Belfast Telegraph

Right investments and people key to making it in man's world of finance

Jamie Stinson reports from international fintech conference MoneyConf, which continues in Belfast today

Following her instinct has been the key to success for American venture capitalist Amy Nauiokas, as she challenges the traditionally male-dominated man's world of finance. The founder of Anthemis, who is also a film producer, was speaking on the first day of the MoneyConf in Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

And the 43-year-old said there is no difference between investing in a start-up and in a movie.

Ms Nauiokas helped bring the Dublin-set indie film Once from the silver screen to Broadway, where it won eight Tony Awards.

"You assume that there is some other reason to invest but the reality is if you believe in a product or idea or film or play then you have to ask yourself the same commercially responsible questions," she said.

The mother of three said that while there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making a successful investment, it's essential to have the right people.

"For me first and foremost it's always about the team. I think for a lot of investors you know pretty instantaneously if are going to pull it off.

"You want there to be a combination of exuberance and enthusiasm, but also a rational behaviour element to the team that allows you to know there are realistic about their market and their opportunities."

Before leaving to set up her own venture capital firm in 2008, Ms Nauiokas, who now lives in London, had a rapid rise through the ranks on Wall Street. This included working at Cantor Fitzgerald, when its Twin Tower office was hit during 9/11.

She was late to work that morning after sleeping in, but she said her escape from injury or death had an impact on her.

"It most certainly gave me a perspective on life to most of the decisions I've made, which is that life is short and that you should the best of every opportunity whatever that may be. That has impacted on my career for certain and my family and personal life," she said.

"But it is not something that I try to dwell on or to spend much time on whys, hows, of all that."

While she believes gender equality in financial services is improving, there is still some way to go.

"The work in the UK around female participation on boards has been phenomenal. I think that this current trend towards technological innovation is extremely good for gender equality on Wall Street," she said.

"In financial services if you come through the ranks you've almost made the assumption from the very beginning it was clear it was going to be a man's world and a challenging one at that.

"You get to certain point your career you can continue to force the issues, or you can decide to go off on your own and do it your way."

With Anthemis Ms Nauiokas looks to invest in firms which are focused in the disruption of financial services and media. Early investments included property website Zoopla.

Identifying viable new start-ups is what she has always done, she said.

"For me I have been doing this in some way shape or form my entire career," she added.

"Finding and identifying new technology trends and businesses and finding a way to bring them into a mainstream financial services."

Today is the final day of MoneyConf, with its sister event EnterConf beginning at T13 on Thursday.

Speakers at the second day of MoneyConf will include Royal Bank of Scotland's Stuart Haire, who is discussing how banks are adapting to the digital world and its relationship with technology. Journalist Max Keiser will talk about the future of digital currency and the role of money in 2020.

Belfast Telegraph