LFP065 – Special Episode! Creating Society – Policy, Regulation & FS with Lord Turner former Chairman of the FSA

"Inspiring the economics profession to engage the vital social and economic challenges of the 21st century"

“Inspiring the economics profession to engage the vital social and economic challenges of the 21st century”

Everything exists in a context. FS is a social construct that has differed massively over time and space, always existing in a context of Policy and Regulation.  Over my 30 years in FS I have seen deregulation time turn into hyper-regulation. Talk about pendulums (pendula?). Where do these changes in Policy and Regulation come from? How does the “game” of setting the rules for the “games” work?

Adair_TurnerIn LFP065 I am delighted to be joined by Lord Turner who headed the FSA from a few days post Lehman’s crash (“welcome to your new role…”) and was intimately involved in the years-long process of the creation of the Basel 3 global regulations for banking.

Apart from wearing these FS hats (with more background in FS per se) he has worn the BigBiz hat when he headed the CBI and the state/social-good angles when he chaired the Pensions Committee, the Low Pay Commission and the Committee on Climate Change in the UK.

He is also an academic and an author and his latest book “Between Debt and the Devil: money, credit and fixing global finance” dives deep into the nature of money and banking. As a taster I recommend his YouTube talk at the LSE. He is currently Chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

So there is literally no-one better to guide us through the whole set of processes whereby policy “emerges”. How does the world change? Where does policy come from? What are the roles of academics, bankers, lobbying groups, politics, government, regulators? Do the people ever get a look in?

We start by examining the backdrop to the past 30yrs in FS and in understanding that give an understanding of where we are in the cycle of current crises leading to new ideas and future Policy and Regulation

This is a special episode – both in length and content – it’s nigh on impossible to make enough notes on this without it turning into a transcript .. however key points include: Continue reading

LFP064 – P2P in the US, China and UK with Peter Renton

Lendit US 2017After organising nearly 1,000 folks in the O2 for Europe’s largest P2P conference ever I managed to grab Peter long enough to have a fascinating tour of the globe and P2P sitrep in the three major hubs.

Peter Renton PhotoPeter Renton has perhaps has more of a broad and deep understanding of P2P worldwide than anyone.

When he first came on the show way back in LFP015 he shared with us the fascinating history of US P2P with its hugely up and down roller-coaster road.

Since then he has created the world’s go-to conferences on P2P in the US, China and Europe which gives him a unique insight into what’s what and where.

It’s a big world and P2P is a vast domain these days so there is plenty to discuss. Key topics are: Continue reading

LFP063 – Special Episode! A Deep-Dive into AI, Machine Learning, Big Data & FS w/Dr Tristan Fletcher Research Director Thought Machine

ThoughtMachine_Podcast_FINAL

I am delighted to be joined today by Dr Tristan Fletcher Research Director at Thought Machine to talk about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Financial Services. His Linkedin strapline is “I apply state of the art prediction methods from the Machine Learning (Artificial Intelligence) academic community to real world problems”

Tristan FletcherThis is a mega hot topic right now and also one all too often hyped beyond all belief and frankly credibility.

For some time I have been on the lookout for someone with real depth of knowledge in this area. When attending and also moderating a recent InSync event at the Tate Modern  I was impressed by Tristan’s deep understanding and also groundedness – the basic angle (or to be more precise my takeaways on his views ) being “all this stuff has been known to academics for a long time” and “many aspects of it are exaggerated and in many ways it has become more of a marketing tool”.

So the point of this show is to put it all back in proportion.

What is AI? I mean what is it really when one isn’t reading it in some journalistically overblown tech piece. What is machine learning? Are neural networks like the brain? How big is big data and does it contain all the answers? All these and more we will cover and I hope and am sure that you will go away far better briefed than before.

Tristan spans academia , FS and entrepreurialism. Academically he has studied at, or had fellowships with, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL and Sussex. FS-wise he has worked at senior levels in prestigious organisations in asset management and trading. Entrepreneurially and have worked with / founded start-ups in these domains.

