Kennesaw State University, Georgia Fintech Academy Help Bridge the Fintech Industry Talent Gap
Thursday, June 23rd, 2022
With Metro Atlanta gaining prominence as a global hub for the financial technology sector, Kennesaw State University and the Georgia FinTech Academy recently hosted a virtual conference featuring leading fintech businesses discussing how to meet the industry’s growing demand for talent.
The conference, Investing in Tomorrow: Bridging the Digital Payments Talent Gap, brought students, faculty, working professionals, and industry partners together to discuss key developments in the digital payment space and how academic programs like those offered by Kennesaw State and the Georgia Fintech Academy are on track to produce 2,000 fintech professionals annually by 2023.
“There’s a phenomenal amount of innovation taking place at the intersection of finance and technology,” said Erica Eby, Head of Business Development at payment technology firm Ingenico and a conference presenter. “Interacting with students, academics, and professionals gives us the opportunity to share the implications of these innovations. Having great technology is a starting point which must be combined with strong partnerships to make it effective.”
Other presenters included industry partners from organizations like Deluxe, Truist, MasterCard, FIS, and more, as well as faculty from Kennesaw State’s own fintech minor and Master of Science in Digital Financial Technologies programs. Sessions focused on talent demand, technology innovation, career opportunities, and challenges in the industry. The Georgia Fintech Academy, a partnership between 26 University System of Georgia institutions to offer fintech courses systemwide, co-sponsored the event and hosted a panel discussion with leadership and alumni.
With the recent launch of the state’s first graduate fintech degree, Kennesaw State University is becoming a leader in producing the next generation of digital payments professionals. Khawaja Saeed, Chair of the Department of Information Systems and Security and professor of information security at Kennesaw State’s Michael J. Coles College of Business, views the conference as an extension of those efforts.
“Our long-term goal is to be an integrated ecosystem that is at the forefront of innovation in digital payments,” Saeed said. “The multiple audiences that participated at the event are key players in that ecosystem. Our focus was to highlight the talent gap that exists in the digital payments space and how KSU is taking the lead in developing the talent pipeline to address the gap.”
Saeed added that the sessions were structured to highlight key developments in the digital payments industry, demonstrate the growth potential, showcase students and their work, and elaborate on collaborative initiatives between educators and industry partners to develop the digital payments talent pipeline.
Student-focused sessions included a discussion of a recent fintech industry collaboration – an applied learning project with Elavon – and a panel of alumni from Georgia Fintech Academy courses sharing their perspectives on Fintech programs, finding a job, and early career experiences.
Cenne Anderson, an Information Technology major, spoke at the event and is now more confident in pursuing her path to a career in digital payments.
“I was really looking forward to hearing from other students about their experience with the Fintech Academy,” said Anderson. “I learned more about the different evolving payments technologies and about opportunities available within the industry. I even connected with a few presenters on LinkedIn. After the conference, I am interested in learning more about fintech and have thought about pursuing the Digital Financial Technologies master’s degree here at KSU.”
Humayun Zafar, professor of information security and assurance and Kennesaw State’s fintech coordinator, said the conference gave him a new perspective on how Kennesaw State and the Georgia Fintech Academy are charting new territory.
“Throughout the summit, we heard that current employees in the fintech area haven’t really been trained in it,” Zafar said. “It’s an eye-opening statement since the payment industry has been in Georgia since the 1980s. However, as the sector marches towards digitalization, it’s imperative that we train professionals.”
Investing in Tomorrow: Bridging the Digital Payment Talent Gap was made possible by a University System of Georgia grant to support fintech curriculum development at Kennesaw State. That same grant is also funding a new faculty fellowship program. Organized as a partnership between the Coles College of Business and the American Transaction Processors Coalition, the fellowship program will allow faculty members to work with interested industry partners on project teams at the company or specific research projects of mutual interest.
“This initiative will enable KSU to develop a faculty bench that is skilled and knowledgeable in the field of digital payment and able to better educate students,” Saeed said. “KSU continues to set an example by connecting individuals at all levels in the FinTech industry.”