If you’re leaving financial services to work in a financial services technology (‘Fintech’) start-up, you’re probably not expecting to get rich right away. – You’re probably expecting to ‘follow your passion’. But you’re almost certainly still expect to get rich, one day.
Some people certainly do become rich out of Fintech. David Gurle, the California-based founder of Perzo Inc, a chat and messaging start-up which Goldman Sachs bought into last August, probably has or will have a healthy bank account. Ted Bailey, CEO and founder of Dataminr, a company that ‘transforms real time data’ into ‘actionable signals’ may also be feeling fairly financial confident having recently raised $130m in ‘growth capital‘ from some of the industry’s biggest investors (including Vikram Pandit, John Mack and Goldman Sachs).
For the most part, however, our research suggests people working in the financial technology space aren’t walking around in golden flipflops eating kobe beef wraps. They’re saving money. And they’re trying, desperately, to get their firms to break even.
“I’ve seen a lot of former bankers entering the fin tech sector in the past couple of years,” says Damien Regent, a former UBS managing director, turned investor and non-executive director in technology companies. “But if you’re a founder there will be very little cash in the early days. – It’s difficult to get a significant salary until the business grows, attracts funding and brings in some contracts. Even so, most people are more interested in options and stock than high cash salaries. But to make real money as a founder you’ll need the business to be sold and to monetize your shares.”
It’s no surprise, therefore, that many of the ex-investment bankers turned fintech entrepreneurs we speak to aren’t actually drawing a salary from their business. Instead, they’re paying their way with savings – savings that were usually accumulated over a decade of bonuses in banking.
How long will the lack of income last? Nikolay Storonsky, a former equity derivatives trader at Credit Suisse, told us he self-funded his fintech firm – Revolut, between June 2013 and early 2015. 18 months of no money then? Maybe – but our research suggests that even established Fintech firms pay their founders little, and their employees even less.
Take Crowdcube, the UK equity crowdfunding website, which claims to have 100,000 users and was authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority in February 2013. The company’s most recent publicly available annual report (for the year ending September 2014) reveals that the eight directors earned an average of £27k each over the previous 12 months.
More generous is Funding Circle, a peer to peer lending service formed in August 2010. For the year ending December 2014, Funding Circle paid its average employee £58k and its average director £64k. The highest paid director earned £166k and the company made a loss of £1.3m on a turnover £1.1m.
Leaving banking for Fintech might make you fulfilled and fashionable. It probably won’t make you financially secure.