Feeling Fearless | Interview with Citi FinTech’s Carey O’Connor Kolaja

What is your greatest fear for the fintech space over next 1-5 years?

Looking ahead into the next few years, we need to ensure that the regulatory landscape keeps pace with the rate of technological innovation. The policies and laws that are governing our industry are protecting the expectations and needs of the past, not the needs of today or those of the future. Embracing the need to evolve regulation, protect the data that defines us, protect our identities and manage risk levels the playing field for society to participate in the financial system. We need to strike the right balance between controls and choice.


What advice would you offer to help other leaders be fearless?

The best advice I can give is to deeply understand yourself, what you stand for and what you believe in. We live in a world of contradictions, paranoia, uncertainty and perpetual change; to lead through it and above it you need a strong sense of self. It’s that strong sense of self that allows one to take risks, and then being fearless becomes as easy and natural as getting dressed in the morning.

To be a fearless leader includes a willingness to be imperfect, vulnerable and authentic, which means you have to be willing to make mistakes and to own them and, more importantly, share them. It’s beautiful that today’s speed of change and innovation is accelerating. The cycle of what matters today vs. in the future is growing shorter each year. For leaders, that means being able to move quickly through mistakes, which are inevitable when you take risks and act fearlessly.

As part of my journey to develop a strong sense of self, I read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coleho once a year. It reminds me that fear is often a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself. This is one of my favorite lessons. New pursuits require entering uncharted territory, but with any great risk comes great reward. The experiences you gain in pursuing your dreams will make it all worthwhile.


Tell me a little bit about what you do at your current company.

I’m the Chief Global Product Officer for Citi FinTech, a unit charged with ensuring Citi’s Global Consumer Bank rapidly adapts to – and also shapes – the evolving financial landscape. We design every product, solution and experience with a client-first mindset. Through our Open Banking and Canvas platforms, we’re accelerating the design and delivery of new solutions to address industry disruption and evolving client behaviors with a commitment to co-creating within and outside the financial ecosystem.


What’s the most valuable learning experience you’ve had – that is, one that lit a fire under you, inspired you, or caused you to make a change in your career?

At one point during my career, I was struggling to co-exist in an environment where I felt people were not always doing what was right for the company. I defined myself as “truth teller” but while I thought I was doing the right thing, a senior executive said to me, “Everyone has their own version of the truth, so stop being a truth teller.” That really resonated with me and going forward I began to reflect on how others were viewing the situation. I began to consider what another person’s version of the truth is and how it could or should potentially reshape mine.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?

About 10 years ago, I participated in a leadership immersion session and my coach told me to “always speak in the first 5 minutes of a meeting.” Before hearing that advice, I was uncomfortable with public speaking. I preferred intimate, in-depth discussions. I was worried about perception and optics and would opt to remain a quiet observer and lead from behind. That advice helped me find a way to break through my mental block because I realized that if you don’t you’ll never be given the platform to have a broader impact on others. So I started talking, and I haven’t stopped.

Another piece of advice that has stayed with me was from my boss when I worked at eBay. He encouraged me to follow the money, but not in the way you may think. He made me realize that many executives do not understand the economics of a business. As a result, many are unable to determine where there are inefficiencies and where they can make meaningful trade-offs when there is a downturn. In fact, it was in him that I found pride in being able to do more with less, in creating capacity to take on more, on balancing how to run a business at full-throttle with the ability to dial it back to “keep the lights on” when necessary.

What’s a skill or character trait that’s crucial to success in your field?

It is critical to have an insatiable sense of curiosity and relentless commitment to challenging the status quo. To change an industry, you must embrace change and stay informed of global, industry, market, regulatory, and most importantly consumer behavior trends.

You must be comfortable learning from others and have a desire to understand, to learn, to ask questions that don’t yet have answers and then work to solve them. Thinking differently is important and being able to see around corners is a gift, but it is paramount to have empathy for others. Empathy for your customers, your colleagues and the world at large.

Do you have a mentor? How did you meet them, and was it beneficial for you in your career?

Many of my mentors never knew I saw them that way. Those I have had the privilege to work with were amazing. I have always believed in this statement, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

There have been many members of my team and my professional and personal communities that opened my eyes, gave me feedback, took as much interest in me being a great leader as I did in them.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office in the morning?

I would turn this around on you and ask you…where is your office? I believe that work is changing and we are living an integrated existence. I don’t separate my office from my home or delineate between work and home hours. This requires that I set my own boundaries and define when I work and when I don’t. Each day is different depending on the demands of my integrated life, but there are a few constants. I always start the day by doing something for myself. I’ll workout, meditate, watch the sunrise, read, write – whatever I need that day to fuel my soul.

Intrinio Delivers Affordable Access To Financial Data Sets

Video and article originally posted on RIA Channel. To view original post, click here.

Rachel Carpenter,  Co-Founder & CEO, Intrinio met with Julie Cooling, Founder & CEO, RIA Channel to discuss the launch of her company and its role in the RIA space.

