Despite the turbulent nature of cryptocurrencies, many leaders feel that digital assets are the future of finance. One strong example is Karen Jones, founder and CEO of Citywealth, the wealth management platform.
Investment has evolved since the early 2000s. Though stocks and more traditional investments still exist, the wealth management market has adapted to emerging trends – including cryptocurrency. However, some firms are not sold on the digital asset due to bad press and an unpredictable future. Understanding what Citywealth is doing to enlighten others about crypto, in addition to what drove the company’s CEO to establish the company, we sit down to talk with Jones.
Tell us more about your company and its purpose
Citywealth is a media operation with a niche in private wealth management and a smaller niche in crypto. Our purpose is to demystify industries that are technically difficult to understand. We have 450 blue chip clients on the wealth side and now a further 10 from the crypto industry.
Since the foundation of the company in 2005, we have established five annual awards to recognise the best within the international wealth management sector. We also run networking events to facilitate introductions and make connections.
More recently we created the Citywealth Forum, where high-profile speakers from the industry debate topics relevant to wealth management. The Crypto Club is our most recent creation, set up in 2022, and open to crypto professionals within the wealth industry, who meet quarterly to keep abreast of the latest developments within the sector.
Another feature of Citywealth, is our Leaders List, which is a user ratings directory for UHNW clients, invited to review their experience in the wealth management industry.
It is then checked and verified by Citywealth. It gives confidence to UHNW clients to choose the best wealth management professionals to handle their investments
What are some of your recent achievements you’d like to highlight?
I recently did an Oxford University coding course to just build my knowledge about code. I learned that a lot of it is ‘copy and paste’ and found out about magic code from some IBM programmers. Never change magic code they said, it cannot be improved, similar to stopping painting a picture because you can make it worse.
Also, I am very proud of the Citywealth Crypto Club which is growing in popularity and attracts high profile speakers. Some of our members fly in for the meetings in London from as far as Bermuda.
How did you get into the fintech industry?
I got into the fintech industry through a job. I spent a big chunk of my time at New York tech conferences and learned amongst others that LinkedIn was my greatest friend. It was like you didn’t exist if you weren’t on LinkedIn. It’s the reason I now have a very big following there.
I got into crypto because a friend started a crypto fund. I gave him £10,000 to invest in winter 2017. He gave it all back though, because he couldn’t make any money trading but I asked for three Bitcoin instead, not the pounds.
What’s the best thing about working in the fintech industry?
The best thing about fintech is that it’s full of fun, memes, international travel and smart people. If you look past the tech or just do some reading or courses you can find a wealth of opportunities and adventure. In terms of tech, it’s always full of hype, start-ups and big investors looking for the next big thing. In terms of crypto it is about seeing a new world before others do, then watching it become reality.
What frustrates you most about the fintech industry?
The frustrating thing about the tech industry is that it’s good at marketing but not good at owning up when things go wrong like code breaks. A bit worrying for the world with the AI industry. It’s also driven hard by investors and despite high-profile failures for instance in crypto, it is likely it will not learn lessons and press repeat on mistakes ad infinitum. It is also a great shame that women are poorly represented and may face the same discrimination that women have done for years in the financial industry.
How have your previous roles influenced your career?
My previous roles have always been a stepping stone even in disaster, mainly because of people who remained friends and have stayed with me through thick and thin and supported my decisions and development for instance sending contacts or events my way.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
The best mistake I’ve ever made was trying to buy a company from a venture capitalist. It was a long-winded discussion full of frustration and blocked at every turn. I finally gave up, went travelling, and started my own company.
A tech entrepreneur who had bought and sold various companies guided me through the process. His advice was very sage. When the frustration hit maximum he would say ‘Have you got anything better to do?’ It cooled things down and stopped the walkouts.
What has the future got in store for your company?
The future for my company lies in crypto and blockchain which are opening up this world so that people see that Bitcoin and Ethereum are money. Imagine billions of value in tokens not operating in the economy. It just does not make any sense to me.
In terms of AI, I have found it an interesting tool to save time and am exploring how it can help us. There are mixed views about its use but it certainly saves some time for basic reporting. I see though instead of proprietary it will just run through companies like Microsoft. We are also making a big push into New York to build a new client base for the future. New York is a big centre of crypto, wealth and money.
What are the next key talking points or challenges for your industry as a whole?
Talking points and challenges for the crypto industry are immense. Governments are itching to regulate a system that doesn’t need intermediaries. It goes against everything that Satoshi Nakamoto designed – a way to send money without a bank involved.
However, Pandora’s box is now open whether through enforcement actions or different types of adoption like tokenisation of assets on the blockchain. The industry is really all about legal definitions of these new digital instruments at the moment and about cyber risk – another interesting topic with companies like Mastercard now selling cyber tracing software as a service.
Jail time is also a real risk for professionals who have worked for digital asset companies as the market gets put through the regulatory shredder and a down market that is pitting crypto natives against each other in high profile lawsuits to claw assets back.