On September 19, Velocity kicked off their Innovation Challenge: Imagining the Future of Finance. The student hackathon provides an opportunity for University of Waterloo students interested in exploring virtual reality (VR) and 5G technologies to bridge the gap between traditional banking and the needs of future generations.

The 10-day hackathon, in partnership with BMO, Unity, Dimension X, and Rogers, aims to have a winning team develop an innovative solution to various technology challenges faced by finance companies around the world — particularly in reaching and engaging with Gen Z and Millennial customers.

“The challenge involves using virtual reality to demystify the world of finance and create a platform for experimentation and learning,” says Sharon O’Sullivan, head of technology research and innovation for BMO. “Participants are encouraged to explore various aspects of finance, from investment to savings and imagine innovative solutions.”

sharon Sullivan

Sharon O’Sullivan from BMO explains what makes a winning financial product

Contestants will need to examine various financial concepts and considerations when developing their product including customer life stages and goals, time horizons of investing, future value of money and more.

jason lee and Pratham Mehta

Jason Lee and Pratham Mehta from Rogers present how 5G has been used in commercial applications

“What's particularly exciting about this hackathon is that we are looking at banking, an industry not traditionally associated with 5G but is becoming a focus of exploration,” says Jason Lee, senior innovation partnerships advisor for Rogers. “We are evaluating where 5G can be applied and we are providing the necessary infrastructure to enable various applications, but we really need you to let your creative ideas flow and explore how 5G can benefit banking.”

Students from all University faculties registered for the hackathon by indicating their area of expertise, whether it be design, business, product management or software development. Teams were then formed organically during the networking session of the kickoff event.

Velocity facilitated connections among students from diverse academic backgrounds to create cross-disciplinary teams. This enables students from different faculties to lend their unique perspectives within their teams and collaborate to design a technology-based solution for the finance industry.

Since the hackathon is utilizing VR, particularly Unity’s game engine and Dimension X’s VR development platform, teams had to be formed to include a balance of skillsets with each team needing to have at least one Unity developer with the other team members having more diverse backgrounds ranging from art and design to science and business.

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Courtney McPherson and Nick Cheng (right) look for other team members

“I have a background in user experience and user interface design, and I love to participate in hackathons — it’s a great opportunity to flex my design skills and learn from my team members,” says Courtney McPherson a third-year student in the Global Business and Digital Arts program. “I do know how to do a bit of coding, but our team will also take the opportunity to learn as we go.”

McPherson teamed up with Nick Cheng, a graduate student in the School of Pharmacy who plans on taking on the responsibility of storyteller, presenter and product idea generation.

“I like participating in these challenges and have been involved for a few years now, it’s nice to be able to use my science background but also do something that’s outside of area of study,” says Cheng. “I also like that there are some low-code and no-code tools available to use since our team doesn’t have a lot of coding expertise.”

Every student group will have access to on-campus workspaces, cutting-edge technology and equipment. They will also have opportunities to meet with mentors, participate in workshops.

Three winning team will be chosen based on the inventiveness, feasibility, usability and scalability of their design solution aimed at addressing the key challenges currently faced by financial institutions. The three top teams will all nab a BMO investment account with an initial deposit and consultation with Unity Recruiting. Second and first place teams will also receive a 1-year Unity Pro License. Additionally, the first place team will nab a Meta Quest 2 VR headset.

Join us at the finance innovation challenge finals

On October 1, each team will pitch live to a panel of judges at the Engineering E7 Conrad Hub in hopes of winning one of the top three prizes.

Finals panel of judges

  • Andrea Casciato, Head of Digital Investing, BMO
  • Bindu Alvar Thiruvenkadathan, Chief Information Officer, Wealth Management, BMO
  • Mohib Hassan, Product Manager, IoT Solutions (Industrial Automation & Asset Management), Rogers Communications
  • Thomas Winkley, Technical Marketing Advocate, Unity Technologies

Waterloo community members can attend the finals for free.