The University of South Florida today announced new gifts totaling $14 million from St. Petersburg philanthropists Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton that will support the USF Muma College of Business’ vision to become a “hub of excellence” in fintech.
Fintech, short for "financial technology," aims to improve traditional methods of delivering financial services to simplify financial transactions, making them more accessible and, often, more affordable to consumers and businesses. Fintech automation impacts everything from mobile banking and insurance to crowdfunding, blockchain, cryptocurrency and investment apps.
“Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton have made an indelible impact on the University of South Florida, and their generous new gifts continue their legacy of preparing our business students for a bright future,” said USF President Rhea Law. “Fintech is a rapidly emerging field, and Kate and Ellen have paved the way for a cutting-edge program at USF that will help fill the talent pipeline to serve the Tampa Bay region’s thriving tech community.”
The gifts are for the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, one of six schools in the Muma College of Business. The school’s home is on the USF St. Petersburg campus, and it has students and faculty on each of USF’s three campuses, all of whom will benefit from the gifts.
“It brings us great joy to help USF students build their expertise in fintech, so they are ready for the fast-changing business world that awaits them,” Tiedemann and Cotton said. “The faculty on the USF St. Petersburg campus, on all USF campuses, possess the talent and experience needed to effectively develop the curricula that will make USF a leader in this space. Fintech spans many disciplines, and we couldn’t be happier to play our part in creating new opportunities for students.”
Moez Limayem, the Lynn Pippenger Dean of the USF Muma College of Business, says fintech is a high-demand field that produces graduates who regularly transition quickly into high-paying jobs.
“Fintech is one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in the world,” Limayem said. “There is a seemingly endless array of fintech applications, and this gift will help us educate students on blockchain, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, automation and data science that is the backbone of innovation.”
The gifts, made through the USF Foundation, support Limayem’s four-pillar vision for fintech, which includes hiring world-class faculty to conduct scholarly inquiries into emerging opportunities, as well as assessing fintech risks and threats and how to mitigate them. The second pillar of the plan, to embed fintech modules into core curricula, will ensure all USF business students, regardless of major, have meaningful exposure to the topic.
The third pillar includes broader outreach to share expertise with the community through conferences, executive education programs and workplace certificate programs. The fourth pillar allows the school to become a place where students and fintech entrepreneurs alike come for education and mentoring, where startups come for resources and major firms come for talent.
The gifts further solidify the Tampa Bay region’s footprint in fintech, including a strong presence in St. Petersburg that has come as an outgrowth of the city’s strong roots in the financial services sector. The area is home to Raymond James, now the largest financial service provider outside of Wall Street. According to the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp., financial services is St. Pete’s largest employment sector, and the thriving tech community has drawn companies such as ARK Invest and Dynasty Financial Partners to relocate to the area.
The support for fintech is the latest example of Tiedemann and Cotton’s investment in USF. The $10 million gift announced today is in addition to $4 million that was given during the COVID-19 pandemic, though not previously announced, to endow two professorships. Prior contributions have transformed the St. Petersburg campus’ school of business and finance.
“Kate and Ellen have a deep passion for the university, its students and its faculty. Their longstanding support of the USF St. Petersburg campus has been transformative. These gifts will help generations of students prepare for the workplace,” said USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman. “Their support also signals to other philanthropists that giving to USF is a smart investment that impacts lives and the larger community.”