2016 has clearly been a year of changes in the world – and for me too, the year ended very differently than it started.
For readers of Disruptive Finance, you might not have seen much difference, because the blog and my Fintech activities have always been my “night job”. But I also had a “day job” in banking, and 6 months ago I left more than a decade in banking – to build businesses in Fintech.
I know that many people are interested by this transition from banking to Fintech, so let me take you through my journey. If you work in banking, my profile as a banker would speak to you: 13 years in banking, Managing Director at Citi on the trading floor, built new businesses in structuring. What was perhaps less common for a banker was my background as a tech CEO, mentor to entrepreneurs and Fintech Resident Expert at Oxford Said Business School.
Because of this day job in banking, and night job in Fintech, people have been asking me for years why I didn’t move full-time in Fintech. Now that I am full-time in Fintech, people (sometimes the same!) tell me that it’s been very courageous to leave a MD position to launch a business – so there is definitely no clear cut decision.
Here is the story of my transition from banking (back) to entrepreneurship:
- 12 months ago, I was a Managing Director at Citi in London – where I had built a structuring business on the trading floor. At the same time, I was also quite familiar with entrepreneurship – having been CEO of Ukibi, a tech startup in the US, and worked with dozens of entrepreneurs.
- I wasn’t unhappy with banking at all – on the contrary, I’m still very fond of my time at Citi, and had the chance to work with great people there.
Last year it became evident that combining a day job as head of a fast-growing business in a bank and a night job in the booming Fintech space would require much more than 24 hours in the day. At the same time, I felt that timing was right in Fintech: not only was the technology and infrastructure much more mature, the mindset – of consumers, banks, insurers – had dramatically evolved. At the same time I felt that the bubble of the last few years was deflating – meaning that it was cheaper to enter that space.
I therefore did what I always encourage entrepreneurs to do: focus. I therefore decided to leave banking to focus full time in finding new ways to combine finance, technology and new business models. You’d notice that I didn’t say I wanted to focus in Fintech – which in my opinion is too restrictive, whereas the opportunities are much wider than just Fintech and startups.
First lesson: it takes a very long time to know what you want to do! Despite my very good knowledge of Fintech, the ecosystem, the startups, investors, etc. it took me 6 months to decide on my next step. From innovation groups within banks or insurers to Fintech startups, from VCs to Private Equity, from Asset Managers to consulting companies, there were too many interesting ways to be involved in that space.
At the end, I was very lucky that great people helped me in that journey. First, many in the industry – whether heads of innovations in banks, VCs, entrepreneurs, consultants, private equity partners, etc. – gave me their personal views on the future of the industry and the opportunities they saw – I am very thankful to all of them. And very importantly, my coach really forced me to think much deeper about my aspirations and what I really wanted to do. And that made a big difference. Because I realised that there are a lot of things I enjoy doing, for example teaching, analysing strategic trends, writing blogs, speaking at conferences. But what I really love doing is build businesses and help to build businesses – which is what I did as a CEO of a startup, MD in banks, or mentor to entrepreneurs.
I then realised that all the options I had been contemplating – innovation groups, startups, VC, etc. – were interesting, but that I wanted much more. And that if I wanted to really leave banking, I had to leave for a worthwhile project, for an initiative that would make an impact. That’s when I started to imagine The Disruptive Group.
Some people find it hard to understand what The Disruptive Group does, and it’s a fair point, because it was designed around my own vision as an individual – with my experience, my network, my ambitions. But very simply, The Disruptive Group is a business builder: we build and help to build large scale businesses in finance by leveraging on technology and new business models. We believe that innovation will come from different sources, so we can equally work on our own projects, structure a new business for a bank, or help an e-commerce company launch a new financial business.
The first few months have been breathtaking: we’ve initiated our first projects and at the same time I had the chance to travel to London, Paris, Geneva, Lisbon, Madrid, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and many other places to discuss about the future of finance.
After this exciting start, we have set ourselves the following goals for 2017:
– We will hire more – work with us!
– We will build and launch new projects – invest with us!
– We will be involved globally – meet with us in London, Singapore, Paris, Hong Kong and many more places!
– And of course I’ll be writing and teaching more – read Disruptive Finance and come to Oxford and Imperial College!
The Disruptive Group is a hugely ambitious project, and I know that we will achieve great things only if we are surrounded by great people. And that’s why we’re creating TDG World, our diverse ecosystem of brilliant minds. So if you’d like to be involved or just want to follow our journey, join TDG World.
So overall, it’s been a very exciting year of change as I’m embarking on this new journey to help build new large scale companies in finance.
And in this first day of 2017, let me finish by wishing all of you and your families an excellent year 2017, may it bring much health, happiness and success. Whether you’re looking for change, whether you’re looking for stability, may 2017 bring you all you wish!
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