Interviewed Company: JEA Associates Ltd
Interview Thursday 6th July 2017
Sector: Fintech, Media
Interview with John McLeod
Subjects: Brexit, London, DLT, Blockchain
JEA Associates is a consultancy firm which specialises in giving young tech companies, in particular, the PR assistance they need, by drawing on John’s background in Financial and Corporate PR. John saw that “digitalisation and new technology such as blockchain and DLT” was changing and wanted to create a PR agency that was capable of keeping up with these advancements, he further added weight to his argument about technology gaps across sectors explaining with all the new technology, “why does it still take 3 days to transfer money?”
John has six fintech sector clients and highlights the “growing consciousness about emerging technologies” including Adel a blockchain incubator and global cryptocurrency ecosystem.
As a linguist, John stated how Adel changed their communication language into Mandarin during a raise and the interest “went up hugely” and with around 20% of the world’s population speaking it there’s no wonder! In addition, John highlighted the “advanced services sector in Sao Paulo” Brazil and the “education curve” in Russia as places to watch for the future, and he wouldn’t rule out a move in the future.
Fintnews asked John about his disruptive formula and business model.
John’s business model has the disruption that the internet created to thank is focused around having access to people who “traditionally there would have been no access to before the internet ….I wouldn’t have been able to have the business i have now 10 to 15 years ago”
John and his clients are connected 24/7 and aim to meet in person “at least once a month” and “easy flights” are “making this more and more possible.”
John wanted to disrupt the way that “established big city firms…based in London” do business, through his experience it “was very much in the City…see clients face to face.” Now everything is “becoming more and more decentralised…part of a team…who works with Europe and the US”
“For me, the benefits of fintech, decentralised systems, blockchain technology and and the internet means that you can connect with people who you’d never have been able to meet a few decades ago”
“Decentralised… talent and teams being global…that is my business model”
The business models are “now more and more decentralised…we have a worldwide perspective.” Combined with John’s linguistic capability there is seemingly no limit to his client base!
Fintnews asked if there was infact a formula for disruption.
“There is no set formula…disruption comes from seeing opportunities and having the courage to explore them”
John explains that “We’re at a tipping point” in terms of disruption of the tech sector. John used the internet to explain this tipping point in more detail, when the internet was first created, “people didn’t necessarily understand it…but it (the internet) hit the ground running” John says we are now in the same position with DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) and the media are steadily “growing more conscious too.”
John describes London as an “ecosystem of good ideas” sighting the support network of Tech City as an example and going on to praise David Cameron who launched the Shoreditch based initiative back in 2010 to support the startup scene. Furthermore, John praises the London based Silicon Roundabout too, which also helped to raise awareness of London as the startup and now prime fintech destination.
Fintnews asked London based John about any consequences of the decision, or the latest indecisiveness on Brexit’s, for his business or clients. He mentioned an Financial Services client who moved from Warsaw to London before the Referendum announcement.
As a fintech hub “London has it all” with London based clients still believing “it’s a great place to be… despite some cities shouting out come to us we have regulatory certainty.” John believes that it will “take years before the reality of brexit and what takes place is understood” insisting that his clients are “not upping sticks yet” and for the moment his clients “want to be in London…for it’s financial services expertise”
Interestingly, John suggests that Brexit could in fact lead to the creation of a “digital single market and a services market”, using the UK’s fintech “centre of excellence” and the “talent that brings here” to disrupt the traditional model. Clearly in an ideal world, “clients want certainty and this (Brexit) creates uncertainty” but John insisted that the general consensus is that “they’re not leaving and don’t want to.”
“London is very receptive” to new ideas and inorder for “traditional blue chip banks” to survive in this competitive environment with their “enormous legacy issues… convoluted transactions” they need to operate in a more “decentralised fashion… to reduce costs.” John admits some high street banks are trialing fintech in an attempt to keep pace, although he is adamant that “banks need to increase their innovation or they’ll go the way of Kodak…”
“For fintechs to survive in an intensely competitive environment… they have to be focused…customer focused…customers are fickle…need to be obsessed in delivering the very best service…but they need to be able to give the same level of service on lower funds…than established companies”
Fintnews: What are your future FinTech predictions
“In 10 years time blockchain will enter the mainstream..cheques and waiting 3 days for bank transfers will be long gone…actually I can see that happening within the next five years not 10”
John also sees the fintech fundraising model changing, “I see it with ICOs, their fundraising model is changing…internationally”
The future of fundraising for fintechs is also positive. “You can broaden the net more widely…, using Bitcoin or Ethereum… to invest… allowing startups to “raise millions, digitally and online.”