Beth Shah

Head Of Business Development at Digital Asset Management

New York City, New York

@Beth_Shah  |  LinkedIn Profile

What did you study at university and did you always want to go into Financial Services?101 (7)

I always wanted to be sports journalist and so I studied English Studies as it was the best path forward, despite the fact I was probably better at mathematics and the sciences. However, becoming a sports journalist as a woman isn’t the easiest of tasks, not to mention when so many entry level jobs seem to require three to six years of experience these days. So I thought I’d broaden my search to other types of journalism and from there I stumbled into the world of finance and derivatives, which I very quickly realized I loved.

How did you come to live in New York City?

My previous company Euromoney Institutional Investor offered me the opportunity to move here from London in a more senior role. I was unsure at first because making the decision to leave all your family, friends and British comforts isn’t an easy one, but after a couple of trips over to New York for work I decided I had nothing to lose and agreed. I never imagined I’d relocate from England but I have no regrets. I recommend that if anyone has the chance to move to another country they should do it, at least for a couple of years because it affords you the opportunity to experience things you never otherwise would have, while immersing yourself in different cultures and lifestyles.

“I loved writing about the derivatives market.”  You seriously stated this during our interview.  Why?

I genuinely find them fascinating. It’s like a different world with a different language. I was writing about structures that were delta-hedged with butterflies that had nothing to do with Greek foliage or insects but actually had a financial implication. But aside from that, I was constantly learning, no matter how much I read and how much knowledge I absorbed from those around me, there was always more to learn. I found it really empowering being able to work in this niche area.

How did you come to work at Digital Asset?

The phrase ‘at the right place at the right time’ isn’t too far off of it. I used to do a lot of work with one of our co-founders, Sunil Hirani, on the derivatives side and one day he brought me down to the office of Digital Asset where a company comprised of three people were writing on glass walls and tables. It was like a scene out of “A Beautiful Mind”. Over the following weeks I spent more and more time with them learning about bitcoin and blockchain and the more I learned the more fascinating it became. The next thing I know, I’d signed the offer letter and I’ve never looked back.

You mentioned you read the book ‘Fools Gold’ and were determined to meet Blythe Masters after reading the book.  How shocked are you that you work directly with her now?

I think my being shocked has turned to a feeling of being privileged. Blythe (I’m not sure she even knows!) has been an incredibly influential person on me since the first day I began my career because of that book. It’s no secret that Blythe is a very inspiring woman, has achieved a tremendous amount and continues to do so. Sometimes it still is very surreal, especially when we’re in a big meeting and you can see her blow the socks off of everyone in the room.

What surprises you most about how the banking industry has responded to the concept of blockchains over the past year?

Banks are often cited as being slow to move, however in the case of the blockchain I’d argue the opposite. The needle has moved tremendously over the past 12 to 18 months and financial institutions really have been leading the charge. One year ago everyone was talking about the disintermediation of banks and market infrastructures, but we’ve moved from a disruptive frame of mind to one that is constructive. The pace with which the banking industry is moving is really quite exponential for such a nascent technology.

You took quite a risk in leaving your position at Euromoney to join Digital Asset (basically a start up at the time). Looking back, how has this experience been for you?

The startup environment is often over-glamorized with some thinking that you’re going to be the next Facebook or Google overnight. But in reality it’s hard work. It’s late nights, working weekends, early starts, always being on call. But you are part of a team where everybody is in the same boat, everybody is working towards the same goal and you are somebody who is materially contributing to the overall success of the company. That’s extremely gratifying. There’s also a sense of unification you often don’t get within other larger companies and you find that motivation becomes really contagious. Not only that but it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about yourself – what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, while learning a tremendous amount from those around you.

You are a certified FA (Football Association) referee.  This is quite an achievement.  How did this come about?

I wanted to be a sports journalist and I was particularly interested in football (soccer). When I was younger and discussed football with my classmates some of the boys would occasionally mock and say things like “you’re a girl, you don’t know anything about football” so it was great being able to retaliate with the fact I was a referee and I did know the offside rule. It came about partly because of pride, but mainly because I thought it would help me get one step closer to my career choice. And in fact it did, when I got my first real job in journalism I asked my boss: “Why did you call me in for an interview?” knowing there were a ton of people with similar degrees and qualifications as me and he goes, “Not many women have qualified football referee on their CV’s – we figured you had to be interesting.”

Who(m) do you believe has had the most influence with respect to your own career?

Many people have had a significant influence on my career, some without knowing it and some without even knowing me. Personally, my family have been very influential for a variety of reasons. I know it can’t be easy for a parent to support their child when they tell them they’re going to move to the other side of the world for a job.

Professionally, one person who has really influenced me would be my first boss when I entered the world of finance, Rob McGlinchey. Rob took a chance on me when I had just graduated and continually pushed me to my limits. He put me out of my comfort zone to the point it terrified me, but as a result my career flourished more quickly than I could have imagined and I gained skills I ordinarily wouldn’t have learned. He believed in my potential and never thought anything was out of my reach, even when I did. He now has his own successful startup which he has built from the ground up so I feel honored to have worked for him. We remain very close and I still see him as a very strong mentor in my life, in addition to a great friend.

Who do you consider to be strong women leaders in the FinTech space?

Ramya Joseph – I was recently introduced to Ramya through Catherine Flax who sits on our Board. Ramya is the CEO and Founder of Pefin, a company that uses Artificial Intelligence to provide affordable financial advice. We met for a coffee and I could have spent the whole day speaking with her. She really is quite remarkable and has experienced and done everything, whether it was working as a software developer for IBM or a prop trader at Goldman.

Susan Joseph – Susan founded the LinkedIn Group Womeninfintech not that long ago and now it is more than 1100 participants in 47 countries. She is in the process of converting it to a non-profit and will be holding an event at the UN in September. Additionally, she was the interim CEO for ID2020, an incredible initiative to provide persons in society that are “invisible” and therefore vulnerable with legal identity. They held their inaugural summit at the UN in May which was fantastic and I urge everyone to be aware of it.

Blythe Masters – It would be a cliché to say my own CEO but it would be unjust not to do so. Blythe has done an unbelievable job of educating the industry and has enabled people to drop their pre-conceived notions in order to decouple bitcoin from blockchain and uncover its true potential. I do believe it is Blythe that has helped the financial industry move along at such a speed when it comes to blockchain.

What do you see as the 3 leading future trends for FinTech?

I don’t think we even know some of them yet because they haven’t been thought of or invented. Whoever thought that we’d be able to deposit a check into our online bank account using the camera on our mobile phone when the internet was created? FinTech is only just in its infancy.

Blockchain/distributed ledger technology goes without saying as I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today if I didn’t believe in its transformative potential. I think Artificial Intelligence is also very interesting. Unfortunately, I have to admit I don’t know as much about the inner workings of AI as I should or would like to, but there’s always room to learn more.