Carpenter and her partner noticed that data was becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to access.  “We decided to create a new type of model for delivering financial data,” says the Co-Founder.  Intrinio, an a la carte style platform, allows users to pick and choose from over 300 types of financial data feeds. “You’re only paying for what you need,” explains Carpenter. Currently, the firm covers a million securities globally, as well as robust ETF data.

Rather than pushing ready-made platforms straight to advisors, the company primarily sells APIs to developers. Intrinio data feeds are being utilized in a range of apps, risk analytics and trading tools.  “We want to be the engine powering FinTech,” says Carpenter.


Morningstar’s Rothschild On Empowering Advisors Through Data

Video and article originally posted on RIA Channel. To view original post, click here.

Tricia Rothschild, Chief Product Officer, Morningstar met with Julie Cooling, Founder & CEO, RIA Channel at the 2018 Fearless in Fintech conference to discuss how advisors can distinguish themselves with data.

In an increasingly competitive environment, advisors are feeling the pressure to add value and differentiate their offerings. Morningstar has met this growing challenge with what Rothschild calls, “doubling down on data.” In addition to examining and improving current data sets, Morningstar recently announced a partnership with Mercer. The move will bring institutional level data into the retail/wealth space.

A big emphasis for the Morningstar platform, is helping advisors address what’s most important to investors. For example, the risk modeling capability on Morningstar Direct allows advisors to show clients, in real time, their level of a specific risk exposure. “Within ten minutes, an advisor can run the scenario and have a talking point,” says Rothschild. Ultimately, the platform aims to empower advisors through quick access to relevant data. Morningstar Office, an end-to-end cloud-based version of the platform, offers advisors billing, accounting, and reporting capabilities.

The Growth of Fintech: From The First Wire Transfer to Blockchain Technology & Beyond

Article originally posted on Carsurance. To view original post, click here.

Whether you’ve heard about this particular concept or not, you have surely reaped the benefits of the numerous products and services that originated in the Fintech Revolution. From mundane activities, such as paying bills online, to the more avant-garde ones, like developing blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, the idea of fintech encompasses all processes that make handling our finances easier by using digital technologies and computer-powered algorithms. Basically, if you can think of a way to make your financial life less obnoxious, the chances are there’s already a fintech company working on the solution.

It all started way back in 1918 when the US Federal Reserve Banks introduced the Fedwire Funds Service, the first electronic fund transfer system, which relied on now-archaic technologies such as the telegraph and Morse code. The next two significant achievements were the creation of the first Diners Club credit card in 1950, by Frank McNamara, and the launch of the first ATM, by Barclays London branch, in 1967.

Perhaps the most crucial stepping stone in the Fintech Revolution was the advent of the internet. It quickly led to a myriad of revolutionary inventions, such as online bank accounts and mobile payments. It even sparked the inception of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, in 2009, which led to 2017’s worldwide Cryptomania, during which Coinbase—an online cryptocurrency exchange—exceeded $1.5 billion in value.

Today, most experts understand that financial institutions will have to invest in fintech to avoid becoming obsolete. The consumer banking sector is leading the way when it comes to being the most disrupted industry, at 72%. However, some predictions indicate that in the next 3–5 years 84% of insurance corporations will begin to cooperate with fintech companies, making them the champion of this digital innovation. Some car insurance providers already provide options like paying the entire premium online, and they award forward thinking customers with a discount (check our auto insurance reviews for more details).

Some of the most significant disruptions originated with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technology, cloud storage, and crowdfunding. Today, around 46% of large fintech companies are powered by AI. Nevertheless, estimates show that, in addition to its use in the back-end processes, AI will also take part in customer interactions, driving 95% of all communication with users by 2025. There are already very powerful robots capable of chatting with humans, such as Sofia. It’s estimated that their capacities for human interaction will increase, while their prices will decrease, prompting companies to switch to automated clerks to lower costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Using blockchain technology is another fantastic way for big banks to cut costs. In fact, it’s projected that they can save $12.3 billion per year and reduce the infrastructure by 30% if they use this technology. Ripple, a cryptocurrency designed specifically to be compatible with the existing financial structure, is leading the way by operating with 15 out of 50 global banks, including UBS, Bank of China, and Santander. Given the benefits that the technology brings, it comes as no surprise that 77% of fintech firms are expected to adopt the blockchain by 2020.

It isn’t always easy to predict what the future will bring, but the outlook of the fintech industry seems very exciting. One area where we can expect improvement is security. We should witness an introduction of advanced authentication methods, such as iris and fingerprint scanners, which will replace the unreliable and cumbersome passwords.

However, the major improvements lie in making financial services more user friendly and less resource hungry, while at the same time tailoring them to the individual. As Joy Schoffler, the Executive Chair of FinTech Professionals, says: “At the core of everything is simplification and personalization.” It’s possible that voice recognition technology will allow you to order things and pay bills just by saying a few words, while micro-embedded wearables will enable you to shop without ever using a cash register.

Whatever the future brings, one thing is certain: the more you know about the history of fintech development, the easier it will be to navigate the exciting world of life-changing and brilliant technologies that the major fintech companies are working on. Thus, check out the infographic below to learn 87 interesting stats on the growth of fintech. It’ll help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding one of the most important revolutions of the digital age.


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