Startup Stories: Geoff Ira, Co-Founder & CEO at TradeTogether

Geoff Ira, Co-Founder and CEO of TradeTogether, joins us to discuss his journey from traditional finance to Web 3 and thoughts on the future of finance with the growth of DeFi and digital assets.

by hao-nguyen on February 1, 2023

Welcome to Startup Stories! Today, we are joined by Geoff Ira, the Co-Founder and CEO of TradeTogether, a Web 3 digital asset management company based in Singapore.

With over 12 years of experience in the financial sector and a background in banking and insurance, Geoff brings a unique perspective to the rapidly growing DeFi space. In this interview, we’ll be diving into his journey in the startup world, his transition from the traditional financial sector to fintech, and his thoughts on the future of the traditional financial sector in light of the growth of DeFi and digital assets.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

Hi Geoff, great to have you on Startup Stories! For those who may not know, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey in the startup world to date?

My name is Geoff Ira and I have lived in Asia since 2011. I came here to work with a French bank to develop a customer due diligence service. I hold two Master’s Degrees in Banking, Insurance, and Political Science.

I began my career in the financial sector during the Global Financial Crisis in France. As an intern, my first job was to retain customers who were heavily affected by the crisis. I proposed reallocating their assets to new investment funds and enjoyed building relationships of trust as I advised them on their portfolios. It was a formative experience as I was dealing with clients right after graduation. 

Next, I worked as a Broker assistant in the OTC market where I executed trades worth more than 20 billion in a single day. I also traded stocks that were technically bankrupt during the 2008 crisis on behalf of my clients. This experience was also very formative, even though working in the banking sector was frowned upon during the crisis, similar to the crypto sector in 2022.

I entered the start-up world in 2016 and began onboarding clients, including digital banks and blockchain infrastructure companies, offering new financial services. I was actively involved in onboarding these new clients while working at a large international bank and later developed policies (Fintech & Payment Service Policies) to better manage these clients within the bank.

Finally, I joined a start-up (insurtech) incubated by a large banking group in 2020 as a Risk Lead and eventually became the Chief Risk Officer. This was my second experience in a small organisation, having started my finance career in a small wealth management boutique in 2008.

What inspired you to transition from working in the traditional financial sector to the fintech industry?

I worked for 12 years in large financial establishments. I was fortunate enough to traverse many domains in the financial sector, such as Private Banking, OTC, and Corporate & Investment Banking, often closely linked to IT matters.

I also had the opportunity to work often between the front services (Dealing room, Due Diligence/Compliance, Client Relationship Management, Operations, IT). All these experiences kept me up to date with the latest technological innovations, particularly in Client Due Diligence, Asset Monitoring & Risk management. The end of the 2020s was marked by many Fintech projects that naturally led me into this exciting new sector.

Can you walk us through your first experience with cryptocurrency and how that led to your current role in the DeFi space?

My journey with crypto currency began in 2013 when I was serving as the Team Head at a French bank in Singapore. It was then that a friend introduced me to Bitcoin and suggested investing in it. I recall having to download a digital wallet on my laptop and checking if I could find any information about it on the Bloomberg terminal. However, my friend couldn’t answer my questions about the origins of this new asset, information was lacking, and as a result, I declined the offer.

Little did I know that my friend would end up making a significant profit from their investment. Fast forward to 2016, I found myself revisiting the crypto sector as some of my clients were investing in blockchain infrastructure. By 2019, I was tasked with implementing a global policy for payment services at a large English bank, where I also conducted risk analyses for clients dealing with digital assets and crypto.

This experience allowed me to take another look at the potential of digital assets and to re-examine the underlying value of blockchain technology. During the three-year period from 2016 to 2019, I delved deep into the world of digital assets and stablecoins, gaining a deeper understanding of their intrinsic worth, and even made my first trades in crypto.

As someone with a background in banking and insurance, how do you see the future of the traditional financial sector evolving in light of the growth of DeFi and digital assets? 

From an Insurance lens, the Web3 economy is currently underinsured and has vast potential for future growth. Today, out of $1 trillion in crypto assets, less than 1% are insured. As customer awareness about risk in cryptocurrency is the number one concern, I’m convinced that the insurance industry can play a key role in this space and I’m advocating for it.

The traditional financial sector has advantages it can rely on to stay ahead. For a few years, many people said traditional banks were dead because they were not fast enough. This analysis is not entirely false, but it’s important to remember that traditional finance has a real trust in terms of asset security, which is not entirely the case in the Web3 industry.

This, and in light of what happened in 2022, has created an opportunity for financial institutions and digital asset managers to step in and leverage their trust and regulation to partner with intermediaries to strengthen the ecosystem.

Typically, clients using traditional finance or digital banking services don’t need self-custody services or additional insurance to cover the risk of protecting their assets, as financial institutions are in charge of covering that. The same should apply in the Web3 space to enable easy access and mass adoption. 

How do you stay current with the advancements and trends in the crypto and DeFi space?

When I first started to professionally explore the crypto and DeFi space, there were websites and apps that helped keep track of all the DeFi projects on each blockchain protocol. There were sometimes 10 new tokens or blockchain protocols that emerged daily. I took notes and started to establish risk assessment methodologies, as I did in my work.

With Jordan and Maxime, we applied risk management controls early on each opportunity, as if we were at work, and this method became a business model. Later, teams trained by Jordan continued the work of risk assessment and asset allocation while I focused on the business development of TradeTogether.

Today, we are organised such that all DeFi protocols, tokens, and partners are reviewed by an Asset Management & Risk Committee, allowing us to make more efficient decisions with risk scoring.

What advice would you give to someone interested in transitioning from the traditional financial sector to the DeFi and crypto space?

I couldn’t agree more with Todd Morakis from JST Capital who once said that passion is key when transitioning from traditional finance to the Web3 space. Adaptability and a genuine interest in this constantly evolving industry are crucial to succeed in this field.

If you’re ready for a change and up for the challenge, DeFi and crypto offer a wealth of opportunities to grow and make a real impact. Just be prepared to learn new tools and approaches to risk management, as they differ greatly from traditional finance.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

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