Brad Albright On The Future of Money and Banking
Love what you do. To be highly successful in your career, you have to work incredibly hard and spread your enthusiasm, so whatever your pursuits might be they need to be something you are passionate about. Success should be measured in life satisfaction and happiness, not just money. If you do what you love and work hard, you will likely do well in all areas. Think of the people you most admire: how does their passion for what they do contribute to their success?
The way we bank has changed dramatically over the last decade. It was not too long ago when you had to wait in line in a bank to deposit money. Today things are totally different. You can do your banking without ever walking into a bank. In addition, the whole concept of money has changed. In the recent past, money usually meant bills and coins. But today, the concept of money has expanded to include digital currency and NFTs. What other innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?
To address this, we are talking to leaders in the banking, finance, and fintech worlds, to discuss the future of banking and money over the next few years. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Albright.
Brad Albright’s career spans three decades of experience in the financial and technology markets. After 12 years as a senior investment banker at JP Morgan, where he led the firm’s global communications technology practice and executed in excess of $20 billion of capital markets and M&A transactions, Brad left to join a client that was revolutionizing communications technology by making networks more intelligent. Following the sale of that business, he has been a founder and executive of various companies in Silicon Valley, NYC, Europe and Asia. Most recently, Brad co-founded Evvio, with the mission to make internet-based earning and spending seamless and instant for anyone, anywhere — whether using fiat, crypto, digital currencies, tokens or rewards — in both the real and virtual worlds.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in this industry?
I have been involved in the finance and technology industries throughout my career and am a keen observer of new trend formation and market evolution I am always looking out for those key technology innovations that will drive irreversible positive transformations over the next 5, 10, 20 years. In my entrepreneurial career across various technology sectors, I have learned from building and leading businesses in ecommerce software and the experiential economy, as well as a fascinating period focused on financing renewable energy ventures.
More than a decade ago, my Evvio co-founders and I envisioned how rapidly increasing connectedness and use of mobile devices would precipitate a vast expansion of local and global ecommerce opportunities, especially for person-to-person commerce. We saw that people had available skills, assets, time and knowledge that others were willing to pay for — in both the real world and virtual worlds — but no efficient means to share, charge and receive payment, and to do so in a secure way without fraud concerns. We saw an opportunity to integrate earning and payment innovations into ecommerce to allow “fluid” commerce, eliminating the steps, delays, fees and exclusions that characterized using existing external payment systems — such as credit cards — developed for an earlier era of merchant-to-consumer commerce.
We developed those core concepts, including trading stored value in any form, for which we were granted patents in the US, European Union, UK and Japan. These patents underpin Evvio’s Fluid CommerceTM, which eliminates the need for credit cards, banks and other third party-payment processors in ecommerce, while at the same time supporting transactions that use alternate forms of value, such as tokens or digital currencies. These innovations yield substantial benefits in terms of expanding addressable market, eradicating obstacles to transaction completion (i.e., revenue generation), eliminating fraud, and removing barriers to participating in ecommerce.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was returning to the US from a business trip to Europe and was flying over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when the 9/11 attacks occurred. My flight was diverted to Canada, where I received and witnessed genuine hospitality and kindness from and among complete strangers. The experience was a profound example of human capacity for cooperation, compassion and generosity during a time of shared crisis.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Treat others the way you wish to be treated yourself” — I believe always applying the “Golden Rule” is not only the best way to live but doing so also yields the maximum benefits, both personally and professionally. I have seen proof of this countless times through myriad expressions of good will tied to trusted relationships.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
It is very exciting to see Evvio’s Fluid Commerce significantly expand opportunities for anyone anywhere to participate in ecommerce, allowing anyone to earn and spend using any currency or form of stored value. What underpins Fluid Commerce are granted patents that allow earned value within an ecommerce network to be spent seamlessly within the same or interconnected ecommerce networks, eliminating the need for a bank account or credit card to participate in ecommerce. Ecommerce networks where participants have fast-growing opportunities to earn and spend income include social commerce networks, metaverses, super apps, NFT marketplaces, sharing economy marketplaces and online games networks.
