Former State Department economist Daniel Ahn ’04 speaks about financial technology

On Monday, November 14, as part of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club fireside chat series, Daniel Ahn ’04 spoke to students about his new fintech startup Delfi and his previous experience as Chief Economist at the State Department.

During the chat, Ahn discussed a variety of finance-related topics, including Delfi’s mission to “democratize Wall Street” and his personal career history in the public and private sectors.

A business major at Princeton, Ahn graduated in three years before earning a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

After completing his education, Ahn worked at private companies such as Citadel Securities, Barclays Capital and Lehman Brothers. He also held research and teaching positions at Harvard and Columbia Universities before serving as Chief Economist at the US State Department from 2017-2018.

“A lot of my professors who had public sector experience said, ‘Daniel, you should get some public sector experience. You should not only see how economics is applied in theory and in the private sector, but also see how laws are made,’” said Ahn.

Ahn said his family background and gratitude to the community around him influenced his desire to work in the public sector.

“The other reason, aside from a nudge from my mentors, was simple patriotism and a sense of gratitude. My family is from South Korea, so I’m a second-generation immigrant,” he said. “I really appreciated coming to the United States of America and getting an education like the one I had.”

“I wanted to do something to repay the country that supported me and my family,” he added.

During the discussion, he recalled how his public sector experience translated into Delfi’s mission.

In a separate interview with The Daily Princetonian, Ahn said his vision for his startup is to make Wall Street “more accessible and affordable for small and medium-sized businesses and businesses.”

The company uses “AI and machine learning to replicate much of the financial risk management and hedging strategies that large Wall Street banks typically perform on behalf of large corporate clients,” he said.

In the interview, Ahn also specified the types of banks and companies that Delfi wants to improve.

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“While Delfi’s grand vision is to truly seek to increase financial access and inclusion for all small businesses, our financial research has led us to focus on smaller community banks and credit unions first,” he said.

During the Q&A portion of the lecture, Ahn encouraged students to embrace uncertainty before committing to a career path. He also spoke about his own experiences in pursuing a Ph.D. and said he encourages students to consider graduate school.

“I typically encourage my students to pursue a Ph.D. It forces people to think outside the box and innovate intellectually, and it’s certainly very structured and engaging,” he said. “But the mental exercises that come with the PhD. make you feel like you are not afraid of hard work and allow you to see other perspectives.”

The chat was hosted by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club at Robertson 100 on November 14 from 5-6pm.

Janny Eng is Staff News Writer and Financial Reporter for The Prince. Please direct all correction requests to Corrections at dailyprincetonian.com.



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