Friday, September 28, 2012

Finance is Dead, Long Live Finance

There is a change happening in finance. Lines are being drawn. The regulatory and public acceptance ones have been clear, but here is another. There are a growing number of startups using technology to cross the line into traditional finance territory, populating an emerging area called FinTech.  Most of these firms are setting up in niches - the equivalent of a bowling pin strategy. Get the first pin right, and it increases the likelihood of clearing everything else out, including the incumbents. All the elements are here for disruption and arguably that disruption is happening right now.

Finance has for the last twenty years built up a war chest of talent. It has been incredibly selective, sometimes suffocatingly so, about screening applicants, perfecting the art of enticing bright young students with the promise of money and prestige. In recent years however, there has been a mass exile and exodus of that talent, who, unlike new graduates, are wiser for the knowing. No matter where you look in the wave of industry unemployment you will find a significant number of highly educated, battle tested survivors - with the capacity and motivation to challenge the status quo.

Finance has also long been protected by formidable regulation, but in the past few years, this barrier to entry has been weakened on the back of public dissent and pioneers. Waves of negative publicity over wall street compensation turned from perennial ground powder into the primer for a powerful first strike. Organized public outrage followed, culminating in the swift movement and strength of Occupy Wall Street. Then, helped by the focused interests of forward business thinkers, change went straight for the law books and with bi-partisan congressional action enacted the passage of the JOBS act. This progress has not come without casualties  of course, but it has resulted in an unprecedented encroachment into traditional finance territory.

Both of these elements trace their roots in part to the financial crisis, which is just the point. It has demanded an enormous amount of time and resources from incumbents. The volatility of that breaking point has fallen off its peak, but psychologically the industry is still very preoccupied, and aftershocks like the LIBOR scandal make solid footing a struggle. Meanwhile, waves of financial innovation ripple outward and lap at its heels. FinTech startups are using the power of technology to compress business models, embrace mobile, leverage the crowd, simplify investing, refocus on consumers, integrate social, streamline payments, and tackle a stream of long static issues in the industry. It is still very early, but these startups are slowly prying the door open to a new era in finance.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Youth Lagoon: The Year of Hibernation. Album Sketch

year: 2011

tones of: flaming lips, the xx, bright eyes

genre samples:  dream pop, ambient techno, emo, downtempo

music: atmospheric, blissful, isolated, comforting, encircling, minimalist, plush

lyrics: painful, young, idealist, fragile, cynical, dark, angst ridden, metaphorical

favs: posters, cannon, 17, daydream, montana, the hunt

score: 8.5/10