The University of South Florida today announced new donations totaling $14 million from St. Petersburg philanthropists Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton, which will support the vision of USF Muma College of Business, a “center of excellence” in fintech area to become.
Fintech, short for “financial technology,” aims to improve traditional methods of delivering financial services to simplify financial transactions and make them more accessible, and often affordable, for consumers and businesses. Fintech automation is affecting everything from mobile banking and insurance to crowdfunding, blockchain, cryptocurrency and investment apps.
“Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton made an indelible mark on the University of South Florida, and their generous new gifts continue their legacy of preparing our business students for a bright future,” said USF President Rhea Law. “Fintech is a rapidly evolving field, and Kate and Ellen have paved the way for a state-of-the-art program at USF that will help fill the talent pipeline to serve the Tampa Bay area’s thriving tech community.”
The gifts are for the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, one of six schools in the Muma College of Business. Located on the USF campus in St. Petersburg, the school has students and faculty on each of USF’s three campuses, all of whom will benefit from the gifts.
“It gives us great pleasure to help USF students build their fintech expertise so they are ready for the rapidly changing business world that awaits them,” said Tiedemann and Cotton. “The faculty at USF St. Petersburg campus, at all USF campuses, has the talent and experience needed to effectively develop the curricula that make USF a leader in this field. Fintech spans many disciplines and we couldn’t be happier to play our part in creating new opportunities for students.”
Moez Limayem, Lynn Pippenger Dean of USF Muma College of Business, says fintech is a high-demand field that produces graduates who regularly move quickly into high-paying jobs.
“Fintech is one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the world,” Limayem said. “There is a seemingly endless array of fintech applications and this gift will help us educate students about blockchain, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, automation and data science, which are the backbone of innovation.”
The donations, made by the USF Foundation, support Limayem’s four-pillar vision for fintech, which includes hiring world-class educators to conduct academic research into emerging opportunities, and assessing and mitigating fintech risks and threats . The plan’s second pillar, embedding fintech modules into core curricula, will ensure that all USF business students, regardless of their major, have a meaningful exposure to the subject.
The third pillar includes a broader outreach to share expertise with the community through conferences, leadership development programs and workplace certification programs. The fourth pillar enables the school to become a place where students and fintech entrepreneurs alike come for education and mentoring, startups for resources and big companies for talent.
The gifts further solidify the Tampa Bay area’s presence in fintech, including a strong presence in St. Petersburg that grew out of the city’s strong roots in the financial services sector. The area is home to Raymond James, now the largest financial services firm outside of Wall Street. According to the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp. Financial services are St. Pete’s largest employment sector, and the thriving tech community has attracted companies like ARK Invest and Dynasty Financial Partners to relocate to the region.
Fintech support is the latest example of Tiedemann and Cotton’s investment in USF. The $10 million donation announced today comes in addition to the $4 million made available during the COVID-19 pandemic, although not previously announced, to endow two professorships. Previous posts transformed the St. Petersburg campus School of Business and Finance.
“Kate and Ellen have a deep passion for the university, its students and faculty. Her longstanding support of the USF St. Petersburg campus has been transformative. These gifts will help generations of students prepare for the workplace,” said Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation. “Your support also sends a signal to other philanthropists that giving to USF is a wise investment that impacts lives and the larger community.”