You all probably have diverse reasons to have selected to study business and finance, a family business to go run, the ambition to become CFO of a large corporation, the choice of working in financial services, or maybe watching too much of Gordon Gekko on Wall street….
My reason to choose to study business was simple. When I was a young child, I would often go by my father’s office to visit and he would let me sit at his desk, on a revolving office chair. I was in LOVE, and all my childhood dreams of being an astronaut or a marine biologist were swiped away that second. I wanted to be sitting in an office, on a revolving chair, playing with this “instrument” that had a funny keyboard as the letters were not alphabetically ordered.
My father is an entrepreneur and at the time I had no idea of what it meant but I can probably start thinking that that day in his office, was more influential than I could have ever thought considering who I have become today.
From my father’s time, things have changed dramatically. University then was for a small few and immediately brought to a job at a large corporation. The possible paths one could choose were very clear and very few, and year over year your career would progress linearly at the same company until retirement. Graduate woman were only 30% of the total graduates, and very few reached corporate leadership.
Today things have changed, many of you could be the first in your family to achieve a degree and masters, and for that a huge congratulations. I also see so many more women who have decided to study and enter the finance world. With more access, though comes more competition and the labor market is not as “rosy” as it used to be. Entering the job market and navigating it probably feels like a bigger challenge, but I actually think you are at the forefront of a new industrial revolution that will redefine jobs and skills.
Marc Andreessen, one of the leading venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, famously said; “The spread of computers and the internet will put jobs in two categories: people who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.”
At this point, you there are three choices you can take. You can ignore the changes that are happening and let them pass by; you can select to hinder the innovation and fight it but eventually you will realize that you might delay its effects but it will prevail. Or you can chose to embrace it, and transform your career thanks to the disruption happening, or actually become the frontrunner of this change.
The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report estimates that 65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new job types and functions that currently don’t yet exist. What does this mean?
Even though you have had the best of education, the time-spent learning will continue to increase; you probably want to get the hell away from books for a while, (and I would understand), but I can promise you that you will need to be constantly challenging yourself to new knowledge to strive in your careers. They great thing is that the skills that will be valued the most over the next 5–10 years are Complex Problem Solving and Creativity, something that we Italians are good at and that hopefully we have managed to transmit to you all.
What I hope for you all is that you uses these abilities and find your roles. You are still the privileged ones, the ones that can truly take on the world’s problems and go find solutions in a way that gives back to communities or society as a whole.
Today the Gordon Gekko corporate greed, has been replaced by leaders with deeper missions. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google in their garage they chose ‘Don’t be Evil’ as the corporate motto and Googlers generally apply those words to how they serve users. Mark Zuckerberg, in his famous IPO letter starts by reminding investors; “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”
Also, it has never been easier to start something, build your own startup and shape your own future. My father, built a software company in the 1980s, when the capital needed was significant and the product was actually a disk that had to be sold from company to company with a physical sales team. Today, the internet, cloud computing and remote web services (like Amazon Web services) allows people to start companies with less than probably what you will spend on your graduation lunch.
We started Oval in February with 200€. I spent 30€ to open a company in the UK, and the rest for three flights return to London where my co-founders and I went to open a bank account. We realized that the so-called ‘fintech’ market was rapidly building new products that would slowly replace the dominance of banks and insurance companies. We wanted to do more; our mission is that of using technology to tailor financial education to every individual and personalize the steps that make a person, financially healthy, and thus included in the financial market, with access to transparent products. In the UK, a developed market and a financial center hub, an OECD study found that just about 50% of the interviewed pass the financial literacy threshold and that the youngest have a lower literacy that the over 40s.
We decided to tackle this huge problem, by building an app that can replace the branch financial advisor. Oval is built as an online community. We enable people to gain financial knowledge while connecting to each other with the help of a smartphone app. With Oval, setting money aside will become easier, and tracked simply, through analytics and personalization that empower and motivate to be money wise.
Oval provides easy to read, readily available information on everyday expenses. By connecting with any bank account or card, Oval can aggregate, categorize and simplify the user-unfriendly confusing information from bank statements. Given every great achievement starts from a beginning, Oval allows users to set a number of steps, personalized pledges that automatically assigns a micro transaction to a spending or behavioral habit. Every week the app automatically uses the steps and creates a saving balance that will be moved weekly into a personal, 100% guaranteed and secure digital wallet. The savings accumulated in the wallet will be available to users to withdraw at anytime, but keeping them away will open a whole set of possible solutions to enrich the financial profile of the users.
In the last 15 years Edleman has built the Trust Barometer Index, a tool used to analyze the level of trust people have in different sectors. In 2015, with over 33,000 interviews across 27 countries, the trust index on financial services remains the lowest of all industries. Actually the only product that has gained a significantly higher score, is technology driven finance products like electronic payments. But people do not change their bank account, it is actually estimated that the probability of you divorcing is higher than that of you switching to a new bank.
I believe this will change, thanks to the huge impact that new business models have had on other sectors, which are still nascent in the financial services market. Before starting Oval, I worked for 3 years in Uber, leading its operations on the Italian market. I was called for an interview when I was living in Asia, and in the beginning unsure if going back to Italy. But the company and the mission inspired me, and remember that at the time it was still a small startup with no operations outside the US. The idea that transport, should become as easy and reliable as running water was a mission I was willing to embrace. Also, I had lived enough years abroad to forget how the taxi market in Italy worked and naively thought it would be a smooth ride…
Launching the app in Milan and then expanding across Italy was an incredible experience, and being the second country in Europe to adopt the peer-to-peer solution Uber POP became a marvelous challenge. This is because as Uber became bigger, it managed not only to shift the rules on transport, but it was at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, towards a new future for flexible and empowered employment.
The WEF report in fact outlines that today the number one driver of change for future employment is flexible work, with 44% of respondents assigning it as the number one trend. On the technological drivers of change, mobile Internet emerges as the most popular between respondents, and sharing economy and crowdsourcing appears to be the top trend for 12% of respondents.
Collaborative platforms and flexible work emerged because of one major factor; the introduction of a trust score online! This became the one single element that allowed the likes of Uber, Airbnb and BlaBlaCar to rise.
In fact Edelman Study also shows that of the people interviewed, 75% will consult their community, before making a decision, thus building trust. This has helped the emergence of new business models also in financial services world. In fact, crowdfunding has expanded to over 2000 platforms globally and expected to reach 10% of the market share by 2020; the emergence of blockchain technologies and bitcoin have enabled a truly peer to peer payment networks that do not use the banking circuits; peer to peer is also changing the insurance industry with higher transparency and a redistribution of unused payments to benefit the end user.
I could go on forever about the changing landscape and probably as I speak today, something new is being built in some corner of the world. As technology becomes more of a commodity, perseverance, creativity and design thinking will make a difference between the winners and the losers. Chose the problem you want to solve, and do everything that you can to create the most impactful solution. Do this in your own startup or in a bigger corporate, it does not matter where you choose to be.
I know today you may feel like having reached the finishing line, but actually I see today as the beginning of your journey. I therefore wish the best start to you all, whatever you chose it to be!