Connectedness, together with the ubiquity of smart mobile devices, is creating vastly more opportunities for ecommerce, especially person-to-person commerce. We have seen during the pandemic how person-to-person commerce services, such as Zoom fitness classes, NFT sales, legal consultations or task-based design or business projects can be delivered efficiently and remotely. According to Statista, social commerce alone is expected to grow from $560 billion in 2020 to $2.9 trillion in 2026. Yet most ecommerce payment systems, such as credit cards, were created for an earlier era of merchant-to-consumer commerce. Being external to the ecommerce network, they introduce inefficiencies such as transaction fees, processing burdens and delays, as well as exclusions at every step.
Fluid Commerce significantly expands ecommerce opportunities by integrating earning, payments and fraud prevention into ecommerce networks. It creates the possibility to earn and spend any form of value, across any ecommerce network, without requiring a bank account or credit card.
How do you think this might change the world?
Fluid Commerce will make a real impact in three key areas — i) a vast expansion of ecommerce opportunities, ii) much greater inclusiveness by allowing anyone anywhere to participate in ecommerce, and iii) a far more seamless “fluid” experience for buyers and sellers, which makes it painless to participate in ecommerce, since barriers and loss of income through fees are eliminated.
First, we see that Fluid Commerce tremendously expands local and global ecommerce opportunities, especially for person-to-person commerce (e.g., social commerce, which is projected to be worth $2.9 trillion by 2026). Connectedness and pervasiveness of mobile technology mean the opportunities for anyone to engage in ecommerce are multiplied. This a huge area of growth and is already a significant part of overall commerce in markets not held back by legacy payment infrastructure. Sellers can earn and then spend their earnings without needing to accept credit cards or withdraw their earnings into a bank account, with all the associated fees, exclusions, blocked funds and growing paperwork burden.
Second, by eliminating the need for a credit card or bank account, anyone can participate in ecommerce. According to a 2019 Federal Reserve report, more than 60 million adults are either unbanked or underbanked in the US alone. Implementing Fluid Commerce can grow markets, while impacting lives positively by making efficient ecommerce earning and spending opportunities available to many more individuals. These same individuals are the ones who currently suffer the most onerous fees for services such as check-cashing and payday loans.
Third, users of Fluid Commerce will find the whole ecommerce experience faster and leaner, through removing additional steps, delays, declined payments, fraud and fees. Anyone will be able to participate in seamless ecommerce going forward, across a much greater range of transactions, and retain full value. We have already seen how mobile-based seamless ecommerce has rapidly become pervasive in huge markets in Asia that are not constrained by legacy payment infrastructure.
By making earning and spending an integral part of ecommerce networks, a further transformation will be in eliminating the extraordinary inefficiency of ever-expanding regulatory requirements. As regulations tighten, third-party financial payment systems, operating in isolation from ecommerce networks, receive few details of the context of transactions or sources of funds, which are often required for legal compliance and to prevent fraud. That is why banks and other payment providers are increasingly demanding more documentation and information about transactions. This process is often done without automation and is highly inefficient, time-consuming and an impediment to commercial activities. By making payments an integral part of interconnected ecommerce networks, not an external third-party service, the context of each transaction and precise source of earnings is known and can be recorded automatically, removing the outdated manual inefficiency, burden and frustration that is now placed on individuals and businesses.
What most excites you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? Can you explain what you mean?
What excites us most is the opportunity to greatly expand ecommerce, while at the same time eliminating onerous inefficiencies and improving value retention for buyers, sellers and marketplace operators. Most of the existing banking and payments industry was created for a different era of commerce (i.e., pre-dating ecommerce), one that was far more manual, where multi-day settlement times were accepted and the risk of fraud was far less material. These legacy systems are not well suited to online commerce, where 24x7 ecommerce networks using multiple forms of value, including metaverses, super apps, social commerce networks, NFT marketplaces and online games, form a rapidly growing part of the global economy.
We are excited to work with those building forward-looking ecommerce infrastructure, who recognize that providing the instant, smooth, low-transaction-cost future means payments become an integral, embedded part of interconnected ecommerce networks. As is true for any market transformation that is brought about by innovation, incumbents will either adapt or face erosion of their legacy businesses as progressive companies gain greater market share through competitive advantages, such as through Fluid Commerce.
What most concerns you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? What would you suggest needs to be done to address that?
