Legal Spotlight: An Interview with Ivor Wolk, General Counsel

We are thrilled to present the second installment of Oxpecker and Impala, our YieldStreet interview series. These talks will help you get to know us better as a company, our values, and what makes us tick. See Part I with our CTO here. Today we sit down with Ivor Wolk, general counsel at YieldStreet. Ivor has almost 30 years of experience in the legal field over a variety of different law firms and financial institutions. What were you like as a kid? I grew up in East London, South Africa. I was a combination of both outgoing but intense, with a sense of humour. I was highly competitive and my world revolved around family, friends, tennis and school work. What was your first job out of school? After receiving my Masters in Law from Cambridge University, England, I worked for Davis Polk & Wardwell. They ran a rotation program so I had the benefit of working in their litigation group, then corporate and then bankruptcy. What are the most important career experiences you’ve had since then? I spent five years as a senior Investment Banking lawyer for Dresdner Kleinwort working on securitization, lending, private placement, structured credit and derivatives. After Dresdner, I joined LAMCO LLC/Lehman Brothers after Lehman had filed for bankruptcy, working for the bankrupt estate as a derivatives lawyer. Our team’s goal was to maximize recovery for the unsecured creditors of the estate. It was an extremely team-oriented and challenging environment. Why is FinTech exciting from a legal perspective? It’s where the future lies! Law is ever changing and constantly trying to catch up to the FinTech industry. As a lawyer, you have to not only be very vigilant about current regulations but you have to interpret for situations that haven’t been contemplated yet. How has FinTech changed the legal industry? A lot of new specialties at law firms have sprouted up because of FinTech. Lawyers are now specializing in areas that only a few years ago were not represented at all, like marketplace lending, crowdfunding, blockchain and smart contracts. How will the legal industry evolve to new FinTech innovation? Every new product that comes out brings a set of very challenging legal hurdles. Lawyers will have to be able to apply the law the way the tech works versus looking at how the tech works and saying “there are issues with the tech under the current law.” Why Work at a Startup? I have always been very entrepreneurially minded, even though I had found myself working at large law firms and banks in the earlier part of my career. I was attracted by the idea of joining a company from its infancy. I wanted to build the legal department from scratch and create a sound legal and regulatory structure. How did you get involved with YieldStreet? I wanted to move back in-house given that I find the team-oriented environment, and being closer to the business, more stimulating. I saw YieldStreet as a great fit and believed I had a lot to offer. How does your work help YieldStreet’s mission? One of YieldStreet’s missions is to connect investors with asset classes they have never had access to before. I see my function as both protecting YieldStreet from a legal and regulatory perspective as well as making it more accessible for investors to effectuate and understand investments. What excited you most about YieldStreet’s future? When I interviewed with the senior management team I was extremely impressed with the expertise and quality of the individuals. In addition, several members had a successful prior track record with start-ups. Moreover, having a passion for investing myself and having spent years structuring specialty finance investments, I believed and (now even more so believe) that YieldStreet was onto something. What do you like most about YieldStreet? I truly believe that every employee believes in YieldStreet’s mission. I love working with a team of really smart individuals that are also great human beings. It’s an ideal mixture.  
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