The Wharton School launched the opening of the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance Wednesday evening with a panel discussion featuring global financial technology leaders.
The featured panelists, many of whom lead fintech companies, highlighted the central role of technology in finance on April 3. Panelists discussed topics ranging from the definition and future of fintech to the role of cryptocurrency and platforms like Cash App in a changing financial scene, stressing how important it is for Wharton to remain on top of current trends.
Wharton established the Stevens Center, one of the only centers dedicated to studying financial technologies across business schools worldwide, on March 14. Finance Department Chair David Musto, who moderated the panel discussion, was appointed faculty director of the center. It was created after a donation from 1991 Wharton graduate and Stone Ridge Holdings Group CEO Ross Stevens.
The panelists included Robby Gutmann, the CEO of New York Digital Investment Group, 2012 Wharton MBA graduate David Klein, the CEO and co-founder of CommonBond, 1992 Wharton graduate Jackie Reses, the head of Square Capital, and Elad L. Roisman, Commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett and Penn President Amy Gutmann said the center's launch is important for keeping Wharton on top of current trends in finance.
“Fintech matters because information is the new collateral," Garrett said. “The best way to honor the profound legacy of Wharton is to leverage it into the future.”
Klein and Reses talked about how their experiences at Wharton informed their future fintech careers.
Klein co-founded CommonBond, a company which simplifies the student loan process, while he was a Wharton MBA student. CommonBond also seeks to use student loans as a tool for social impact: every time the company funds a loan, it pays for the education of a child in the developing world.
Reses added that her undergraduate experience at Wharton changed her life on both a personal and academic level. Her company, Square Capital, helps fund small businesses that would otherwise be ineligible for financial assistance.
Wharton Undergraduate Fintech Group President and Wharton and Engineering sophomore Robert Epstein said Reses has remained involved with Wharton and has supported the club.
"Jackie Reses is incredible,” Epstein said. “When we visited Square Capital, she inspired every single person in the room with her background and story of how she climbed up from the bottom on Wall Street through adverse situations.”
The event ended with Musto asking the panelists what they want the Stevens Center to achieve.
Klein said he was glad Wharton was one of the first to put their “stake in the ground” for fintech. Reses added that so many universities lack the curriculum and opportunities necessary for students to become leaders in finance today, but that Wharton is moving in the right direction with the launch of the Stevens Center.
“The future of finance depends upon the curriculum students study,” Reses said. “It needs to be mathematically driven, and the new center can help push Penn to where they need to be to truly keep up with finance.”