I’m joined this week by Lex Sokolin. He’s a self-described futurist and entrepreneur focused on the next generation of financial services. He’s now the global director of fintech research at Autonomous Research, a research firm for the financial sector. Previously, he led product design and corporate development as COO at Vanare, a wealth management platform built on roboadvisor DNA. He was founder and CEO of NestEgg, a roboadvisor that pioneered online wealth management in partnership with financial advisors.
We talk about the changes happening in the financial services space and the types of opportunities for incumbent and upstart financial firms willing to do the hard work. Lex’s entrepreneurial story takes us through his four-wave framework for the evolution of roboadvisors. Pay attention to what he says about the next stage for the industry and what it means for the ETF industry, as well.
Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.
Investment opportunity in financial services
A slew of new ETFs have recently launched that provide investors with broad and general exposure to the publicly-traded side of fintech. This is a good start for investors to access the space, but it doesn’t really connect to the bigger opportunity.
“There’s a tectonic plate moment where media, technology and finance are colliding together and making life interesting for people in finance for a long time. I’m focused on what startups are doing and determining the key causes to the symptoms we’re seeing. Robo advice, digitization, and chatbots are all symptoms and the underlying causes are things like generational and behavioral shifts of millennials and the wealth they’re inheriting, or the development of core technology from artificial intelligence to the consumer web.”
Incumbent firms as fintech players
Becoming a technology company is more than just putting a new veneer on a corporation. It requires a new injection of spirit and it is possible that larger, incumbent financial players can redefine themselves in the technology world.
“Culture is a real core element to address. If you think about financial services companies, the business, finance, and sales guys were always paid the most and the IT department was two floors down. The brown shirts and brown ties were always a cost. If you look at companies like Google and Apple, the technologists are the rock stars. They’re the ones getting paid millions of dollars and sales are the guys downstairs. What’s happening now is both of these animals are coming to drink from the same water.”