A GT Lab Is Researching The Big Question: Can We Make FinTech More Equitable?

The fact that FinTech helped propel Atlanta onto the national startup stage has been a bit of a paradox to those studying sustainable finance. That’s because Atlanta is consistently ranked as the US city with the highest income inequality ratio and one of the places with the highest percentage of unbanked households.

A group of researchers at Georgia Tech are looking to better understand financial inclusion, and they told Hypepotamus it could help propel the next generation of responsible-focused FinTech startups in the city.

The Financial Services Innovation Lab, housed inside Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, has been a hub for finance research on campus and across the Metro region for some time. The Lab just announced a new partnership with Atlanta-based Equifax to help better understand what it means to make FinTech and the broader financial sector more inclusive. 

Director Sudheer Chava told Hypepotamus that responsible finance, machine learning, analytical finance, FinTech, and cryptocurrencies are the main research areas for the lab. Within responsible and sustainable finance, the Lab is tapping into large, anonymous datasets to better understand what things really serve as “barriers to credit access.”  The partnership will give the Lab comprehensive alternative data sources and access to credit modeling experts through the Equifax Data Science Lab.

He added that “there are many stumbling blocks..it might be gender, it might be based on race, it might be based on geography, or it might be based on social capital. But we know that not everyone has equal opportunities.”

Chava added that part of the research is also looking to better understand financial “barriers to entrepreneurship,” which could in turn help explore how to better support the local tech ecosystem. 

The Lab brings together upwards of 75 students from across the university and 8 to 10 Ph.D. students. 

Ultimately, Chava said that phase two of the initiative will be collaborating with accelerators across Georgia Tech, like ATDC, Create-X, and the Creative Destruction Lab. “A startup might be able to come in and better mitigate a [finance] problem with our data. Or, based on our findings, they may be able to create a new product.”

The problem, of course, is not limited to Atlanta. 63 million American adults are either unbanked or underbanked, according to new Equifax research. And an estimated 67 million Americans. For those at the Lab, a better understanding of what causes barriers to access in the financial space could help propel new FinTech innovation. Other research projects within the responsible finance space recently have looked at the true impact of E-commerce on brick and mortar stores, the impact of right-to-work laws, and the role of corporate subsidies.