Part 2: Steve Swain
From young entrepreneurs to traditional financial industry experts, our Inside Lendingblock series looks to explore the diverse journey and experiences of our team.
In this blog, we talk to our Co-Founder and CEO, Steve Swain, who has 20 years of investment banking technology experience, and we look at how this traditional background has influenced the future of Lendingblock.
What’s been your career journey up until Lendingblock?
I see my journey to Lendingblock as being in 3 waves. Wave one was in investment banking. I joined just after university at a really exciting time; there was lots of growth and innovation and it was full of interesting people doing great work. I left at a time of post-crisis, where innovation and growth stopped, and the focus was on cost-cutting. This is when Wave two began, as I made the move into management consulting, as an FS Technology partner at Deloitte. I was still working in the investment banking field, but this time advising clients on what to do. I was working with banks who were interested in the crypto-economy but didn’t have the capacity to do anything with it. And finally, Wave three is Lendingblock.
How did you come up with the idea for Lendingblock?
Banks are stuck in a legacy world. They want to be part of the crypto-economy, they see the opportunity, but they’re constrained by existing systems, clients and regulations. I saw how fast the crypto-economy was moving and the potential of it, and knew I wanted to be part of it. But from my 20 years of experience in the world of investment banking, I knew that the crypto-economy didn’t have the infrastructure it needed to thrive. And so the idea for Lendingblock was born, bringing cross-chain securities lending to the crypto-economy.
Have you always been interested in starting your own business?
With Lendingblock, we’re not just building a parallel to securities lending, we’re creating a better version, by building an open exchange that works cross-blockchain. This just doesn’t exist in the market today. Lendingblock is the first to comply with the highest regulatory standards.
Back in October last year, I spent a week talking to institutional crypto investors at a conference in New York. I was speaking to them about the Lendingblock concept, and the number 1 response was “how quickly can you do this?” When that’s the feedback you get, you have to go out and make it happen.
How has your experience helped in launching a start-up in the crypto-economy?
I have a clear understanding of how the financial industry works at every level. Over my career, I’ve had an inside and an outside view of the system. Whether that was working as a technologist where I learnt the critical role systems play in the market, or as a consultant looking at the strategic challenges facing organisations. I think having the balance between technical and advisory knowledge is crucial for a successful start-up.
What’s been your approach to growing your start-up team?
We decided early on that we’d need a team of people who have a real desire to do things better than before. There’s a strong mind-set within traditional markets of ‘we’ve always done things this way, so why change it,’ which can make things difficult when recruiting. We’ve built a team of people who have expertise in the traditional setups, but at their core is a transformative vision.
I think what’s great about our team is how diverse we are in terms of experience, background, age and gender. For example, Linda, our other Co-Founder (read Linda’s interview here) and I come from different backgrounds, which helps us innovate by seeing things from different perspectives.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs launching a start-up?
Resilience is crucial. There are millions of entrepreneurs who have great ideas but who can’t handle the ups and downs of a start-up. You’ve got to be ready to adapt and have the strength to act on feedback.
What are the biggest challenges for you and Lendingblock?
Balancing moving quickly and doing things the right way. With crypto, there are so many unknowns; technologies and formats can change in a matter of weeks, and if you take too long, another company might swoop in. That’s why it’s so important to have the right team around you, including your partners and investors.
What do you hope for the future of the crypto-economy?
That it becomes something that’s accessible to everyone. Capital markets tend to be for institutions by institutions, so it’s not easy for individuals to get access to the same set of opportunities. We want to change that, and make it a lot more open.
Crypto will become truly exciting, when the technology that underpins the investments starts to deliver in reality. When things like seamless payments across borders and transformation in healthcare come into effect, that’s when it will become part of everyday life.