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Lehigh FinTech Group co-hosts WUFT Hacks 2018

Members of the Lehigh FinTech Group, a new student-run organization, won 1st place and totaled $7,500 in prize money at WUFT Hacks 2018, University of Pennsylvania’s first-ever fintech hackathon, that took place from February 2nd to 4th. The event featured sponsorship from TD Bank, Virtusa and Tradeweb.

Lehigh FinTech Group joined efforts with Wharton Undergraduate FinTech Group (WUFT), and Def Hacks Inc., to compile a delegation of 150 students out of 600 original registrants for a 36-hour hackathon. In addition to Lehigh University and University of Pennsylvania, students hailed from Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and New York University. TD Bank, Virtusa and Tradeweb funded over $10,000 in prize money to award to the winning teams.

While some teams were comprised of students that had extensive coding experience, most had several members that had little to no coding ability. Once teams were formed, they had the option of choosing between two prompts provided by TD Bank. The first prompt asked broadly about banking products, payments and peer-to-peer money movements. The second prompt was focused on data and customer insights, to create a way that bank tellers can better serve patrons.

With business-centered prompts and many non-coders in attendance, this was not your typical hackathon. “Traditional hackathons are not representative of how the real business world works,” Dean Zimberg, Founder and President of Lehigh FinTech Group, said. “When a group of computer scientists build an application, or computer program, it has to be communicated effectively in layman’s terms to those that determine its financial viability, such as a company’s c-suite or a venture capitalist firm.”

The competition's purposeful team structure, a diverse blend of computer scientists and business-minded individuals, was a miniaturized version of how the FinTech industry operates in reality. Zimberg says that “the industry is not just four or five back-end coders, its much more than that, its multifaceted and hosts cross-pollination.”

The closing ceremony at WUFT Hacks 2018 allowed all participating teams to present their projects in an science-fair-style exposition. Winning teams, however, had to present a deliverable on stage in addition to their exposition showtime. Eight winning awards were given out, and half of the winning teams represented Lehigh.

The 1st place team, consisting of three Lehigh first-year students and one sophomore, won $3,500 with Distinction in Best Technical Use of FinTech for creating a highly-functional app that allowed users to trade interest-bearing loans.

First-year student John Cunningham was a member of this winning group.

“I had no expectations of success. I just knew that my team and I designed, researched and built something we could be proud of either way. It was incredible to have the work of both the business and technical teams be validated” Cunningham said.

In attending WUFT Hacks 2018, Cunningham hoped to step back from the typical programming he had taught himself and learned in classes at Lehigh. He wanted to solve a real world problem, and FinTech is inundated with interesting problems to solve.

Another Lehigh team was awarded $500 with Distinction in Most Innovative Use of FinTech. This team achieved a winning title without writing a single line of code, which is unheard of at most hackathons. Daniel Grumbles, a member of this winning team, spoke on behalf of his group: “We quickly realized that we didn’t have the time or resources to actually program what we were envisioning. By starting with a problem and focusing on the creation of its solution counterpart, we found success in an attractive proof of concept and delivery.”

While the Lehigh FinTech Group is very proud of their accomplishments and the success that their members enjoyed at the hackathon, they are already looking forward to future projects. In order to create exciting opportunities in this emerging sector, the Group has partnered with several other companies and organizations, including the Martindale Center for the Study of Private Enterprise overseen by Executive Director Dr. Todd Watkins.

“The Martindale Center believes in human welfare, and we believe technology can fiscally empower those who are disadvantaged,” Zimberg said. FinTech has many more applications beyond the scope of Wall Street firms and behemoth banks, and the Martindale Center edifies members with insight into these other applications of FinTech.

“One of the goals of the Martindale Center is to give students an understanding of developing economies; recently, we’ve seen technology play a very important role in these burgeoning areas. The work that Lehigh FinTech is doing will give students the agency to have an impact on our future world economy.” Watkins said.

The Lehigh FinTech Group has many opportunities to get involved. They offer credit-bearing projects and non-credit bearing workshops that are custom-tailored to its mission, as well as events and networking conferences surrounding financial technology. 


Additional publications/adaptations:
The Mack Institute for Innovation Management

Wharton MBA FinTech Group
Lehigh University's Brown & White Newspaper
Lehigh University College of Business and Economics

Def Hacks Blog

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