Absolute corporate culture combines with entrepreneurial spirit as British politician, former Morgan Stanley executive, prominent journalist and until recently CEO of the British Bankers Association joins Barclays TechStars to bring new initiatives to fruition.
For those with long and illustrious careers in the institutional electronic trading business, the rather Millennial-orientated notion of having a mentor may well seem anathema.
In the corporate grey suited early 1990s when a lot of today’s highly experienced executives made their foray into the OTC derivatives business, be it on the technological development, infrastructural, regulatory or financial services side, internships, apprentice programs and concentrating on gaining a quality career were priorities, largely achieved by finding one’s own way and grappling with the internal procedures that pre-existed within the institution of employment.
For many (myself included – Ed) there was a path ahead, determined by strict corporate guidelines which formed the basis for expertise at senior level some twenty years or more later.
The Millennial years were, however somewhat different, and involved self-styled young ‘experts’ writing books, providing web-based tutorials and marking themselves out as mentors, giving rise to a form of idolatry that had never before existed. It was a trend, and continues in most cases to remain the preserve of noise over substance, and ego over talent, the cringe-inspiring soundbytes of an overtly self-interested fame-hungry individual being largely ignored by anyone with any seniority.
Nowadays, however, there are more credible means of gaining some degree of mentorship from genuine professionals with genuine career pedigree, and via the actual institutions that sit at the top level of corporate financial services and interbank dealing.
Barclays, the fifth largest Tier 1 FX interbank dealer in the world by market share, is a company which stands very much by entrepreneurial spirit in the financial technology sector.
Indeed, the company has its own vast in-house technology business which by its very nature is the very antithesis of the entrepreneurial mindset, corporate procedure dominating from R&D through acceptance testing, to server migrations and rollouts of new applications to the BARX single dealer platform which serves the global FX industry’s OTC order execution, however Barclays TechStars division matches the bank’s vast and integral technological prowess to investment and empowerment of London’s next generation of leading financial technology developments and disruptions.
Barclays TechStars is an accelerator, in which young developers can receive the right guidance, business framework and access to venture capital to bring their idea to fruition.
This week, the British Bankers’ Association’s former head Anthony Browne has been brought on board as ‘Entrepreneur in Residence.”
The leader of a trade association which represents the very un-entrepreneurial banking sector being marked out to assist entrepreneurs may appear somewhat at odds, however it is about as sensible as it gets.
Far from the handlebar moustachioed dreamers of Islington and Shoreditch whose endless coffee consumption and string of unexecuted ideas, Mr Browne is a genuine business leader at institutional level and therefore has absolutely the right credentials to lead tomorrow’s geniuses from idea to market and from market to commercial success.
This is a clear demonstration that London remains the world’s FinTech capital due to the overlap between the institutions that power the world’s markets and the entrepreneurs that nestle among them.
A Conservative politician, Mr Browne was CEO of the British Bankers’ Association from September 2012 to 2017.
He sits on the Board of the International Banking Federation and the Executive Committee of the European Banking Federation, and on the Board of TheCityUK.
Mr Browne began his career as a journalist, and was business reporter and economics correspondent for the BBC; economics correspondent, health editor and environment correspondent for the Observer newspaper; and environment editor, Europe correspondent, and chief political correspondent for The Times.
During is period as Europe correspondent for The Times, he covered the enlargement of the EU to Eastern Europe, and the appointment of Peter Mandelson as European Commissioner. He also reported for The Times from Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and has been a regular contributor to the Spectator magazine and the Daily Mail.
Mr Browne was Policy Director for Economic Development for Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, in charge of economic and business policy for London, sitting on the board of the London Development Agency, and as an observer on the boards of the London Skills and Employment Board, and theCityUK, which represents UK financial services. He was also chairman of the Mayor’s Digital Advisory Board.
After working for Boris Johnson, Browne became Morgan Stanley’s head of government relations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and on 1 September 2012 he left Morgan Stanley to become head of the British Bankers’ Association.
Mr Browne was appointed to the BBA in June 2012, two weeks before the LIBOR scandal broke. Marcus Agius, the chairman of the BBA who appointed Browne, promptly resigned. Shortly after Browne was appointed, the Daily Mail declared he was “the man who must clean up British banks”.
Browne was responsible for implementing reforms of LIBOR proposed by a review lead by Martin Wheatley, the then head of Financial Conduct Authority.
He then worked with a government appointed tendering committee chaired by Baroness Hogg to transfer operation of LIBOR from the BBA. Responsibility for the operation of LIBOR was transferred from the BBA to NYSE Euronext in January 2014. As part of the ensuing Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, chaired by Andrew Tyrie, Browne co-ordinated the industry to establish the Banking Standards Board.
Browne also set up the BBA’s first Consumer Panel. In the wake of the 2016 referendum on Brexit, Browne famously warned in a controversial piece in The Observer newspaper that British based banks were about to relocate operations to the EU, with their hands “quivering over the relocate button”.
“Financial technology is one of the most exciting and innovative sectors of the economy,” Mr Browne stated to mainstream press this morning in London. “It is an area where Britain is truly a world leader, helping create jobs and bringing in investment from around the world. Techstars itself is at the forefront of financial technology, and it will be a fascinating pleasure to help these companies shape the future.”
Located in Shoreditch, Techstars was set up in 2015 with Barclays supporting it for the past four years to hot house fintech startups, with alumni of the programme including Everledger, a blockchain startup focused on the diamond industry and Simudyne, a startup that provides banks and the Bank of England simulations for modelling risk scenarios, as well as insurtech startup Cuvva, all of which are very much at the opposite end of the scale in terms of ethos than the major banks that adorn the shores of the Docklands and the River Thames.