The Future Is FinTech, You Ask?


University of Toronto Scarborough students join forces with IBM Watson to create globally collaborative financial technology (FinTech) chatbot

August 8, 2019

In a landmark partnership between the University of Toronto (U of T), the Digital Finance Institute (DFI), and the IBM Centre for Advanced Studies, student teams at U of T Scarborough (UTSC) are designing a one-stop information gateway to boost innovation and investment in Canadian financial services.

“In recent years, financial technology, including AI in financial services, has been one of the main synergies driving innovation in Canada and foreign investment into Canada,” said Ellis Odynn, Executive Director at DFI, a Toronto think tank supporting financial technology, responsible innovation, and financial inclusion.

“Despite the popularity of FinTech and AI in financial services, there is no single go-to tech source for fast, accurate information about funding and scaling in the technology sector in Canada—and for foreign audiences, about investing in Canada. That’s all about to change.”

Leveraging IBM Watson Assistant—IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology—75 UTSC students studying Computer Science and Management under the direction of Assistant Professor Abbas Attarwala will collaborate with faculty across two campus-linked accelerators, The BRIDGE (housed within the UTSC Department of Management and UTSC Library) and the Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL), to build Canada’s first chatbot equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of financial technology (FinTech), AI, and the systems that support investment in Canadian industry.

“What is Canada’s leading city for AI? Who are the top women in FinTech in Canada? How does Ontario help start-ups export to new markets? Robust answers to these questions and more will be accessible 24/7 to anyone using our chatbot website or app anywhere in the world,” said Mario Grech, director and co-founder of DCSIL.

“When it comes to scaling a start-up and obtaining investment information, chatbot innovation is a game changer.”

The project is a global collaboration, with content contributions from around the world including from the United Nations.

“It goes to show the technology leadership of Canada and our partners at U of T,” said Odynn.

Currently, project stakeholders are seeking advisory support from financial institutions, tech companies, and thought leaders across disciplines to test the functional and operational capabilities of the chatbot, with the goal of deploying the finished product in November 2019.

The initial dataset is scheduled to be unveiled at the FinTech Canada Conference, hosted by DFI at MaRS Discovery District on August 14, 2019.

U of T student Alison Dudu and Bill McConkey, Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) in the Department of Management at UTSC and Academic Director of The BRIDGE, meet with DFI staff member Everett Kohl to collect feedback and requirements for the project.
Pictured above: U of T student Alison Dudu and Bill McConkey, Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) in the Department of Management and Academic Director of The BRIDGE at UTSC, meet with DFI staff member Everett Kohl to collect feedback and requirements for the project.

Kendal Egli
Marketing and Communications Officer
Department of Management
University of Toronto Scarborough

About the University of Toronto Scarborough, Department of Management

U of T Scarborough Management attracts the top business students in Canada and globally through an innovative approach to university-level business education. A cornerstone of Management is its Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, a four-year undergraduate program that offers a holistic business education across the management disciplines, while allowing our students to specialize their studies in finance, accounting, marketing, human resources, strategy, information technology, international business, or economics, including a very popular co-op option. Together with The BRIDGE, Management’s campus-linked accelerator and platform for Work Integrated Learning (WIL), Management students experience leadership by applying the latest management theory to real-world problems, both in the classroom and in the business community.

About Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL)

DCSIL is a cross-disciplinary start-up accelerator and incubator. As an accelerator, DCSIL works with faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students to develop and commercialize start-up ventures coming from U of T’s applied research teams. As an incubator, DCSIL delivers real-world experiential entrepreneurship courses that teach students from all fields how to apply their subject-matter expertise alongside lean start-up methodologies in customer and product development to create saleable prototypes for market validation.

About Digital Finance Institute (DFI)

The Digital Finance Institute is a Toronto-based think tank that covers financial technology (FinTech) and AI with a focus on responsible innovation, women in FinTech and financial inclusion. Founded in 2014, it has become one of the key voices and drivers in the financial services sector.