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UTEP Hosts First Border FinTech Conference

Last Updated on November 03, 2021 at 3:00 PM

Originally published November 03, 2021

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP Marketing and Communications

Whether it’s mobile banking, automated payments or buying and selling cryptocurrency, fintech, or financial technology, has disrupted the financial industry by creating new and more efficient ways for commercial institutions to deliver financial services to consumers.

With fintech and insurtech on the rise, The University of Texas at El Paso hosted the first Border FinTech 2021 Conference on Oct. 21 to prepare students for future careers in the financial and insurance technology sectors.

The subjects of fintech and insurtech, a new form of insurance technology, provided the backdrop for The University of Texas at El Paso’s first Border FinTech 2021 Conference on Oct. 21, 2021. The event was sponsored by the Prudential Risk Management Academy and Blackstone LaunchPad (BLP) in UTEP’s College of Business Administration and was geared toward preparing students for future careers in the financial and insurance technology sectors.

“Apple Pay, LevelUp and crypto have disrupted traditional financial services,” said Daniel F. Perez, director of the Prudential Risk Management Academy. “There are some businesses that won’t accept cash, especially during the pandemic. It’s important for students to know what is going on in order for them to compete in the fintech and insurtech industries.”

Panelists from fintech, blockchain, insurtech, payments and cyber security sectors shared their expertise with aspiring entrepreneurs from across campus about what they should know before starting a career in the financial technology or insurance technology industries.

“By 2026, the fintech market will be about $325 million dollars,” said Erik Devos, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty, research and graduate programs in UTEP’s College of Business Administration. Devos teaches a class on fintech in the Master of Business Administration program. “This is a huge market. It will also have a lot of effects on people, not only in the banking and financial institutions, but it will also have multiple effects on people who deal with business in general. So it's important to have our students at least get exposed (to fintech).”

The conference kicked off with a game in which students answered multiple choice questions related to fintech or insurtech such as “How is insurtech disrupting the insurance industry?”

Participants used their phones to buzz in their answers on the Kahoot! game-based app.

“(One answer is) using data from devices like your phone to price premiums according to behavior,” said Perez, referring to one of three correct answers flashing on the screen in the Undergraduate Learning Center. “I’m sure you guys have used that Progressive app or other car insurance monitoring app where your phone tracks how you’re driving. That helps insurance companies know how much they should charge you. Maybe they should charge another person more because they’re driving crazy, right? Not everyone is charged the exact same amount, so insurance is more customized. You’re charged less if you’re a good driver.” 

Students also learned buzzwords such as blockchain and social entrepreneurship, and became more familiar with fintech and insurtech’s products and services.

Derek Olivas, who is studying finance with a concentration in risk management, said financial technology will be a huge factor when he starts working as an actuary after he graduates from UTEP in 2022. Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty in insurance companies, consulting firms and in businesses that need to manage financial risk.

“I think the actuarial field is a prime example of finance technology because actuaries are sort of the backbone of really large companies, and they use that technology, and they use coding and all of these different model-building platforms pretty much to just stabilize these industries that are too big to fail,” Olivas said.

Other speakers such as Alejandro Muñoz Mendieta, head of finance operations at Higo Mexico, appeared remotely and challenged students to use fintech to fix a problem that is worth solving.

“I would encourage UTEP students to think about what is difficult in your life today because that problem is also shared by others within your same community, your friends, your family and other students,” said Muñoz Mendieta, who received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UTEP in 2011.” Then look for solutions to that problem. Those solutions might not be very visible at this point, but definitely start to have those types of conversations.”

Perez also encouraged students to think about problems that could be solved with fintech. Students applied what they learned from the panelists to create new solutions such as products and services related to fintech. They then pitched their ideas at BLP’s Guided Entrepreneurship Workshop at the end of the conference.

The workshop allowed students to experience how entrepreneurship works. Students with the best ideas received $300 in cash or $5,000 in Amazon Web Services (AWS) credits, and one year of AWS business support.

“In tech, disrupting means you’re changing the paradigm,” Perez said. “You do the exact same thing for many years, but then here comes a new technology and all of a sudden, things change. We’re hoping to motivate students to use their ideas to disrupt the industry.”