Utah. That’s impressive, but 92% of industrial bank assets are headquartered here in Utah,” said Cox. Utah”.
He said the state’s “friendly banking laws and regulations” would continue to support the state’s fiscal efforts.
Earlier this month, Cox launched the Utah Financial Technology Advisory Board through the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity to support fintech projects.
He estimated that 4,100 new fintech jobs were created with help from the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, something he said he was very proud of.
“I really feel like that’s what we’ve been missing. This is the piece we need to really solidify us as a center of excellence as a fintech nation for many years to come,” said Cox. “The announcement it will make here today will help Yota lead not just nationally, but globally when it comes to expansion and financial technology.”
Along with promotion The financial technology sector in the Utah economyThe new center will also bring together many different colleges across the US campus to develop programs and degrees for students.
Participating colleges include the David Eccles School of Business, the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering, and the SJ Quinney College of Law, as well as the Office of the President.
Putting these colleges together, Randall said, “is novel—we can probably count on one hand the number of times this has happened in the history of our university.”
In anticipation of the new program, the university recently began offering a minor concentration in FinTech, and over the next four years, plans to roll out both bachelor’s and master’s programs in FinTech.
Ultimately, Randall said he expects reinvestment from investment funds to fund the center permanently.
“We hope this will be one of those programs that is unique in the entire country,” Randall said. “It will be rare because of the combination of entrepreneurship, finance, computer science, degrees, and industry — it all comes together in one place with this new hub, and we don’t see many of those around the country.”
The center will also continue to be located in the U. Commitment to student leadership.
The Center’s long list of initiatives includes the launch of fintechXstudio, where venture capital money will be made available to qualified student founders working in the financial technology space.
fintechXstudio will start with an annual cohort of 10 student entrepreneurs and companies working on financial technology innovation. Students will have access to the university’s expert faculty, office space, industry mentors, technology solution partners, curated courses, prototyping tools and techniques, investment capital, and global education programs, according to a statement from the university.
Each year, the Venture Fund will invest a total of at least $1 million in 10 or more student-led fintech companies, with a significant portion of the profits transferred from those investments reinvested into the center.
“We see an insatiable appetite for student innovation at the university, so this is going to increase our capacity,” said Randall. “Industry will bring ideas. Banks that need new technologies, startups that need new technologies; students will work in these labs to create new products, and then the new products will be put into our incubator and accelerator to start companies.”
Randall believes fintechXstudio will be a “great magnet” for both students and industry alike, adding that he believes students working alongside companies would be a great way for students to launch their careers.
“The Stena Center will combine Utah’s extensive fintech industry experience with the energy and creativity of US students,” said Ryan Christiansen, executive director of the Stena FinTech Center, in a statement. “This unique partnership will connect the workforce skills and experience of fintech leaders with the passion and ideas of students – accelerating innovation to position Yota at the forefront of global fintech excellence.”
The center will also host an annual symposium – fintechXchange – focusing on financial technology.
“We hope that the educated students there will be leaders in fintech, we hope that the program will have national recognition, and we hope that you will see the companies that drive the economy of Utah and the economy of the nation that come out of this,” Randall said.
People can learn more about Stena FinTech Center here.