Innovation Delaware: Fintech
What if you could take the spare change from your coffee runs and automatically invest it towards your retirement? That’s the concept behind Acorns, an investment application with more than 5 million users.
The app scans users’ credit and debit purchases and moves the change from each purchase into a customized portfolio. (Say you spend $1.80 on that cup of coffee. The “leftover” $.20 is invested automatically.)
Acorns is one of several innovative startups popping up in Delaware’s growing fintech landscape. As Delaware Business Times reported in March, the company is working to fill up to 50 technology and operations jobs, which will be housed at Wilmington’s The Mill co-working space.
Another is online lender Marlette Funding, which is set to add more than 200 jobs. Marlette allows applicants to see loan offers with no impact on their credit score, and can provide funds in as little as one business day.
Beginning the Transformation
The core of fintech, says John Collins, co-founder of First State Fintech Lab, is an increase in the digitization of finance and an overall move toward cashless transactions. The shift, Collins notes, will be incremental, “but you could wake up five years from now and things are dramatically different.”
Delaware’s traditional strength in financial services positions it to be at the center of that transformation. “Major financial services corporations with a presence in Delaware appear to be well positioned to thrive as fintech products continue to come to market,” says Troy Mix, associate director at the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration. “The financial services industry is evolving to rely more and more on technological skills, Delaware’s financial services industry is relatively large as a share of its economy and Delaware hosts financial services firms that are global leaders in fintech innovation. The fintech future appears to be bright for Delaware.”
Take JPMorgan Chase. The bank employs more than 10,000 people in Delaware, with approximately 2,500 of those at its Wilmington fintech operation, the Delaware Technology Center, says Jennifer McDermott, the bank’s head of diversity attraction and development for global technology.
“Delaware is a strategic and technology hub for JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) — our local tech talent provides an incredibly important resource for the firm. Our technologists collect dozens of patents a year — the highest of any JPMC tech hub,” she says. “There is a strong fintech ecosystem growing in Delaware from entrepreneurs, small businesses and large financial services companies.”
Headed For the Next Level
Delaware’s fintech ecosystem also includes College Ave Student Loans, which uses technology to connect families who need to cover education costs with the right lenders. College Ave recently announced it had secured $65 million in financing, led by global asset-management business Guggenheim Investments. “The credit facility from Guggenheim Investments enables us to accelerate our growth in private student loan lending and financing,” said CEO Joe DePaulo in the announcement.
Last year, Wilmington-based Fair Square Financial, which runs the invitation-only Ollo credit card brand, brought in $100 million in new equity investment. Ollo is one of the first credit cards aimed squarely at consumers in the middle-credit range.
Marlette Funding recently received grant funding from the state to facilitate its fast growth. First State Fintech Lab wants to increase the frequency of those sorts of connections between government and fintech. “We’re focused on what we can do to make Delaware known as a leader in the financial technology space,” Collins says, noting the lab is focused on supporting public-private partnerships, with dialogue between government and regulators and industry; education and workforce development; and access opportunity. The lab recently announced creation of the Greater Delaware Fintech Network, which plans to meet regularly in a forum to air ideas and foster connections in fintech. The lab also recently convened an advisory board comprising state and national leaders and announced its first cohort of Innovation Fellows.
“We’re at this next generation of financial services,” Collins notes. “We’re at the cusp of it, and we want Delaware to be a leader. And we think it will be.”
JPMorgan Chase, too, is playing its part in building’s Delaware’s fintech leadership. “We’re continuing our commitment to building a tech pipeline in Delaware through various programs, including partnering with local organizations to find untapped talent and connecting with students early on to build an interest in technology,” says McDermott. “We’ve recently become the mid-Atlantic sponsor for Girls Who Code and are hosting the inaugural cohort this summer at JPMC. … We’re building upon the depth of knowledge and expertise that already exists in Delaware to continue building a strong talent pipeline to foster even more growth and innovation moving forward.”