Officials unveil $20 million financial tech academy at Georgia State

University System of Georgia officials announced Tuesday they’re starting a hub at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business for all 26 colleges and universities in the system to learn and train more students for careers in the financial technology industry, saying there’s a labor gap in the state.

The initiative, FinTech Academy, will be a public-private partnership with businesses that will cost about $20 million over the next three years. University System officials said they’ll reallocate some funds for the effort. One company, FIS, a banking software and services company located in more than 100 countries, announced Tuesday it’s committing $1 million to the academy.

Financial technology is said to be thriving in metro Atlanta, but more workers are needed. By 2020, the region will need an additional 5,000 fintech professionals, particularly in software development and data science, local experts say.

“We’re in a talent war and we need fintech talent,” Denise Williams, chief people officer at FIS, said at Tuesday’s state Board of Regents meeting.

Local businesses will help fund the training and offer apprenticeships and internships, said Art Recesso, the University System’s ecampus chief innovation officer. The first two companies to sign up are FIS and InComm, a Georgia-based retail and comsumer payment technology company.

Certificates and degrees will be offered through classes on various University System campuses and online. There are few fintech classes in the system, but officials say that will change. Six University System institutions will offer fintech-related courses this year. Jim Senn, the academy’s founding director, conservatively estimates about 250 students will take fintech courses this year.

University System officials say they graduate about 5,000 students a year in fintech-related fields, but Recesso told the board industry companies “don’t access this yet and that’s what we’re trying to change.”

Georgia State was chosen as the academy’s center, in part, because of its proximity to several fintech companies. The university started a fintech lab last year, another factor in the decision to put the academy there.

Recesso said the idea for the academy came from a 2014 state report on high-demand careers and a 18-month long study the fintech industry.

Georgia State and University System officials were excited about the possibilities and challenges of this new campaign.

“This is uncharted territory for all of us,” said Richard D. Phillips, dean of Georgia State’s College of Business.

What is fintech?

FinTech helps process retail banking, gift card transactions and personal investments. Atlanta FinTech companies process 70 percent of all credit, debit, and prepaid card transactions in the United States, equating to more than $3.5 trillion annually, according to some estimates. About 105,000 people worldwide are working at Georgia-based fintech companies.