By Ethen Yao, Head of Innovations and Intellectural Properties, BLAST
Interview ahead of Risk Americas 2019
Risk Americas 2019 is taking place in New York City on
May 14-15 2019 – find out more here www.risk-americas.com
Can you please tell the Risk Insights readers a little bit about yourself, your experiences and what your current professional focus is?
I studied at Villanova University and Harvard University. I started my career in corporate America and quickly realized that my passion is in new product innovations and entrepreneurship. I helped to jump start a successful financial technology company as the co-founder of Armatic Technologies. I developed and designed innovative algorithm and disruptive technologies to generate a unique business credit scoring system, thus acquiring actual data, customer variables, and creating real-time insight generation to improve customer invoicing process. Where Currently, I’m scaling Blast’s innovation efforts, which includes new products, features, as well as, intellectual property protection. I worked directly with the research and development team at Blast and co-authored 13 patents related to gamification, financial technology architecture, processes and design. I’m currently also advising ATM.com, cofounded by Michael Gleason and Walter Cruttenden in creating innovative patents and intellectual property around data monetization.
What, for you, are the benefits of attending a conference like Risk Americas and what can attendees expect to learn from your session?
The benefit to attend conferences and conventions like Risk Americas in New York City is to hear other industry experts share their opinions on the current Risk, compliance, and financial innovation landscape, to see what other concepts, ideas, and products are being developed, and to meet fellow innovators and leaders of the industry.
I look forward to discussing new financial technology products with my fellow panelists. Whether if its old concepts with new user interfaces like Robinhood to Zecco Trading or bringing a product to an underserved market like Acorns for investments. Many products we see today are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We want to understand what innovative disruption truly is and its impact to the greater financial landscape.
You will be presenting at the upcoming Risk Americas 2019 to review FinTech advances and new product entrants impact on the market. Why is this a key talking point in the industry right now?
As we’ve all seen on the news, there is a major millennial savings problem. Millennials are either not able to save, do not want to save, do not know how to save, or a combination. Statistically, the majority of millennials have significantly less personal savings rate than previous generations. The millennial generation affected the economic depression of 2008 and also has a lower average income compared to previous generations. According to the new published CNBC report on college graduate income expectations, new university degree graduates still are only expected to make less than $50,000 a year average as their starting salary. Starting salary has not increased in relation to cost of living and inflation, while cost of attending university has skyrocketed. In addition, students can take classes such as wine tasting or learn a niche language but are not offered more practical classes like personal finance. Due to the economic depression of 2008, millennials are more skeptical of traditional financial institutions creating a surge in popularity of fintech apps. Advancements in Fintech is a primary driver to serve the underserved millennial demographic, as this is the generation who grew up with computers, mobile phones and the internet. How Fintech impacts the millennials will shape how this generation and the future generation treats personal finances and retirement.
What current regulations do you forsee impacting affected new products entering the market?
For millennials and Gen-Z, the student loan debt problem Is considered the biggest hurdle to their financial health. As we have just learned that student loan debt Is the largest portion of the one trillion-dollar millennial debt problem, more than mortgages and automobile debt. As we understand student loan default rate is at an all-time high in 2019, potential changes in regulation and governmental policy on student loan debt could affect millions of millennials. Once this affected demographic becomes unburdened by student loan debt, their savings rate would equal or be higher than the previous generations of Americans.
What types of new products do you expect to see or would like to see enter the marketing over the next 6-12 months?
We’ve seen limited use of first generation personal finance managers like Mint by Intuit or Clarity Money, who was acquired by Goldman Sachs not too long ago. These platforms only appealed to the most dedicated personal finance gurus, but did not achieve wide market adoption. I hope to see the next generation of personal finance managers that can provide more actionable insights and hopefully level 3 transaction data, so the clients can track purchase history of exact items and make decisions based off of the provided data.
What three items would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
Sun screen, beach towel and some cool looking shades. When life gives you lemons, order the lobster tail.
If you had not taken the career route to become a financial risk professional. What would you be doing right now?
With the high growth of esports and gaming becoming mainstream, if I had not taken the current financial technology with the focus on savings and investments path, building out payment platforms and finance pipelines for gaming companies would probably be another great option. Blast has both industries covered as it straddles the intersection between fintech and gaming.
What TV show is your guilty pleasure?
As a finance professional, I love the show on ShowTime called Billions. The show has received amazing reviews from critics and acceptance from finance industry insiders.