Students challenged to bridge banking and tech with VR and 5G

Imagining the future of finance in partnership with BMO, Unity, Dimension X and Rogers

By Jordan Flemming University Relations

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 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."

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.

"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 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 aims to facilitate 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.

"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 Fang, 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 Fang. "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 round-the-clock access to on-campus workspaces, cutting-edge technology and equipment. They will also have opportunities to meet with mentors, participate in workshops and compete for a share of the $18,000 grand prize.

The 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.

Join us at the finance innovation challenge finals

Over the course of the Innovation Challenge: Imagining the Future of Finance, students will have 10 days to workshop and design a solution for the field of finance using VR and 5G technologies.

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.