FinTech Is Focus Of Wharton’s New Stevens Center

In a bid to become the ‘it’ place for all things financial technology, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business has been busy building alumni-funded departments devoted to mastering this latest trend. People might have different ideas about what FinTech is – whether it’s cryptocurrencies, crowdfunding, robo-advising, Big Data or something else – but the universal theme underlying them all is change.

Wharton isn’t about to take that change lying down. Old-school money management is giving way to new school tech tools with the university’s April 3rd official launch of Stevens Center – a program devoted to understanding these new ways of doing business. David Musto, the Ronald O. Perelman professor of finance, will serve as faculty director of the new center.

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With all the technological advances being made, Musto knows that the implications are only beginning to be realized. He believes some of the tools look “promising” while others he describes as “very unnerving.”

“With cryptocurrencies, there’s a question of what speed they’ll gain wider acceptance, and in which contexts,” Musto said. “Crowdfunding started with great fanfare, and now you can go to websites and as a small retail investor put money into a startup, but are people getting ripped off, or is this the future of funding startups?”

Robo-advising also has a role to play, he said. “The economy is making more and more people become responsible for their own finances and retirement savings,” Musto observed. “Robo-advisors are similar to phone apps that help you allocate your savings. They do the things a financial advisor would do, but it’s customized.”

“And then there’s Big Data, and all the ways you can use it,” he said. “Calculating a credit score off someone’s Facebook page could be very unnerving. But those kinds of things will happen whether you like it or not.”

On Thursday, Wharton announced that 1991 alumnus Ross Stevens, CEO of Stone Ridge Holdings, made a significant contribution to the school for the establishment of his namesake program. This follows on the heels of last month’s gift of $10 million dollars from Josh Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management and co-owner of the 76ers. The investment will fund the Joshua J. Harris Alternative Investments Program (AIP).

The Stevens Center will draw on the expertise of faculty from Penn’s own people and other schools. Musto has plans to hire additional staff and executives-in-residence to accommodate the two new programs. “At Wharton, we want to be the destination for anyone who is interested in FinTech – whether they’re undergrads or MBAs – anyone who wants to participate in this revolution of finance,” he said.