Oh yes and apart from all this he has also applied machine learning to medicine (Imperial College London), supply chain management (Unilever) and even fine wine pricing.
So it’s another show where my teams of researchers have found me a guestwho is a collousus bestriding his world. And as always its another great show for my analyst who will have to hear me moaining more about my own punyness in the face of greatness.

Plenty discussed including: Continue reading

LFP062 – “Hard Fail” Provision Funds Revisited with Rhydian Lewis CEO Ratesetter

Ratesetter LFPI am delighted to be joined on the show today once again by Rhydian Lewis CEO at Ratesetter to talk about the ultra-hot topic of provision funds in p2p/marketplace lending. Rhydian was on in the early days back in LFP019 in an episode talking about P2P beyond the metaphors. That’s a good theme for today on a narrower topic as all too often when one reads about provision funds its metaphorical.

Rhydian LewisIn practice as with most/all of FS one really needs to get the metaphorical whiteboard out and draw some diagrams and a bit of arithmetic to make it real.

Lets provide some context first. Ratesetter was formed 7 yrs ago and has accumulated an amazing 300,000 customers with an amazing 250,000 on the platform right now and have lent an amazing £1.5bn with no lender ever losing a penny of interest or capital along the way.

Those are phenomenal achievements that very very very few Fintechs will ever manage to better.

But like growing up there are growth pains along the way. Ratesetter has been somewhat the P2P of choice for taking pot-shots at this year for the FT Alphaville column and the impressive Kadhim Shubber who seems to do more research than most. What are euphemistically described perhaps as missteps around self-investment of provision funds, not publishing future loan losses and rebasing of how the provision fund excess is calculated came in something of a flurry and even generous if sceptical folks like I started to raise an eyebrow.

But behind all this is the need to change. Did Ratesetter – or for that matter you and I – get everything right in 2009 (or for that matter every year since) or do they and we all need to keep changing in the light of experience and further thought?

Let’s briefly mention provision funds.

So briefly a soft-fail provision fund to use my terms is like the platform having a piggy bank into which it puts a few pence on every deal. If lenders loans are impaired that piggy bank is raided to subsidise them. But when it runs out the platform says “sorry guys no more funds to subsidise your loss, over to you”.

A hard fail model in contrast (which off the top of my head Ratesetter is the only big user of) when it runs out pools all investors assets together (to share the losses out). This is a big phase change – like going from water to ice. Its always been a concern of mine – if only as 30+ yrs in FS has shown me time and time again in different markets the impossible is always happening. No amount of whiteboard ink will ever save everyone in all circumstances.

So lets dive into all of this. An annus trickyus for Rhydian and colleagues and this important point about hard provision funds.

Plenty discussed on the show including: Continue reading

LFP061 – InsureTech the 30,000 Feet Guide with Jonathan Howe UK Insurance Lead at PwC

PwC Banner_Orange_JGI am delighted to be joined today by Jonathan Howe UK Insurance lead at Price Waterhouse Coopers. As long time listeners will know I am very reluctant to give anyone a big picture topic on anything. Most folks are experts on one coalface and very few on the whole coal mine.

Jonathan HoweHowever Jonathan is a rara avis in the modern world in many ways. His linkedin career is perhaps the shortest I have read – one entry – 23 years at PwC. Now that’s the lifetime employment model that used to exist back in the day and exists for very few today. That’s also, compared to many butterflies in the modern world, an opportunity to dig a very deep well of experience and knowledge in a sector.

Secondly Jonathan leads the UK insurance practice (over 1,000 employees) and is responsible for PwC’s services for the UK Insurance Industry across all their range including audit, regulatory compliance, actuarial, consulting, tax and deals.

Thirdly PwC have been involved in a series of reports on the sector. Now plenty of reports are out there the more cynical amongst you may say and quality varies. True. However in “InsureTech a force for good”  Jonathan and colleagues have gone more than an extra mile. Amazingly they and their report partners Startupbootcamp have surveyed over 1,300 insurance startups. Wow.

Add that to decades in the industry and we have another of the rarest birds in the real world – someone who really is an expert.

