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Moneythink hosts Tartan Financial Innovation Challenge

On Saturday, April 15, students from the undergraduate organization Moneythink invited students from across the campus to present innovative ideas for promoting financial literacy, particularly among college and high school students. The competition was a part of the organization’s Tartan Financial Innovation Challenge — abbreviated as Finnovation.

Kevin Kong, a junior business administration student who serves on the board of Moneythink, said that the event was inspired by what the organization saw as a “lack of awareness” among university students for making sound personal financial choices. It was partially based on Venmo’s Financial Literacy Hackathon held two years ago. “We settled on this ‘hackathon’ idea because we thought it was very ‘CMU-esque,’” Kong said, but the group sought a way to attract students who may have been intimidated by such a competition because they are not computer programmers.

Apoorva Havanur, senior economics student and president of Moneythink, stressed that the competition was open to all students. Participants were able either to develop a prototype for a website or application, or to provide a business plan and pitch for an organization. A panel of judges — including Burton Hollifield, head of the undergraduate business administration program and PNC Professor of Finance, and Evelyn Pierce, teaching processor of business management communication, along with Havanur — evaluated each submission for its creativity and practicality, in addition to how well the participants presented and implemented the idea.

The winning entry was Wealthwise, a program developed by sophomore business administration student Maddie Dubrosa and sophomore statistics students Rohan Nagalkar and Emily Chen. The creators envisioned that all incoming college students would be required to complete the online program, intended to instill finance fundamentals before they are making major financial decisions.

Among the other entries was third-place winner SWAP Smart Wallet, a payment app that would limit its users’ spending to encourage them to make more reasoned choices, and a chat bot for Facebook: Users send it messages when they make purchases and the bot responds with personal budget updates. “It was a very cool idea and really impressed us,” Kong said.

The Finnovation challenge kicked off on Friday, April 14 with networking and an information session hosted by BNY Mellon, one of the event’s sponsors along with Quiznos, which provided a lunch on Saturday. A keynote address on Friday from Lynne Pastor, MSIA ’96 and associate teaching professor at the Heinz College, preceded a series of “crash courses” on Moneythink, financial literacy and prototyping.

Kong said that Moneythink is planning to bring back Finnovation next year. “We started relatively late,” he admitted about this year’s event, “so we will definitely get a few months head start for the next Finnovation.”