Craig Schedler, managing director of Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, addresses FinTech 2020.

USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes ‘FinTech 2020: Financial Services and the new Digital Economy’

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: January 27, 2020

The University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus welcomed an impressive lineup of speakers on Friday to its first-ever financial technology conference, “FinTech 2020: Financial Services and the new Digital Economy.”

The daylong conference at the campus’ Selby Auditorium explored the impact of artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity and other cutting-edge technologies.

Keynote speaker Craig Schedler, managing director of Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, highlighted the conference with a presentation about the changing digital landscape and how financial institutions and other companies are adjusting.

“Over 80 percent of consumers, when considering which financial services firm to bank with, consider the digital experience the number one thing to look for,” Schedler told an audience that included professors and students, entrepreneurs, executives and others.

“So it isn’t just location and hours anymore, it’s how can I get this done on a self-serve basis online when I want to do it?” he said. “They’re looking for that digital experience.”

As a result, consumers are helping to drive a digital revolution that touches every sector of the economy and sidelines companies unable to adapt. “Fifty-two percent of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared in the last 15 years,” Schedler said.

Other speakers and panelists at the conference included:

  • John Jorgensen, president and CEO, the Sylint Group
  • Nick Wichert, senior director of strategic business development, Northwestern Mutual
  • Rachel Wei West, CEO and founder, InfoAlliance LLC
  • Brent Arslaner, chief revenue officer, Aperity
  • Gabe Higgins, co-founder, BlockSpaces
  • Tom Witmer, president and CEO, SageLegion
  • Brian Sallee, CEO, Avorit
  • Thomas E. Becker, PhD, interim dean, the College of Business, USF Sarasota-Manatee
  • Kiran Garimella, PhD, chief scientist and CTO, KoreConX; professor, USF
  • Eddie Sanchez, PhD, professor of finance, USF Sarasota-Manatee
  • Bhuvan Unhelkar, PhD, professor of information technology, USF Sarasota-Manatee
  • Greg Smogard, PhD, assistant vice president of innovation and business development, USF Sarasota-Manatee

Wealth managers Northwestern Mutual served as the conference’s title sponsor. Also serving as a sponsor was Sarasota-based cybersecurity specialists the Sylint Group.

John Jorgensen

In a particularly insightful presentation, Sylint CEO John Jorgensen shifted the discussion of technology and its impact on financial service to one that highlighted the increasing need for cybersecurity as governments, banks and other companies come under increasing attack from malware and ransomware.

“Cybercrime is a $120 billion industry. That’s what it costs in the U.S. every year,” he said.

He added bluntly, “If you are targeted you will be hacked. That’s a fact. Therefore you need to protect your data, and that’s what we focus on.”

Jorgensen said companies, governments, hospitals and other institutions are attacked with greater frequency from rogue nation-states, large criminal organizations and individuals seeking revenge or a quick payday, and they often fail to encrypt sensitive data, including backup data, from theft and ransomware.

Sylint is called in several times a week to address such attacks, including episodes where hackers find a route into a network, insert ransomware and demand money for an encryption key. Other times, they penetrate systems to extract data to sell on the dark web. Some hackers spend weeks, even months, mapping a company’s network for data before adding ransomware as they finish their probing.

Companies, meanwhile, are required to report such hacks, exposing themselves to lawsuits, a loss of investor confidence and declining valuation.

“You can go to the dark web and purchase entire servers,” Jorgensen said.

He said companies can protect sensitive data through encryption and other measures before they are breached to safeguard their most sensitive data.

FinTech was designed to appeal to anyone with an interest in digital technology and its impact on the financial sector, from bankers and wealth managers to average investors who want to learn more about technology and its influence on financial services.

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Karen A. Holbrook, PhD

The conference was organized by USFSM Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD, and Smogard.

“What we have tried to do is to provide a brief but thorough introduction into the world of financial technology … and to provide a lot of different perspectives,” Smogard said ahead of the event’s first speaker, Kiran Garimella, PhD, who talked about blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and cyber currencies.

“All of these things have been around for decades,” Garimella told the crowd.

“The reason they couldn’t make headway before, but they can now, is because of the data,” he said. “So when you talk about the new digital world it’s all about the enormous amounts of data that is available, and it’s absolutely fantastic what you can do with that data.”

For more information about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit

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