The subtitle of “InsurTech a force for good” is an interesting overview “How InsurTech can reconnect insurers with their customers while simultaneously boosting the bottom line”

I met Jonathan at an event recently. It wasn’t a game of Top Trumps but if it had been Jonathan would have won hands down … when you have a database of 1,300 startups that’s a hell of a lot of facts to bring into any debate.

Topics discussed include – Continue reading

LFP060 – PSD2 & Open Banking in UK & Europe with Paul Thomalla ACI Worldwide

ACI London Fintech PodcastI’m delighted to be joined by Paul Thomalla expert on the upcoming changes in open-banking, SVP at ACI Worldwide, member of the Payments Strategy Forum (PSF) and board member at Nexo Standards.

Upcoming changes re opening payments to non-banks and opening access to bank account data will change the industry. On top of this we have UK and European initiatives in re (even before Brexit). It’s all swirling round and I thought we needed a guide to clarify where it all is and where it’s all going.

Paul Thomalla SVP global corporate relations and business development CASUALBut first some intros to Paul’s hats.

ACI Worldwide, founded in 1975, is one of these perhaps behind the scenes incumbent payments companies that most of you may not have heard of. Suffice it to say they do $14 trillion of payments per … wait for it … day (!!) Interestingly staff numbers are around 5,000 so that looks to me like $3bn per staff member per day. Either their fingers move fast or do you know what … incumbents can use tech as well or even better than those assailing the castle might ever think.

Lazy Fintech commentators and those with little experience in FS – two categories summed up in many a LinkedIn so-called thought leader article – often talk about FS as if FS were basically almost entirely Banks. As listeners to the show will know its far from that. There is a vast ecosystem of players into which Fintechs are trying to find themselves a place at the table.

In LFP049 we had the pleasure of talking to Rich Wagner, Chairman of the Emerging Payments Association. The Payments Strategy Forum is another player in the equation – Paul can explain the whole meta-process of how incumbents, startups, associations and forums and the regulator and legislators interact to produce the FS world we live in.

Oh yes and we start the show with a story which will take the all-time London Fintech Podcast record for anecdotes – taking an ex-US President to a pub in London.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP059 – How Smart Pension got 75,000 Fintech Clients in under 2yrs with Will Wynne Co-Founder

Smart Pension London Fintech PodcastI have the pleasure to be joined today by Will Wynne MD and co-founder of Smart Pension who have had the fastest 0-60 of any Fintech that has been on the show to date and it’s a record that’s hard to beat.

Will Wynne Smart PensionHow did they do it? Listen up and all will be revealed – though if all of us can read recipe books, few of us can become master chefs like Will who previously sold millions of flowers (from knowing nothing about that business) and in his spare time raised £100m for charity.

I say “wow” more in this episode than in any other – I think you can see why…

In 2014 I hung out a lot in the Fintech startup scene. So many moths! Such a big flame! One of the insider “trick questions” in Fintech is “name a success from all the Fintech incubator/accelerator programs in London”. Actually to be honest someone did come up with one name very recently – though sadly I’ve forgotten it so will lose the game next time that question comes round.

All of which is to say that the ex-ante chances of an individual Fintech getting anywhere are roughly less than zero. And as for ideas … sigh – so many people tell me they have an idea – yes everyone has lots – there is a bigger gulf from idea to business perhaps than there is from startup to business of scale. And then a big gap from “business of scale” (which the best Fintechs have reached) to – er – what might we call it. Scrapes his memory for long-since economics lessons … of yes its coming back … yes the stage that Fintech ain’t got to yet … its … yes “a profitable business” J

So how do you win the lottery? How do you beat odds of less than zero percent of getting anywhere?

Are you interested in how to do this? Would your Fintech be better off for acquiring 75,000 clients?

Listen up and the formula for instant fame and success will be yours. Terms and conditions apply.

Topics discussed on the show include: Continue reading

LFP058 – Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Tutorial, Bitcoin, Blockchain & Fintech with Laurent Kssis CEC Capital

CEC Capital

Today I have the pleasure to be joined today by Laurent Kssis MD of CEC Capital who has worked in the ETF industry for 14years. We’ve spent a few episodes recently in the heady heights of the super-big picture so let’s get back to the coalface and dive in depth into an important area of FS.

