FinTech Interview Series: Nathan Richardson of TradeIt
Tell us about yourself?
You could call me a entrepreneur with a humanitarian streak. While I’ve served as a humanitarian in Senegal and Liberia, I have an expertise in understanding the FinTech ecosystem honed over close to 20 years.
My first fin-tech company was a pioneer in online peer to peer payments that was sold to Yahoo for over $101MM - in this regard I am not just a digital native in FinTech but way too early. I have taken exciting tours into fashion & e-commerce when I launched GIlt Groupe’s Men’s and City Business - quite the scene & wardrobe upgrade from pure tech.
Outside of work, I am a single parent raising twins. I start my day with a 5-6 mile run every morning and try to find time for theater, swimming, tennis and new adventures. My latest was a few days of kite-surfing lessons-- that may be the end of my adventure in kite-surfing!
Tell us about the awards you've won
The teams that I have led have won numerous awards, Time 50 Best Websites, Webby Award, Tokyo Finolab Grand Prize, ADVFN Best Trading Innovation…
Personally, most relevant to FinTech would be my ranking on Institutional investors Online ranking - I was ranked in the top 5 then popped up to #1. Once the publisher put me on the cover, I took a bow and ran off to run a relief agency in Liberia. I’d prefer to avoid the spotlight.
You’ve been in FinTech for a while – how has the environment changed in the last decade?
Wow - you have no idea. In 1999, online peer to peer payments was the afterthought at best; by 2005 we were viewed as a cash generator in another building but now, wow. We used to beg to get meetings with financial institutions in the early days of FinTech.
Today, the eco-system is incredibly vibrant - VCs, Financial Institutions, Verticalizations, Publications and Conferences - it is a big vibrant sector. Considering Financial Institutions spend $650bn on Technology annually - the vibrancy of the ecosystem should not be a surprise.
Are the wheels coming off the Fintech bandwagon?
Absolutely not - it is still early days. While there may be a shifting of what venture firms fund in the FinTech ecosystem and resetting of expectation timelines, I believe the biggest & best days are ahead.
For example, in the last 10 years you saw the growth of independent “robos” but what you will see moving forward is both a consolidation for players looking to leapfrog by buying VC funded companies and technology spending. The technology spending, which is over $650BN/annually, on enabling infrastructure that allows incumbent institutions to leverage APIs to modernise their stacks & leapfrog into the path of consumers is just one example.
Do you see digital/challenger banks and asset managers taking significant market share?
I am a big believe in enabling incumbents with the tools to gain equal footing with the new fin-tech order. An example of this is helping large brokers to reach their customers on a platform like Yahoo! Finance - we have seen an explosive demand for consumers with existing brokerage accounts who are accessing and trading with their existing accounts via the Y! Finance App. Similarly we put CoinBase onto Yahoo! Finance which gives Yahoo a means to play in the latest fin-tech innovation. If Big FIs and incumbent consumer sites do not adapt to the API economy they stand a great chance of losing to challengers but again. I am a big believer that we can enable them all to participate.
After the US what do you consider the most attractive markets for expansion?
Asia and Europe are both ripe for TradeIt’s expansion. Both regions are requiring Financial Institutions to have readily accessible APIs. TradeIt is leading the way in having secure, compliant and stable API programs for Financial Institutions that can be easily distributed on to apps that consumers use.
What are your favourite FinTech innovations?
I don’t play favorites - we work in an eco-system where we like to leverage each other's innovations.
What are the biggest regulatory issues you face?
Our biggest regulatory hurdle is less about the finance industry than it is about the employment market. California will continue to dominate the tech labor market as long as they don’t enforce non-competes - the environment & culture is one of sharing that has enabled Silicon Valley to thrive. NY State and Massachusetts are examples of two states that have a lot to lose and have lost - Massachusetts had tech pioneers in DEC and WANG - neither exist today. At TradeIt, we believe that non-competes are restrictive to a culture and environment that will create a vibrant eco-system.