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St. Pete School of Business receives $14 million donation for fintech center

Kate Tiedemann (middle right) and Ellen Cotton donated $10 million Monday, in addition to an unannounced $4 million that was given during the pandemic, to support the fintech center. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

Long-time donors Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton collectively contributed $14 million for the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance’s efforts to become a hub in fintech education.

The donation was announced Monday morning at a ceremony held in Lynn Pippenger Hall on the St. Pete campus. Notable attendees included President Rhea Law, former President Judy Genshaft, Florida Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls and St. Petersburg Mayor Kenneth Welch.

USF, alongside nonprofit organization Tampa Bay Wave, Inc., introduced a new fintech center April 11 as part of a larger three-year initiative to grow the industry in Tampa and St. Petersburg. It will be housed on the St. Pete campus, where 16 startups and entrepreneurs are currently being trained and can connect with local investors, according to Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem.

“We want to be the magnet for startups,” he said. “Any entrepreneur from all over the world who thinks ‘fintech,’ what they should think of is the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance and they should come here.” 

Fintech is the technology used to improve activities in finance, or as Limayem described, the “meeting point between finance and technology.” It’s not limited to cryptocurrencies, though. He said the growing technology can be used in different industries such as real estate, health care and insurance.

USF will be a hub for fintech in just five years, according to Limayem. Just as the internet has become integral to society in the past 30 years, as described by Limayem, fintech will also be in the coming years. 

Most people don’t know what fintech is yet, according to Limayem. He joked that Tiedemann and Cotton also don’t fully understand it yet, but they entrusted the university with their money, hoping for the best outcome. 

This isn’t the pair’s first donations to the university. In total, they have given about $30 million since 2014. Tiedemann first gifted $10 million to name the St. Pete College of Business, and Cotton provided $1 million for scholarships to name the Ellen Cotton Atrium in Lynn Pippenger Hall. 

The donation is “transformational” for not only the college, but also for the St. Petersburg community, as it will bring students more opportunities in fintech, according to Limayem. He felt it was so transformational that he had the over 100 attendees repeat the word after him multiple times, which was done enthusiastically and with laughter.

Tiedemann and Cotton’s donation will not only impact the St. Pete campus and its students, but also the entire city of St. Petersburg and its business sector, according to Sprowls.

“Business owners are flocking to Florida. They’re flocking and moving their hedge funds to St. Petersburg,” he said. “When they come here … they’re looking for beautiful sunshine, they’re looking for a community to enjoy and they’re looking for a talent pipeline to come into their businesses to breathe life, intelligence into their growing business sector and allow us to flourish.”

Limayem said the donation will support the university’s four pillars for fintech — students, faculty, community and entrepreneurship. The college is already rethinking and revamping undergraduate and graduate curriculum, as well as selecting practiced professors to build the staff. The college is also preparing a free seven-module certificate that will teach people in the Tampa Bay area about cryptocurrency and anything fintech-related, he said.