ETFs – Exchange Traded Funds – have been many times on the London Fintech Podcast, always in passing, so I thought it was more than overdue to attack them head on.

Like Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth ETFs are the thing that haunt the whole Investment Management Fintech scene … if, in essence, you can gain exposure to equity markets in a balanced way via a vehicle with minimal fees what exactly is there for Investment Management Fintech to disrupt?

Laurent KssisLaurent certainly has feet in both #oldFS and #newFS camps being the non-exec chairman of the Blockchain investment company Coinsilium. So he is the ideal expert to talk to us about this sector today.

Conceptually ETFs started life as traded funds – if you like index-tracker investment trusts – although why they weren’t just called investment trusts is a question for Laurent. According to wikipedia since 1993 in the US where they were first created an unbelievable $3trn have been invested in them. They have also moved a long way from their origin as index-trackers with (quoting wiki) “By the end of 2015 ETFs offered 1,800 different products covering almost every conceivable market sector, niche and trading strategy”.

So that’s ETFs per se. But like everywhere in FS the wave of innovation that is Fintech is lapping on many shores. If ETFs have inhibited the growth of one area of Fintech what is Fintech doing to them? Listeners will certainly get their money’s worth today as we range from a tutorial on the basics of ETFs through Bitcoin ETFs to blockchain – a huge waterfront.

Topics discussed include:

– how Laurent’s career led him to being an expert on ETFs and progressing that into hot areas like Bitcoin and Blockchain

– the relevance of the “transition management” world [what happens when one fund manager takes over eg a pension fund from another]

– an ETF is a “marketable investment vehicle that allows you to buy and sell during trading hours of the Exchange a basket of stock/bonds/commodities through a single share”

– comparing and contrasting investment trusts and ETFs; management fees, transparency, NAV calculation, premia/discount ranges

– the multiplicity of ETFs eg there are around 50 different ones on the Euro Stoxx 50; different exchanges, currencies, market timezones leading for challenges for  market makers in setting prices, hedging themselves etc

– “trading channel” effectively the arbitrage channel is the range in which ETFs trade compared to their underlying components; over a decade ago this could have been as much as 10%/+5% to -5% (“quite extortionate”) but then illiquid, hard to hedge against;

– this changed rapidly when institutions started to get involved in larger size

– management fees (“TER” – total expense ratio) typically, on ETFs such as Euro Stoxx 50, have gone from ~0.65% a decade ago to ~0.12% today

– ETFs are allowed in ISAs, SIPPs, 401k

– in 401k’s over 50% of the investments are in ETFS (!)

– ETFs are UCITS compliant (which allows passporting into Europe), registered mostly in Ireland and “tax-advantageous” locations (Jersey/Guernsey/Luxembourg)

– ETFs are open-ended they can increase in size at any point (depending on demand:supply); how this is done

– ETFs are undergoing a huge explosion in diversity – you can buy almost anything via ETFs – gold silver, precious metals, industrial metals, agricultural products

the huge opportunity for Fintech in providing a more up-to-date angle to investing in these; the tendency of the first wave of Investment Management Fintech to just replicate investing in the same boring old stuff as existing I.M. firms (core equity markets and bonds for example)

– a whole interesting tale about Bitcoin ETFs and what Laurent learned on that journey – you’ll have to listen to hear that tale 😉 …

– the difference between ETFs and ETNs (Exchange Traded Notes)

– the recent Bitcoin hacking through BitFinex and how it differs from last years MT Gox; a high quality exchange, the role of regulation in re; hot wallets and cold wallets – a painful tale all round 🙁

– blockchain versus bitcoin

ETFs were new once and have been a great success – what can Fintech learn from that (you’ll have to listen ;-)) …

– ETFs have had a rough ride too – from journalists to scandals…

– an overview of Coinsilium – the world’s first listed blockchain publically listed investment company

And much much more 🙂

Share and enjoy!

