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Democratizing finance and the unexpected future of fintech

Featured Events | Nov 19, 2018 |

Most CEOs don’t wear blue jeans, do Krav Maga, and talk about inclusion as a core pillar of their business. But PayPal’s Dan Schulman isn’t your typical CEO.

At a recent event titled “Democratizing Finance: Expanding Access Through Fintech,” co-sponsored by the Fordham University Gabelli Center for Global Security Analysis, Schulman outlined his business ethos and how he believes fintech will transform the world.

At the November 14 event, presented in partnership with the Museum of American Finance and also sponsored by Protiviti and TIAA, Schulman shared how values impact his approach to overseeing PayPal. “Diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice,” he said at the fireside chat held at the Paley Center for Media.

“We have a mission, which is democratizing financial services,” Schulman said. “It’s very inclusive [and it’s] about all citizens having access to the digital economy…probably the most important value for us is inclusion and diversity. Because if we have a mission that includes all citizens, we need to represent that as a company.”

The executive also emphasized how PayPal, a payment-processing behemoth with a market cap of roughly $100 billion, puts its employees first so the company can reach success. “For me, it all starts with the employees,” Schulman said. “I think if you have inspired, passionate employees, they will do great things for customers.” One of those things is going where brick-and-mortar banks no longer exist—and lending to small business in low-income and underserved communities.

Schulman’s values-based approach to business wasn’t the only unexpected thing shared at the evening discussion. Cybersecurity and the frequency of strikes—the average financial services company is attacked one billion times per year, Schulman said—were also topics of conversation.

Photo by Elsa Ruiz

Following the chat with Schulman, industry experts Andrew Keys, co-founder of ConsenSys Capital; Aditya Khurjekar, founder and CEO of MEDICI; and Jennifer Tescher, president and CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, gave their view of the industry landscape and ways to protect consumer data in a lively panel discussion.

Blockchain could be one potential solution for the very real threat of cybersecurity and the public taking back control of private information that has been entrusted to a number of outside sources, Keys said.

Coming full circle, diversity in fintech was also a talking point. And though progress has been made in getting women into financial services, there is still opportunity for so much more to be done, Tescher said. The strides seen in seeing more women everywhere from Congress to the C-suite are great—but they’re not enough, she said.

“I would say that, why don’t we have more women anywhere?” Tescher said. She added, “I think it’s a particular challenge in the world of engineering, which cuts across any tech. Why don’t we have more women in financial services, forget about fintech. I think it’s a huge problem.”

That problem and others can provide opportunities and a potential sea-change for so many. And there is plenty of space for innovation, and potential financial success. For example, as panelist Khurjekar highlighted, the global-payments space is an eye-popping $100 trillion dollar industry—fintech is a vast landscape. “We’re just getting started,” he said.

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