Posted by Cognito on Fri, Apr 10 2015

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Moving the Monoliths: Disrupting Capital Markets

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Wall Street is an institution – or collection of institutions, if you will – among the most traditional that exists in the world. Financial firms tend to be less quick to embrace change than other industries. And that's understandable in many ways; the twin spires of regulatory burden and legacy systems means that change must come in carefully planned steps.

All this may make it seem a daunting task for the aspiring fintech startup that has designs on creating the app that will change investing forever – and then selling it to Wall Street. But the good news is, innovation does not wait for any industry. And financial services has proved that once it does adopt new technology, it does so with fervor -- look at mobile banking as a prime example. And the fintech community is well suited to help further such innovation to the industry.

Brad Katsuyama, president, CEO and co-founder of IEX, noted during a discussion at this week’s New York Fintech Startups Conference that innovation in capital markets flourishes most outside of the entrenched institutions. While working at RBC, he had the idea to be an “intrapreneuer” and tried to get the idea behind what would become IEX created in-house. When it was rejected, he started the trading platform himself with fellow ex-RBC employee Ronan Ryan.

The key for successful disruption in capital markets is finding the “white spaces” in the industry that are currently being ignored, or not served efficiently. Often these white spaces are created by regulation; for example provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act changed the way financial institutions approach data management and risk analytics, and technology companies filled the void offering services that were not seen as needed before.

And the startup, entrepreneurial mindset is best suited to do this, said Jim Brown, an early investor in and now director with trading network Liquidnet.

“Wall Street seems to be five steps behind,” when it comes to technology, he said. “It’s difficult for banks, given their legacy structure and processes, to build technology in-house.”

One more thing for startups looking to disrupt (or be acquired by) Wall Street firms to realize is they need good storytelling and marketing to go along with a great idea. Or else that great idea may never see light of day. Several folks at the conference from startups who have been successful stressed the importance of establishing oneself as a thought leader, and conveying how your product or service solves an existing problem. One panelist noted that his company wrote 6 months of blogs on their website before writing one line of code for this very reason.

Though it may be a difficult road, it’s clear that fintech startups are squarely placed to create the technology that will change capital markets today and in the future. For those at the vanguard, good luck on your journey and let us know how we can help along the way.

Conferences, Innovation, Regulation, Technology Solutions,
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