The University of Utah’s new Stena Center for Financial Technology recently appointed Ryan Christiansen to be the first executive director and lead the organization’s ambitious goals. Christiansen is a veteran of the financial-services industry, where he has led many technology initiatives.
The Stena Center for Financial Technology launched earlier this year through a partnership with the Stena Foundation and founders Steve and Jana Smith. The center is rapidly growing many new efforts, including industry-sponsored labs, a startup incubator, venture funds and fintech-focused degrees and certificates.
Christiansen will guide these efforts while also growing the university’s and state’s reputations as leaders in the financial technology industry.
“Utah is already setting the pace for the financial and technology industries, and I look forward to working with everyone through this exciting new center to leverage and grow our strengths,” Christiansen said. “We are starting with student programs and industry-sponsored labs, and we have a lot more planned in the coming months and years. I invite everyone to learn more and get involved.”
Christiansen previously served as senior vice president of data-access partnerships at Mastercard. In this role, he led the acquisition and management of consumer-permissioned financial data. As an impassioned advocate for fintech, Christiansen also represented Mastercard in industry efforts, which included an instrumental role in the formation of the Financial Data Exchange (FDX). Christiansen is a co-founder and current working group chair of FDX.
His prior experience includes serving as senior vice president of private banking at Zions Bank, where he managed one of the bank’s largest credit portfolios.
In addition to leading the center, Christiansen is the committee co-chair of the Governor’s Fintech Advisory Council. In this role, he advises the administration of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on the establishment of financial technology infrastructure to empower citizens and businesses while growing Utah’s fintech ecosystem.
Christiansen studied marketing at Weber State University and banking and financial support services at the University of Washington.
“In my years as a banker and a leader at a fintech firm, I have helped build tools that enable consumers to more easily and securely gain access to advice, tools and products that expand financial literacy, build wealth and improve financial outcomes,” Christiansen said. “I have worked with lawmakers and regulators, along with large and small companies.”
Christiansen and the Stena Center for Financial Technology will develop programs and degrees in collaboration with academic units, including the David Eccles School of Business, the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering and the S.J. Quinney College of Law, as well as the University of Utah President’s Office.
The University of Utah already offers a fintech minor and a finance major with a fintech emphasis at the Eccles School. The university and the center are now working to advance these offerings by adding undergraduate and master’s degrees in fintech.
The center is developing a startup incubator—the fintechXstudio —and venture capital funds will be made available to qualifying student founders working in the field of financial technology. It is also creating research-focused labs and industry-sponsored projects to unite education and industry to accelerate financial innovation and inclusion in Utah and beyond.
As the center advances all of these parts, it wants to bring them together to improve access to financial services and further the Stena Foundation’s mission to solve big problems to help individuals, families and communities thrive. Christiansen said he looks forward to this challenge.
“I have seen the positive financial outcomes that can come from financial firms and technology. But I have also witnessed the devastating impacts of poor financial outcomes due to lack of education, access to financial tools and services, all of which can be compounded by economic cycles,” he said.
The Stena Center for Financial Technology welcomes students, faculty, community members and companies to get involved by learning more and participating in one of its many new initiatives.
Learn more and connect with the Stena Center for Financial Technology at stena.utah.edu.
About the Stena Center for Financial Technology
The Stena Center for Financial Technology at the University of Utah unites education and industry to accelerate financial innovation and inclusion. It is a collaborative effort of the David Eccles School of Business, the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering and the S.J. Quinney School of Law. Organized as an interdisciplinary effort, the center provides workshops, labs, research, an annual conference and other projects and programs for students, faculty and industry partners. The center collaborates with university faculty to bring together fintech learning, scholarship, innovation, entrepreneurship and knowledge sharing. It fosters an intersection of education and industry to accelerate advances in fintech in the areas of research, commercialization, applied learning and incubation of new ideas and businesses. The center was launched with vision and support from the Stena Foundation, which was founded by University of Utah alumni Steve and Jana Smith to help people thrive by solving big problems. Learn more at stena.utah.edu.