TechTalk with Emilia Sherifova

Advances in technology are putting FinTech startups and legacy investment firms on an even playing field like never before. Today Hrishi Dixit, Chief Technology Officer of Yieldstreet, sits down with Emilia Sherifova, Chief Information & Innovation Officer at KKR to discuss recent developments within the FinTech space and their effect on the investing landscape. Prior to joining KKR, Emilia was the Chief Technology Officer and Head of Enterprise Architecture and Engineering at Northwestern Mutual.  She holds the unique perspective of having been deeply involved in both startups and big institutions and shares the pros and cons of both in today’s conversation. But regardless of company size, one thing is clear —  these technologies have the power to help investors realize their next level.

Key Takeaways:

[2:06] Emilia shares the journey that took her from social justice journalist at Columbia University to CTO at KKR.

[5:15] Emilia’s passion for computer programming evolved into a career in FinTech.

[11:28] Large institutions know they have plenty to learn from startups.

[14:24] Startups would benefit from modeling the approach big companies take to innovating without imperiling.

[16:24] The transition from Learnvest to NM was an exhilarating experience for Emilia.

[20:57] How easy is it to attract talent on the merit of tech at large companies?

[26:30] The surprising behind the curve state of affairs of technology in the global investing industry.

[29:15] How can startups and traditional firms partner in ways that democratize access to investing?

[35:16] Building a compelling user experience is a key to companies of all sizes.

[40:44] How does being a FinTech CTO influence Emilia’s experience as an investor?

[44:14] A look at what’s coming up next for data at KKR.

[45:52] Pros and cons for engaging the pseudo-tech organizations that lack tech literacy.

[49:05] Challenges that can come with introducing new products to the public.

Emilia makes it clear that big companies know that they can learn from startups. They want the help of startups, they want people who have done things differently, who can break glass, and who can bring that agile mindset. It can be exceptionally difficult for a traditional company that’s been doing things a certain way to pivot into that kind of agile engineering mindset. With the inertia that’s built-in over the years, the bureaucratic drag can come in a variety of ways that are finally being overcome by putting engineering front and center. As Emilia says, “it’s clear that these days, the world is run by engineers. Finally, the geeks have won.”

But to turn the table, there is also plenty that startups could stand to learn from big institutions. The established client base of large companies is very desirable for any company, as well as the license to operate in a more thoughtful and careful way. While startups are often ‘moving fast and breaking things, larger companies tend to more carefully protect what they know they have the potential to lose with each calculated risk. For that same reason, protecting data privacy and ensuring compliance in all things tends to be front and center for many larger companies. As Hrishi puts it, ‘innovating without imperiling’ is a lesson that every startup would benefit from the model after larger companies. 

It’s clear that tech companies are taking over the world and winning in a big way, but how easy is it to attract and retain talent on the merit of tech? According to Emilia, it’s not actually that easy. She believes that a perfect company CEO is their CTO, and explains why it’s time to bring the engineers that have been ‘locked in the basement’ of major companies front and center. 

According to Emilia, the global investing industry is surprisingly behind the curve in the technology realm, although the reasons for it aren’t all that surprising. Up until recently, the massive volume within these highly transactional businesses has been maintained on a long-standing history of high-touch relationships. However, the fast-paced growth within today’s investment industry is experiencing a pivoting toward faster and broader investing options. 

Enter Yieldstreet. With the mission to bring private credit and private equity to the world, Yieldstreet has created an opportunity for everyday investors to get involved in what was once a highly elite investment group. For everything from real estate and credit leverage to art investments, Yieldstreet is breaking the outdated mold of investing to bring exciting new investment opportunities to you.

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