Many Wall Street firms and traditional financial institutions are looking to innovate by partnering with tech startups.
Earlier this month, for example, JPMorgan launched a trial project with Blythe Masters’ blockchain startup.
But there’s a major obstacle for financial technology, or fintech, companies that want to join forces with traditional firms, and it’s not about cultural differences.
“There’s a lot of legacy technology at these big institutions, and it’s hard to integrate with their systems,” said Jon Stein, CEO and founder of the robo-adviser Betterment, in an interview with Business Insider.
Betterment in 2014 partnered with Fidelity’s Institutional Wealth Services unit. Fidelity announced in November that it would not to renew their one-year contract.
The other challenge that Stein highlighted when it comes to partnering with big financial firms is the regulatory environment.
“We are fully regulated as an investment adviser and a broker dealer,” he said. “Other companies have different regulatory regimes.”
As soon traditional companies partner with Betterment and invest a percentage of their capital, Betterment becomes subject to the same regulations as the much larger firms.
It “really complicates things for partnerships,” Stein said.
At a recent conference organised by the Department of Commerce, Stein and some 40 other fintech entrepreneurs and folks from large financial institutions discussed how to work together on issues like regulatory constraints.
Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker suggested at the event that they combine forces and bring a handful of specific issues to regulators in Washington.
“That is the thing that I’m most excited about,” Stein said, “that idea that we are aligned in terms of what we want for consumers and we can be part of that conversation together.”
The technological problem, however, will take a little more time.
“You’d have to custom-build something for Company A and Company B, so how do you partner with a bunch of firms?” Stein said.
“That becomes your entire challenge — is integrating with the technology.”
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