Career Spotlight: Ryan Burton, Fellowship Leads Fintech Career for SDSU Graduate.

by Sioux Falls Development Foundation
Published 06/30/2020

There were days as graduate students at SDSU when Ryan Burton was learning something in class and applying it that same day in the workplace.

He’s one of more than a dozen participants in a unique fellowship program offered by Capital Services, a leading payment portfolio management and service company that originates, manages, and services card assets on behalf of client banks.

Burton, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in the SDSU department of mathematics and statistics, has gone on to build in-demand careers with what he learned through that early work experience.

“We develop predictive models to help make smart business decisions,” Burton said. “So the mathematics and statistics learned at SDSU, the applied and theoretical courses are directly applicable to our work. It was a great experience to work at Capital Services while going to school and to take the theoretical knowledge learned in classes and apply it sometimes in the same day at work through Capital Services.”

For Burton, the fellowship led to a full-time job in 2012 and a promotion in 2018 to his current role as portfolio analytics and risk director.

The Yankton native had gone to SDSU knowing he liked math but not sure what major or career to pursue. After learning about the opportunities in the field and experiencing an internship at Capital Services, he found his future profession and now helps mentor other fellows.

“A big part for everyone that’s involved is the mentorship, being able to talk to professors and have theoretical mentorship and talking to industry professionals,” he said. 

“And growing up in Yankton, it’s nice to be close to family and Sioux Falls is a good-size city. There’s a lot of opportunity but not a lot of traffic, and the culture in the Midwest is very familiar to me so I’m happy to stick around.”

The Capital Services fellowship program has been so successful, it’s growing. The company and SDSU recently finalized a new three-year agreement that started June 22 and runs through fiscal 2023. The newest fellow will focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“The beauty of the machine learning methods we’re developing and instructing students in area so applicable in so many areas of South Dakota’s economy,” said Dr. Kurt Cogswell, head of the department of mathematics and statistics and a professor at SDSU.

“It’s invaluable. Capital’s commitment to this and the effort they invested in developing graduate fellows has been remarkable. Many of these people stayed at Capital and have done tremendous work, but there is no expectation they will stay at Capital. For a company to have that altruistic approach is extremely admirable.”