From the Illinois Economic Development Guide 2017

The Midwest FinTech Epicenter

Chicago joins an exclusive club of global financial technology hubs.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicago is one of 24 new fintech hubs participating in the Global FinTech Hubs Federation, an independent network of 44 emerging and established fintech hubs worldwide. It’s one of just four in North America and is considered to be among the most conducive cities to the growth of fintech worldwide, according to “A Tale of 44 Cities: Connecting Global FinTech: Interim Hub Review 2017” published by Deloitte in April.

Fintech is a rapidly growing technology sector that encompasses such topics as exchange technology, artificial intelligence, market data and trading, data analytics and visualization, the blockchain platform for management of digital assets and security, among others. Chicago has long been home to key commodities exchanges — Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board Options Exchange — and leading financial institutions. It’s also home to a slew of fintech companies, including Avant, Discover, Enova, Allstate, Morningstar, Braintree and Aon. Braintree, founded in Chicago in 2007 and acquired by PayPal in 2013, develops payment systems for businesses of all sizes. Venture capital is flowing into the city’s fintech industry — by one account more than $450 million went to Chicago fintech startups in 2016. The Windy City’s membership in the fintech club was a shoo-in.

The Deloitte report calls Chicago “the epicenter for all fintech activity in the Midwest, representing well over 20,000 financial institutions. It is home to two-fifths of the top business universities in the US and over 6 percent of the Chicago workforce are focused on the financial ecosystem, contributing to its already significant talent pool. With government support, Chicago companies are able to quickly innovate to create groundbreaking technology.”

Just Warming Up

More fintech activity is taking shape in Chicago, the Deloitte report observes: “Over the next 12 months, we expect to see state and local government partnering with the private sector and NGOs to pursue greater adoption of blockchain as well as creating an innovation-friendly environment. 2017 will also see the launch of Currency, a fintech center of excellence and development of an innovation-friendly regulatory stance.”

Currency will provide (1) community — memberships options to maximize benefits; (2) curated interactions — co-location for mentor matching, a corporate accelerator and other resources; (3) programming and events — workshops and networking opportunities for enterprises of all sizes; and (4) research and education — resources for promoting best practices and innovation.

The Chicago FinTech Hub’s representative in the network is FinTEx (Financial Technology Exchange), a nonprofit, member-driven community of more than 100 organizations in the financial and financial technology sectors promoting collaboration, investment and innovation in Chicago and the Midwest.

When it’s time for FinTEx to take up talent retention in Chicago to grow the sector into the future, it will likely turn to homegrown Enova International, a provider of financial services to non-prime consumers and small businesses, for examples of IT workforce best practices. In June 2017, the company was named one of Computerworld’s 2017 Best Place to Work in IT.

“Enova’s 200-plus-person tech team builds and supports the technology that enables us to realize our mission of helping hardworking people fulfill their financial responsibilities with fast, trustworthy credit,” said David Fisher, Enova’s CEO. “We invest in our team members with a values-driven culture, interesting work, and tools and educational opportunities to help them grow their careers.”

A Chicago location makes possible the tools and educational opportunities for career advancement. And it’s the only metro area in the central US with critical masses of technology providers and finance, and the talent to blend them into a new economic engine.

Mark Arend
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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