The traditional banking and payments industry was designed for a world before ecommerce, one that today results in inefficiency, exclusion of would-be participants and high cost of ecommerce transactions.
Like most long-established industries with entrenched incumbents, many traditional banks and payment providers are late to embrace fully transformative innovation for fear of killing the “golden goose”. Consider landline phone companies as well as the car industry, broadcast television, music industry, film photography, etc. Those market-dominating incumbents that did not adapt and embrace innovation lost their standing and, in some cases were completely left behind. Many tried to exploit their outdated products and business models for too long. By the time they made serious efforts to adapt to new realities and fast-changing consumer demands, they were years or decades behind, with little or no hope of catching up.
What concerns us most about the payments industry today are the myriad inefficiencies of third-party intervention for payment processing as well as the exclusion of many potential market participants by virtue of the increasingly challenging requirements to open and maintain bank and credit card accounts. This current reality results in value “leaking” out of commercial ecosystems (i.e., from the hands of buyers, sellers and marketplace operators), slow and burdensome settlement, reluctance to embrace new forms of currency and value, and the need for payday loans, check cashing services and payment wiring services such as Western Union.
We have faith that the market will find its own path through. Those in the payments industry that embrace innovation and show vision will be the ones that survive and are most likely to prosper in the future world of ecommerce.
How would you articulate how the concept of money has changed in recent times? Is it really a change? How is it still the same? Can you explain what you mean?
With fast-growing online marketplaces, super apps, metaverses and social commerce networks, “money” in the form of earnings and receipts is becoming increasingly fragmented into different stores of value. This “balkanization” of money into incompatible silos is further exacerbated by its increasing denomination today as crypto, digital currencies, rewards and tokens, in addition to the fiat dollars or euros, etc. that everyone is used to.
“Money” has traditionally been held and transacted by financial institutions on our behalf, except for the notes and coins that we might have in our physical wallets. With transactions increasingly taking place online, “money” does not need to flow back and forth to and from the banking system with every transaction, causing the associated leakage of value through tolls at every point. It can be stored and transacted within and between these ecommerce networks far more efficiently and at little to no cost.
These changes are genuine and irreversible. Most of us are now using more forms of “money” and stores of that value than in previous times. And our money has greater utility than ever before. With concepts such as smart contracts becoming integral to new forms of value storage and transaction, we are also seeing the beginning of a new and more efficient era of business, where processes such as automatic distribution of payments, can be executed as part of the transmission of “money.”
What remains the same is that for everyday real-world transactions, especially in our long-developed markets, it will take longer for people to transact in new ways because infrastructure such as credit card payments is well established. In markets without this entrenched infrastructure, such as in Asia, we are seeing far more rapid adoption of new forms of “money” and technologies for transacting it.
Based on your vantage point as an insider in the finance industry, what innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?
We expect to see the most forward-looking banks and payment companies adopt new technologies earlier. Not all want to wait to discover they have become the Kodak, Polaroid or Blockbuster of their industry.
How has the pandemic changed the way banks interact and engage with their customers?
Although, like most businesses, banks were forced to adopt new online business practices to adapt to the pandemic, in many cases, those new online technologies have not mapped well to legacy systems. In large part, the fundamental problems are the outdated and inefficient business processes that many banks still depend on. Waiting times for customer service have increased and the manual nature of much interaction has created frustrations and delays for customers as well as lost opportunity for primary market constituents.
Such engagement and interaction are certainly even more inefficient from the standpoint of getting customer service to resolve issues that would never materialize in a Fluid Commerce environment. Just take for example the difficulties of trying to open a new bank account — if you haven’t tried to do so lately, it is quite a challenge for most anyone.
In your particular experience, how has the pandemic changed the way you interact with, and engage your customers?
Little has changed for us, with the exception of fewer in-person meetings. We have always adopted the most appropriate current and efficient means of online communication, since our team is globally distributed. However, we have seen the growth in utilizing online commerce as a primary commercial medium only expand the potential for benefits tied to Fluid Commerce. In addition, we have all seen the accelerated emergence of new environments in which to transact (e.g., metaverses, super apps, etc.).
I’m very interested in the importance of user experience. How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, encrypted messaging apps, phone, or video calls? How has this shift impacted the user and customer experience? What challenges do these apps present when used as a customer engagement tool?
