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The Vision Behind the Cornell MBA FinTech Intensive

Fridays from the Frontline

Fintech is one of those buzzy, disruptive industries the business world loves to hate and hates to love. But very much unlike their tech brethren—edtech, cleantech, insurtech— the financial services sector, which should by all accounts be shaking in its skivvies about going the way of the Guam flying fox, has strangely begun to embrace fintech innovations like open banking and cryptocurrency. MBA students are taking notice and beginning to flock toward fintech in lieu of more traditional financial services gigs.

Enter Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management’s FinTech Intensive, “a cutting-edge curriculum in NYC that immerses MBAs in the fintech conversation and connects them with the startups, corporate innovators, VCs, and blockchain experts that are reinventing global financial services.”

Drew Pascarella, a 2001 Johnson MBA graduate and current managing director and head of East Coast banking for Vista Point Advisors, shares his angle on how schools can adapt their curricula to disruptive industries.

The following piece has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the “Cornell FinTech Blog.”

The Vision Behind the Cornell MBA FinTech Intensive

by Drew Pascarella, MBA ’01

I am thrilled, proud, and humbled to lead Johnson’s inaugural FinTech Intensive!

As a career wall street executive, I have yet to participate in a startup experience. I was thrilled to be asked to lead one of Johnson’s latest innovations, and excited to have the opportunity to build something new for an institution I could not be more proud of.

Like any good start-up, our process began long before the launch. Back in August 2016, a full year before the opening of Cornell’s stunning new Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, Johnson’s visionary leadership, including Mark Nelson, Vishal Gaur, and Doug Stayman, convened a task force to analyze and make recommendations for new NYC-based Johnson curriculum. With a mandate from above that we think big and aim to lead, and after countless employer, alumni, student, faculty, and staff interviews, it became clear that Johnson’s focus should include FinTech. The big question:

How does a leading business school “teach” FinTech?

To answer that question, we took another page from the startup playbook. We focused on the customer. The customer, in this case, was primarily defined as our FinTech-related recruiters. We set out to understand what financial services firms and FinTech startups alike want to see in a FinTech-focused recruit. The answer quickly became clear.

In addition to the cross-disciplinary management skillset Johnson MBAs are known for, our customer wanted students who were fluent in the language of FinTech, understood the drivers behind the disruption, and were able to hit the ground running in the fastest-moving industry in the world.

Our solution? Immerse our students in FinTech in the form of an Intensive, which is modeled after Johnson’s pioneering and highly successful Immersion Learning programs. We crafted a package of classes, stitched them together with the collaborative yarn that is so abundant at Johnson, and set an ambitious goal: Empower each FinTech student to make a difference in the industry after just six weeks. Our program is new, bold, and unique, and was purpose built with the customer in mind.

It would be impossible and foolhardy to build and deliver this Intensive without creating close industry partnerships. To do so, we called upon our powerful alumni network. The response was, as usual, nothing short of inspiring:

EY, Citi Ventures, Wells Fargo, Capital One, Betterment, Sofi, Greendot, Anthemis, and Green Visor, to name a few, stepped up, provided leadership and guidance, and are over-delivering week in and week out.

I am proud of Johnson and its visionary deans. I am proud of our students, who bring passion, heart, and curiosity into the classroom and out to the FinTech clients they are now consulting with. I am humbled by our alumni network and corporate partners, who have gone above and beyond to make this Intensive the best of its kind.


Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline, MBA Feature, MBA News, News

Schools: Cornell / Johnson

About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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