Why I left Wall Street for FinTech

stuart
stuart
Feb 1, 2016 · 3 min read

There are two forces that create a major shift: a pull and a push. When both forces are at play, you have the makings of career change.

The Push:

In 2008, the US banking industry came under heavy regulation after regulators realised that the systemic leverage and complexity was impossible to unravel in a timely fashion. Under the new changes, investment banks like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were forced to become bank holding companies in order to gain access to liquidity and funding. Having a bank holding status is restrictive for accountancy, and makes risk-taking difficult, which limits the upside previously afforded to investment banks.

Morgan Stanley, where I worked, adapted in the face of this new environment. It reallocated resources to its wealth management business by purchasing Smith Barney, a retail brokerage business, from Citibank. This marked a clear shift in focus from returns on trading to consumer acquisition.

For most, there were two choices. Either stay in the stagnating banking industry, or go to the hedge-fund world. Most traders chose the second.

I choose a third, nascent option: Fintech.

The Pull:

Bitcoin isn’t as much in favor now as it was a couple of years ago, but the concept that anyone could exchange value globally between based on a distributed ledger was exciting. It changed my thoughts on how we could be banked and how efficiencies could be brought to the global market. Thanks to my background in Foreign Exchange trading, I instantly understood the utility of a distributed ledger like Ripple or the Blockchain. Whether this or any other becomes the de facto method of exchange is unimportant. At this stage, it’s about taking the best properties and concepts from these protocols, and combining them to get the desired output you need, when you need it.

Looking at the landscape and opportunities presented, creating a Company to solve real problems using new technology solutions became a clear choice. Forming a company requires the right partners, the right people, and the right foundation — which I found through Joe Marchese and an introduction to Expa. Seeing their passion for going after incumbent verticals was refreshing and exciting. In fintech, the compliance and regulatory overheads are large, and for good reason. We’re dealing with money, the lifeblood of individuals and the economy, so the barriers to entry in the market are high. Any serious fintech play requires the backing, the knowledge, and the expertize from an entity like Expa to have any probability of success.

At Current, we’re building an api for money, and we’re connecting it to places like Slack so you can transact where you interact.

To be able to send money to colleagues and friends for coffee or lunch. We want to enable you to exchange money digitally as easy as you can with cash, no matter how geographically distant you are from the other person. Current is not concentrating on disrupting banks, but rather working with them to provide a storage of value, opening up their infrastructure to new ideas, as well as helping institutions take advantage of some of these new technologies.

There’s one more thing:

The reason why I started Current is because I get to work with the most passionate, intelligent and motivated people again and we get to do it right from the ground up, not because we are forced to but because we want to connect the world financially.

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