Hacking personal finance

Sayada Nabi

On Family Day weekend, the U of T Scarborough Library brought students together to find ways to make it easier for families to manage money.

The average Canadian household has a debt of $60,000, according to Statistics Canada data from 2012. And debt is only increasing, and there is a concern that financial literacy is slipping. These issues were the basis of this year's UTSC Hackathon: #FinanceHacksThe event was sponsored by the UTSC Library, The Hub and the Departments of Management and Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CMS), Xignite, Inc. and DBRS, Inc.

“There is growing concern that the average Canadian doesn’t have the financial knowledge to make important decisions about their finances weather its saving for university, how to manage student debt or spend that money that you’re making, how to invest for retirement, or how to plan for old age,” says Stephanie Perpick, liaison librarian to the Department of Management.

Students were divided into eight different teams and were responsible for developing a digital product in the form of an app or website, as well as a business plan.

“CMS students and the management students come together for one intense weekend to build a product that solves those kinds of problem for some market, for some population,” says Finance Lab Technician Bill Chau.

Chau’s own career path led him to believe the time was now to have focus the Hackathon on financial literacy.

“I started my career in finance. I had a great interest in technology and I started learning programming and I actually switched jobs to become a programmer at a start-up,” Chau says. “Having the knowledge in the two worlds, I thought that there is something the students can do to combine the worlds.”

The teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges that included Management Lecturer Bill McConkey, Computer Science Professor Brian Harrington, data and statistics librarian Matthew Gertler, software developer Mark MacDonnell and quantitative trader Madaliso Mulaisho.

The judges awarded the $600 top prize to Cub Financial, a product to provide financial literacy to undergraduate students so they can make informed decisions about a post-secondary education. The team consisted of management students, Maheen Hassan and Blair Du; and CMS students Vincent Landolfi, Jessy Liang. Bolaji Fatade, Aydin Baradaranseyed and Jinsu Ha.

“When I was in high school, I applied to all of the universities I could,” says Du. “I just didn’t have the time to pull out information on every individual source. So I thought why not aggregate all that information into one simple website, give a score based on several factors,” says Du.

If the team decides to continue on with their product, UTSC’s innovation and business incubator The Hub will provide support.