Deniz Johnson (MBA93) brings equity to fintech and its applications.
Friday, May 12, 2023

Deniz Johnson (MBA93) is the COO of the fintech startup Stratyfy, one of the first companies to combine AI and human understanding to help companies make more inclusive financial decisions. She’s also the newest member of Tippie’s Finance Advisory Council—and she’s bursting with ideas.

This isn’t unusual for Johnson, who was an early innovator in fintech and has been named a Top 45 Global Female Leader by Innovate Finance and an Inspiring FinTech Female by NYC FinTech Women, an organization with 4,000+ members.

Deniz Johnson on the NYSE floor wtih her photo on the big screens above.
Deniz Johnson on the NYSE floor with her photo on the big screens above.

When receiving that latter award on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor in 2021, Johnson was surprised when images of herself flashed across dozens of giant screens. At that moment, she knew she had to get a photo for her biggest supporter—her mother.

“It was such a mom moment,” says Johnson. “She has always inspired me; always encouraged me to do my best.”

Johnson joined Stratyfy in 2018 after a chance meeting with the company’s co-founder, Laura Kornhauser. They bonded immediately over their shared vision for AI in finance and their common drive to create responsible AI-powered fintech solutions. They continue to work together to make Stratyfy a success.

“Any time you are dealing with AI, you are learning from history to make predictions about the future. But historical data comes with prejudices and systematic injustices that do not represent our diverse population,” explains Johnson. “This is where the risk of bias in financial decisions comes in, and why I threw myself into this work—it’s too important not to get it right.”

Johnson has always taken risks to follow her intellectual passions. In 1991, she left her homeland of Turkey to come to Iowa to pursue an MBA. She was already planning her life back home when she met her future husband, Scott Johnson (BBA92), a fellow Tippie student from Dubuque, Iowa, and decided to stay.

Early in her career, Johnson held senior positions in healthcare management in Florida, including a stint at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., where she started working in technology. When she and her family moved to Boston, Mass., in 2000, Johnson switched to finance because she found that local hospitals weren’t sufficiently advanced in their use of technology.

“I like a good challenge and to constantly be looking for better ways to get things done,” says Johnson. “Since moving into the finance industry more than two decades ago, I have always worked at the intersection of technology and business, and, more often than not, as the only woman in the room.”

Deniz Johnson in her home in Boston. Photo by Nic Wynia.
Deniz Johnson in her home in Boston. Photo by Nic Wynia.

Throughout her career, Johnson has been a champion of diversity. For example, at an asset firm where she served as senior vice president, she increased the number of women on the IT team by 30 percent. Johnson is a true believer in the positive impact that diverse leaders can have in the finance industry, and she plans to share her vision and experience with the Finance Advisory Council at Tippie.

She also hopes to help Tippie expand fintech course offerings and build a strong reputation in the field. Johnson believes there is a massive opportunity in agrotechnology that the University of Iowa is well-positioned to explore.

“I would love to tie the strengths of Tippie to technology,” says Johnson. “There are food shortages around the globe, and there is also large-scale technical farming in Iowa. I’d love to see us do things on a macro scale—something impactful.”


This article appeared in the 2023 issue of Exchange magazine.