Nov 09, 2023

The Fintech 5 with Kelly Fryer — Executive Director of Fintech Sandbox

Kelly-Fryer

Question #1: What is your role with Fintech Sandbox?

I’m Executive Director, or nonprofit speak for CEO. I’ve been leading the company for the last 3 years, joining in September 2020. My day-to-day focuses on a wide range of overall company strategy, program operations, and relationship management across the company as well as for each of the programs under the Fintech Sandbox umbrella – our flagship Data Access Residency, Boston Fintech Week, and Mass Fintech Hub. 

Fun Fact: While Fintech Sandbox is headquartered in Boston, I’m actually based in the New York City area. Boston has definitely become a second home at this point! 

#2: What trends in fintech are you most excited about?

Through Fintech Sandbox’s Data Access Residency, we have seen a big uptick in startups requesting private company data and solutions focused on that space, which I’m very happy to see. The applications range from verifying small business data, M&A deal sourcing and discoverability, unique private market funding and investment models, and more. As we see changes in the startup and VC landscape over the past year or so, this trend seems to be a direct reflection on the concerns and challenges of the private markets for both entrepreneurs and investors.

#3: What are some of the biggest learnings from your career journey in fintech and/or entrepreneurship?

On the fintech front, there are many – and incredibly important – problems that fintech still needs to solve! While we hear a lot of talk about fintech slowing down, I don’t see how it can. There are still too many core global challenges within our financial systems and across the multitude of ways that people engage with money (saving, lending, investing, etc.), and only powerful, innovative technologies will solve them. 

On the entrepreneurship front, never underestimate the value of the basics. Being able to simply and succinctly explain what the company or product actually does is essential and square one. Your next door neighbor or your grandma should be able to follow along and understand what your business does after your brief explanation. I’ve heard very complex derivatives solutions explained clearly in less than 2 minutes, and I’ve also gotten confused listening to a 30-minute explanation of a very simple PFM. It’s challenging to move the conversation forward if we haven’t moved past those basic pieces yet. Also, don’t forget to introduce yourselves and your team too! Remember: people invest in people, so tell a story and create that connection.

#4: Hot take! What are your thoughts on AI in the industry? Are we about to see a major transformation beyond chatbots? Is fintech the key to unlocking AI at scale for financial services? Overrated or underestimated? We want to hear your thoughts!

It’s funny to me because it feels like we’ve been talking about and seeing AI for the past decade or so. But, now that OpenAI and ChatGPT have gone mainstream and more Generative AI models are being built, these conversations about AI as a new emerging technology have resurged. Maybe now it’s finally being considered as a truly transformative technology. 

There are unlimited potential solutions that AI infrastructure could enable, and I am excited by those possibilities especially for more inclusive decision making. But actual adoption and implementation will still be slow, as all firms are still figuring out the potential risks and regulations for AI. My concern on the topic of AI is always ethics and very intentional awareness when utilizing it. AI has the power to remove many human biases from key financial decisions and build transparency, but it also has the power to increase bias exponentially and be a black box. Plus, there are a number of other major questions that still remain with AI – IP, privacy, and much more.

#5: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read recently?

Does listening count? Between planes, trains, and cars, I tend to do more audiobooks these days. 

I recently finished a book called Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow about the evolving friendship of two video game designers as they fall in love with games as kids to starting their own gaming empire to the normal challenges of becoming adults. Looking at my own career, I especially found it to be an interesting perspective on entrepreneurship and the difficult choices that teams have to make to reach success, as well as the challenging dynamics women face as their careers advance. Recommend!

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