Detroit Fintech Academy Connects Motor City Students With Financial Literacy Education, Career Guidance

The Detroit Fintech Academy kicked off last month with 200 students at the city’s Southeastern High School. The initiative was launched by the Detroit Fintech Association, a nonprofit trade organization founded by Benzinga CEO Jason Raznick.

Benzinga · 11/07/2019 14:02

The Detroit Fintech Academy kicked off last month with 200 students at the city’s Southeastern High School.

The initiative was launched by the Detroit Fintech Association, a nonprofit trade organization founded by Benzinga CEO Jason Raznick.

The fintech academy is intended to address a lack of financial education and mentorship in the city’s high schools, he said.

“We’re not just teaching financial literacy, but matching [students] with careers,” Raznick said at a Detroit Fintech Association networking event held Wednesday at UBS offices downtown.

The Detroit Fintech Association brings together entrepreneurs, professionals, executives and investors within the financial technology sector and focuses on developing and improving financial literacy through quarterly networking events, mentorship matchmaking and job fairs.

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Fintech: 'The Entire Spectrum' Of Capital

At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the interest in a fintech program was “overwhelming,” said Dr. Robert Dittmar, a professor of finance at the school and faculty co-director of the Ross Fintech Initiative.

For students today, cryptocurrency is an entry point into finance, Dittmar said. In the school’s first fintech class, students were asked to construct an argument about the future of Bitcoin.

Many of the papers started off in a way the professor lightheartedly described as follows:

“I was on Silk Road looking for a fake ID when I came across Bitcoin as a method of payment.”

Part of what Dittmar teaches is that fintech is a much broader field than cryptocurrencies and blockchain. “I think of it as spreading across the entire spectrum of how one deals with capital, including regulation,” he said.

Dittmar participated in a discussion at the Detroit Fintech Association meetup with Jessica Willis, the founder and CEO of Pocketnest, and Shoaib Shafquat, president of QCheque.

The discussion was moderated by Krishnan Kandasamy, co-organizer of the Ann Arbor Fintech Meetup.

Pocketnest Links Millennials, Financial Planning

Pocketnest, a two-year-old fintech startup, is a comprehensive financial planning app in a way that Betterment, Acorns and others are not, Willis said.

Areas such as income taxes, life insurance and medical insurance are part of the app’s broader scope, she said.

Pocketnest’s target user is age 25-45.

Last month, Pocketnest hired Chris Wacha, most recently of Gas Station TV, as its first chief technology officer.

When asked about security concerns with financial data, Willis said the company works with the third-party integrator Plaid.

“Everywhere we have an opportunity to not hold data, but pull data, we do that.”

QCheque's Payments Play

When online banking users are completing bill payments, they may not realize their online transaction results in the creation of a check with their financial information, said QCheque’s Shafquat.

“We tokenize your check. We don’t put your account number on it. That’s the difference,” he said of the service his startup provides.

In the last four decades, payments have not been fundamentally improved, the fintech exec said, giving the example of how Paypal Holdings Inc's (NASDAQ: PYPL) Venmo uses existing Automated Clearing House technology.

The continued use of paper checks stems from a desire for secure payment and proof of payment, Shafquat said.

“It’s a legal document.”

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Jessica Willis, left, founder and CEO at Pocketnest; University of Michigan finance professor Dr. Robert Dittmar; and QCheque President Shoaib Shafquat at a Detroit Fintech Association meetup Wednesday, Nov. 6. Photo by Dustin Blitchok.