 

LFP057 – Five Reasons Corporate Governance is Essential for Fintech with Geoff Miller CEO Afaafa

AFAAFA

Geoff Miller

I have the pleasure to be joined today by Geoff Miller, CEO of Afaafa and former CEO of GLI Finance which he built from having no presence in AltFi to having over two dozen share stakes and loan agreements.

If existing FS has gone far to far in the direction of endless PC box-ticking – the porridge is too hot, then for sure in Fintech the porridge is too cold. Fintech is a long way behind grown-up FS is on corporate governance – the average Fintech board being comprised of founders & VCs/angels – little independence there.

How can Fintech get the porridge “just right”?

What are the advantages for a Fintech of a well-composed board?

A quick count on LinkedIn shows that Geoff may have been on getting on for two dozen boards.  So who better to talk about the importance of corporate governance then Geoff. As Professor John Kay said in LFP055 corporate governance may sound like a dull box-ticking exercise but it is a vital function of FS. Just look at what has happened to senior executive pay in the UK when the FS industry (now the largest holder as most of our investments are indirect) hasn’t much to vote much at board meetings. If the cat is off busy making whoopee its hardly surprising if the mice steal most of the cheese.

If you are anywhere near the Fintech scene in London (or in some other countries) you will have heard of Geoff. Geoff has always been a rare soul in terms of brutal honesty. At AltFi Europe 2015, the general tone of which was “ra-ra aren’t we wonderful” Geoff spoke of “woeful underwriting standards and hopelessly naïve CEOs”.

Geoff is an ideal guest on the London Fintech Podcast as he doesn’t just have “views and opinions” which are so prevalent amongst the so-called “thought-leader” classes   Rather he has been at many coal faces with many miners. And as with coal mining its often painful work. In LFP037 John Regan gave an excellent account of managing ones way out of business model crisis at Platform Black. GLI Finance had its own internal shuffle before Xmas bringing in new management. More recently Funding Knight went into administration and there was plenty of work for the board there.

Topics discussed on the show include: Continue reading

LFP056 – “Everything You Wanted to Know About Fintech Venture Capital But Were Too Afraid To Ask” with Rob Moffat Partner at Balderton Capital

Balderton BannerI am  delighted to welcome Rob Moffat, Partner at Balderton Capital to dive into the topic of Venture Capital and Fintech.  As I aim to present London Fintech in the round I have been – for a long time – keeping my eye open for a friendly VC to have on the show. This has taken two years would you believe!

Viewed from Mars you might think this is curious given how the whole mainstream tech media is so focused on fund-raisings, so-called valuations (and fantasy animals with one horn), and the whole machismo around money.

Viewed not from Mars the VC sector globally is perhaps rather problematic. If this is a surprise to you then I recommend as an entry point Diane Mulcahy’s 2014 Harvard Business Review article Venture Capitalists get well paid to lose money. As a former VC she knows where to direct the fire – high fees, illiquidity and underperformance. As I recall in the greatest tech boom ever, in the US the aggregate stats are something like that the average VC hasn’t even returned to the investors the funds they raised, let alone got a carry cheque (the performance related fee).

Furthermore as we heard way back in LFP008 with Richard Goold the UK/European venture capital market was very thin indeed in most of the 20th Century (post-WW2 the UK basically had the (originally government) 3i as the only player for a long time) and returns were poor.

Set against this virtually every Fintech that scales needs VC money – without which there would be no boom at all.

Equally like in all industries there are always some good players with a reputation for adding value. It was such a lead that led me to Balderton Capital who are one of the real players in the London Fintech scene.

Rob MoffatRob also writes a lot on the industry – I recommend his blog – and is on the board of seven of Balderton’s investments, the best-known of which in UK Fintech are perhaps GoCardless and Nutmeg. Balderton invests around £20m per annum into Fintech.

Above and beyond this Rob is – finally – someone who is happy to talk on air about the reality of VC and Fintech. As he joined the firm in 2009 (from Google) he has experienced the Fintech world from roots through shoots and now into a rather varied garden.

There is more than plenty discussed on the show, key topics include: Continue reading