Insights

A Portrait of the Artist as a FinTech Employee

July 9, 2014

My artist friends don’t get that I work at a financial services company.

I was sitting across from Quinn in the restaurant. “So like… is your goal to work at a hedge fund?” he asked (earnestly) with a touch of confusion.
Me: “No…”

We were Fine Arts majors together in college. Quinn is a photographer, and he manages an artist’s studio. I’m a classically trained painter, and I work at Artivest.

I felt what was beneath his question without him having to specifically articulate it. “So you’re turning your back on art — on creativity — and going off to that dull grey upholstered cubicle that is finance?”

You know the clichéd scene of a kid sitting down with her strait-laced parents and telling them she wants to pursue a career as a Fire Baton Twirler? There I was, that kid, sitting down with my artist friends and telling them that I was working at a FinTech company. “We don’t understand it, dear… but we support you.”

Sure, financial services probably wouldn’t make the list of ‘Top 10 Creative Industries’ (I actually just fell asleep while writing “financial services”), but that’s exactly where the creativity comes in. Or rather, exactly why the creativity comes in.

For most people, investing is boring. Markets, too. There’s a lot of information and it’s hard to tell how it all fits together, what it means, or whether or not what you’re seeing is even relevant to you. But whether or not you care to understand the markets or investing, it does have something to do with you. Specifically, with what your money is doing.

I will admit, in my experience very few people want to hang out at the bar and chat about credit default swaps, risk arbitrage, or whatever. And even fewer jump at the chance to swap stories about their favorite fund administrators.

So, how on earth is financial services something you could get excited about?

You’d be surprised.  Investing is actually an area ripe with content that could benefit from better visualization and ripe with processes that could benefit from a better user experience.

It’s a blank canvas.

Yeah. I went there.

Like any industry or genre, there are stale, outdated practices that need an update. The old way — the familiar, standard, stuffy way — needs to be nudged a little to get with the times.

Remember when Gustave Courbet shocked the French Salon by painting members of the lower class at a scale traditionally reserved for nobility (see: A Burial at Ornans), and even included a DOG in the piece!? Quelle horreur!

The ~165 years of art history that followed have certainly shifted the criteria for what qualifies as an “explosive” or “revolutionary” painting (to the point where we can now argue over whether a painting is really a painting). But this seemingly simple shift challenged an established order of things back in 19th-century France, and essentially opened the door that led to the next century of French painting (see: Monet, Degas, Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso*, et al).

The financial services industry sometimes seems as set in its ways as the old French Salon. But change is already knocking. The door – or the internet, as it were – is wide open to better investment options, better investor education, and a more intuitive and engaging way to access and experience it all.

That’s where Artivest comes in and how I fit. We’re turning an idea into something real that people can interact with and perhaps even learn from. It’s a constant, living, breathing, evolving process. Or, in the case of our recent piece on venture capital, fire-breathing.

Maybe it’s not painting. But it’s really not as far as removed as you’d think.

*Alright, Picasso was Spanish, but he spent most of his life in France.

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