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It takes 20 years to make a FinTech Diva

On October 4, 1994 I walked into the NYC offices of Waters Information Services to start work as a reporter on Inside Market Data (and two other publications - which are not really around in the same format). I had majored in journalism and political science and following stints as a stringer for the Associated Press and as an intern at a fashion magazine (don't ask) all I cared about was that the little ad in the New York Times Waters had posted said 'reporter' and 'NY'.

'I would do this for two years,' I thought. 'Get my feet in the waters (so to speak) of NYC journalism, get fully fledged reporter on my resume and a desk in at a cool consumer magazine was sure to follow.'

So I sat down at a dumb terminal, running Word Star (look it up) to write up stories, got incredibly excited when we started getting press releases via fax (It's sooo much quicker than mail!) and quickly learned that 'Latam' was not a country I hadn't heard of in South America.

One of the first stories I wrote involved a provider of investment management software whose product had a 'gooey' interface. (yes, I did write it that way and yes my editor did call me into his office to have me explain what 'gooey' meant).

As the years went on, I stayed...I stayed in FinTech. Market data gave way to trading room infrastructure, then derivatives trading and risk management - which over the years led me to payments and retail and transaction banks. (oh the joys of Sepa and trade finance)

Word Star was dumped in favour of Windows and *gasp* the Internet. (Netscape 4EVA!). 'Don't put the news on the website before the printed edition is out!' gave way to 'Don't tweet the news before it's on the website!'  (I tend to piss off old male editors, a lot)

This blog doesn't have enough room for the number of companies I've been told, with upmost certainty, would 'not be around in two years time.' Off the top of my head those include:

  • Bank of America
  • IBM
  • Reuters
  • Swift

I interviewed the EMEA head of market risk at Lehman Brothers in September 2008 on a call that turned into a therapy session. However, when I put down the phone my only thought was 'Boy, I hope that guy has a better day tomorrow.' (Way-to go journo instincts!) and I'm sure you can guess, he didn't have a 'better day tomorrow.'

Well, folks the NY Times never called (and considering the changes journalism has seen over the past 20 years due to digital - I consider myself lucky not to have chained myself to the outdated nostalgia of the dead tree press.)

But over the past 20 years, I've helped launched two magazines, watched two go bankrupt, travelled the world, moved to a new country, had someone design a commemorative t-shirt based on one of my interviews (!) and written and done video interviews on services and technology issues at every part of the bank from hard core derivatives desks at investment houses to warm and friendly customer service call centres at retail banks.

Now I know all the acronyms and can bullshit with the best of them. In the 90s, in the midst of the client/server revolution, banks wouldn't even tell me if they had PCs in the building - now they're falling over themselves to set up FinTech venture funds and 'collaborate' with each other.

What will the next 20 years bring? More FinTech coolness, or more same old same old? (Damn you legacy architecture!)

At this stage, I'm going to give it more than two years and may need to invest in a few more pairs of pink shoes. :-)

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Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 14 October, 2014, 13:301 like 1 like

20 years is not bad - just twice as long as it takes to "become an overnight celebrity in Hollywood!"

WordStar in 1994? I remember moving from WS to WordPerfect for a few months in 1992 and switching to Word permanently sometime in 1993. Two decades later, it's still Word for me.

PS: Congrats on the long stint and best wishes for many more years in fintech. 

Elizabeth Lumley

Elizabeth Lumley

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