Exchange of Ideas: Illinois Tech Hosts World Business Chicago Event on Fintech



By Casey Moffitt
Illinois Tech Mies Campus 1280x850

Key figures from across Chicago’s financial technology sector convened at Illinois Institute of Technology’s University Tech Park on Thursday, February 23, to exchange ideas as to how the city’s financial services industry can harness the power of emerging technologies.

World Business Chicago, the public-private economic development agency for the City of Chicago, chose Illinois Tech to host its first FinTech Exchange, which aims to create an avenue for networking, collaboration, and discussion around the increasing use of modern technological tools that drive innovation in finance. The FinTech Exchange attracted financial and banking professionals, venture capitalists, academics, and government agents.

Advancements in technologies such as machine learning, blockchain, and web3 are altering traditional financial mainstays that include trading, commerce, wealth management, and advising. Developing professionals who are well-versed in these methods will be needed to apply the new technologies that will shape the future of finance.

Illinois Tech will begin offering a Master of Financial Technology degree program in spring 2024. Igor Cialenco, professor of applied mathematics at Illinois Tech, outlined the new program at the FinTech Exchange. He said the quantitative-oriented program will focus on building skills driven by data and will cover topics such as machine learning in finance, statistical analysis of financial data, decentralized financial engineering, robo-advising, and algorithmic trading.

This program will make Illinois Tech an important partner in building Chicago’s fintech sector, says Michael Fassnacht, World Business Chicago president and CEO.

“We are confident that Illinois Tech’s Master of Financial Technology program will strengthen the city’s talent pipeline, essential for attracting and retaining companies to the Chicago region,” Fassnacht said. “With the number of fintech startups launching in Chicago continuing to rise, we are excited about the impact this initiative will have on the ecosystem, and we look forward to furthering our city's position as a global leader in the fintech industry."

Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi noted that the fintech innovations and expertise at the university positions it as a logical educational partner for the sector. He noted that student researchers have developed innovations in cryptocurrency to make them more sustainable and to help the unbanked in Mexico through the Grainer Computing Innovation Prize competition. He also noted fintech contributions from Illinois Tech faculty including Matthew Dixon, associate professor of applied mathematics, who was named last year’s Buy-Side Quant of the Year by for his machine learning research. He also cited Cialenco’s financial engineering research, which earned him a term as chair of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Activity Group on Financial Mathematics and Engineering.

“Through research, education, and mentorship, Illinois Tech faculty and students are pushing fintech’s boundaries,” Echambadi said in a taped message at the event. “Fintech is an important driver of economic growth and development in Chicago, and is critical to the city’s future success.”

The FinTech Exchange also featured a panel discussion moderated by Samir Mayekar, Chicago’s deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development. He was joined by Sach Chitnis, co-founder and partner at Jump Capital; Mark Daly, senior vice president of growth at Zero Hash; Andrew Harrison, head of United States digital partnerships at BMO; and Rumi Morales, partner and board member of Outlier Ventures. They discussed their optimism for fintech’s future, regulatory shifts in fintech, lessons learned from the FTX collapse, and why Chicago is uniquely positioned as a global fintech hub.