For Fluid Commerce, our technology acts as an invisible, automated engine — think of it as like the ARM processor components in a mobile phone — so the user experience elements are implemented by our licensee partners. We stay out of the user’s way and all they experience are instant “one tap” ecommerce transactions that just flow smoothly without the requirement for third-party intervention.
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
The mobile convenience of services such as WhatsApp and the ease of creating ad hoc groups, combined with the multi-platform ability to schedule meetings, screen-share and send out invitations that we have in Zoom serve as foundational for efficient, productive communication. There are significant privacy issues that need to be addressed — starting with not revealing phone numbers and email addresses to participants — to make it more suitable. That would need to be alongside secure, versioned document sharing and group editing.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Modern Finance, Banking and Fintech industries? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Love what you do. To be highly successful in your career, you have to work incredibly hard and spread your enthusiasm, so whatever your pursuits might be they need to be something you are passionate about. Success should be measured in life satisfaction and happiness, not just money. If you do what you love and work hard, you will likely do well in all areas. Think of the people you most admire: how does their passion for what they do contribute to their success?
- Don’t just look at what is important today. Think a few steps ahead and picture the world 5, 10 or even 20 years from now and figure out how you go from the opportunities of today to being part of impacting the future in a positive way.
The concepts behind Evvio came from understanding both the issues of the moment — how do I engage in ecommerce with someone who has something I want to purchase but no way of paying or knowing whether I can trust them? — and then envisioning how technology trends and innovations, such as growing global ubiquity of connected mobile devices, could bring about the opportunity to solve those problems.
- Your chances of success are often higher from becoming a specialist in at least one field. You need to invest many thousands of hours to become a specialist. But if you are focused and put in the hours, it is possible to become an expert in almost anything. Anyone who invests in themselves today to become an expert in blockchain, digital currencies or cybersecurity has a high probability of success in the future finance and fintech world.
- Get your timing right. Innovations can change the world for the better and have huge impact, but the world needs to be ready for that change. Pushing innovation into a world that is not ready for it is unrewarding and can be disheartening. But beware of how timing opportunities change. The pandemic is a perfect example of how unexpected circumstances drove change that might have taken years longer to occur.
The innovations underpinning Fluid Commerce could have been brought to market in earlier years but the market’s understanding and readiness for person-to-person commerce was not yet well developed, so it would have required a vast amount of market education. Huge sums of risk capital invested globally in ecommerce offerings like Airbnb, Shopify, Uber, WeChat and Grab have helped educate the market to a point where market participants now understand multiple fast-growing opportunities.
- Seek out and choose your mentors well. We all need to continue to learn and make better decisions, with fewer mistakes. Surround yourself with people who you respect and who have experiences that can inform you. Seek out advice when you are not sure and always remain humble recognizing that no one has all the best answers. I have been extremely fortunate to have had great mentors in each stage of my career — from my time at JP Morgan as well during my various entrepreneurial pursuits. These relationships have been invaluable for me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Live by the “Golden Rule”: treat others the way you wish to be treated yourself.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Evvio is emerging from its “stealth” phase, so we have only recently started to reveal more online. The best place to begin is our website https://evvio.com. Here, you will be able to find more information about our company and see our press releases and current online media. We are continuously updating our website as we commercialize Fluid Commerce.
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
About The Interviewer: Jason Hartman is the Founder and CEO of JasonHartman.com, The Hartman Media Company and The Jason Hartman Foundation. Jason has been involved in several thousand real estate transactions and has owned income properties in 11 states and 17 cities. His company helps people achieve The American Dream of financial freedom by purchasing income property in prudent markets nationwide. Jason’s Complete Solution for Real Estate Investors™ is a comprehensive system providing real estate investors with education, research, resources and technology to deal with all areas of their income property investment needs. Through Jason’s podcasts, educational events, referrals, mentoring and software to track your investments, investors can easily locate, finance and purchase properties in these exceptional markets with confidence and peace of mind. Jason educates and assists investors in acquiring prudent investments nationwide for their portfolio. Jason’s highly sought after educational events, speaking engagements, and his ultra-hot “Creating Wealth Podcast” inspire and empower hundreds of thousands of people in 189 countries worldwide.