Utah’s reputation as a booming fintech hub took center stage at the second annual Fintech Xchange Summit, a national conference hosted by the University of Utah’s new Stena Center for Financial Technology Feb. 5-6 in downtown Salt Lake City.
The state is a growing center for financial technology, according to a new study from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, and poised to lead an industry that continues to grow and expand. Utah’s government leaders praised the state’s fintech industry at the summit, encouraging companies to maintain the momentum.
“We are one of the financial hubs of the United States,” said Gov. Spencer Cox. “Utah is positioned well for fintech.”
The governor noted finance and technology account for 8.4% of Utah’s GDP and 10% of the state’s economy, 160,000 Utahns are employed in finance and technology, and industrial banks hold $1 trillion in assets in the state.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall invited the audience to join the “Tech Lake City” initiative. “It’s about emboldening the extraordinary talent that we already have,” she said.
The policy institute’s findings confirm Utah’s leadership in financial technology. The 2024 report concludes that Utah is uniquely positioned for fintech growth due to at least six factors: a young population, high educational attainment, entrepreneurship and business school excellence, a mature innovation ecosystem, concentration of financial services and tech, and growth prospects for related industries.
Utah’s progress in fintech rests on the strength of its overall economic health, said Natalie Gochnour, director of the Gardner Policy Institute. The state is very economically diverse, and it benefits from a strong central location, effective government leadership, strong job growth and a supportive business climate.
Financial services is the fourth largest workforce sector in Utah. These careers pay higher than the state average, and many financial services companies are clustered along the Wasatch Front, said Nate Lloyd, deputy director of economic and public policy research at the Gardner Policy Institute.
The final report is expected to be released in the coming weeks. The authors plan to publish it annually and make ongoing improvements. “Any good research endeavor asks more questions than it answers,” Gochnour said.
Another speaker at the conference, University of Utah President Taylor Randall, explained how the university is investing in fintech to grow an important local industry and give students unparalleled experiences. Universities need to evolve and improve how they educate students, and the University of Utah is doing that through unique student experiences like those offered by the Stena Center, he said.
“You’re getting a whole different education,” Randall added. “There’s tremendous opportunity for innovation. We’re going to use technology to take kids out of the rigidity of the classroom and engage them with the world in a real way, where acquisition of knowledge happens in a new way.”
The conference brought together over 250 industry leaders from around the country to explore the most important topics in fintech.
Through many other presentations and panels, the Fintech Xchange conference explored more important topics, such as fintech education, a changing regulatory landscape, financial inclusion, student perspectives, business development, research, evolving payment methods and global viewpoints.
The Stena Center for Financial Technology launched at the inaugural Fintech Xchange conference last year with $65 million in funding organized by the Stena Foundation. The center hosts the annual conference to serve an ambitious mission. “Our goal is to be the preeminent fintech hub globally,” said Ryan Christiansen, the executive director of the Stena Center.
The center has made significant progress toward its goal. Beyond the conference, it has supported new undergraduate degrees in fintech and an anticipated master’s degree. It is partnering with companies to give students real-world experiences. It launched a business incubator and accelerator to foster student and alumni fintech-focused startups. It is bridging many groups across campus and between academic and industry through efforts such as a planned fintech career fair. And it is working to open a facility to bring all of these activities under one roof.
To get involved and learn about the next Fintech Xchange conference, visit the Stena Center for Financial Technology website at stena.utah.edu. The center invites students, faculty, and industry to participate in future events and activities.