Forbes Finance Council is an invitation-only organization for executives in successful accounting, financial planning and wealth management firms. Members are successful leaders from world-class financial companies, each bringing a wealth of experience to the table. In this spotlight series, we profile our incredible members and share their advice with you. This week: Jeremy Almond.
Jeremy Almond is the CEO of PayStand, the next generation B2B payment engine. Its gateway routes between multiple payment methods, including eCheck, eCash and credit and debit cards, to provide customers with more choices, faster tracking and simplified reporting.
How did your career as a finance executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
I started my career as an engineer; finance seemed like the last thing on the planet that I’d get involved in. But somehow I found myself helping lead a big ERP rollout at a large high-tech manufacturing company. Along with that project, I became involved with the first-year rollout of Sarbanes-Oxley auditing. Two things stood out to me: First, how extremely cumbersome enterprise financial systems were, and second, that regulation was attempting to solve the very real problem of financial corruption in companies. Both were extremely important problems to solve, but at the time had terribly inefficient solutions.
So I decided to go to grad school to study finance. I happened to do that right during the financial collapse in 2008, so we spent a lot of time studying the concept of banks too big to fail, and it all radically shaped my thinking. I combined that with my earlier engineering background and ended up finishing grad school with a strong thesis about how technology could help improve and democratize the financial system in the long run.
How do you keep yourself motivated and driven by your work, regardless of how busy you are day to day?
Like many people, I’m deeply motivated by impact and meaning. On the day-to-day level, I know that running billing and payment software for all types of enterprises is a critical component for companies all throughout the country that create jobs, build products, serve other organizations and ultimately make up the heart’s blood of our economy. This is a huge amount of responsibility and trust given to us, which is very motivating.
But on a deeper level, playing just a small part in the long-term change in the financial system is what excites me most. The financial system is at the center of society and so many people, rightly, feel that it’s aging, inefficient and has let us down in some ways. I think the notion that we can evolve and reshape the financial system for the betterment of society is one of the great entrepreneurial pursuits of the modern era.
What do you see as the future of the financial world?
Much of the financial world, particularly where I spend my time, operates in a sort of pre-Internet way. Businesses send trillions of payments in paper checks every year, just like they have for hundreds of years. Banks use mainframe systems designed forty years ago in coding languages that no longer exist. And despite the fact that I can email or text anyone in the world instantly and basically for free, sending money still relies on decades-old batching systems with outdated business models. This leads to a system that’s slow, overly expensive and vulnerable to security problems.
The good news is that there is a once-in-a-century change occurring in finance. Financial services are become disintermediated to technology, and in the future that will largely be driven by an incredible technological breakthrough called Blockchain. Blockchain has the ability to create a faster, more efficient, more transparent, lower cost and more secure financial system. It’s still very early on in this transition, but it’s like the Internet in the 90s – there was still a lot of uncertainty, but the excitement in the air was palpable, and I think the same is true of the coming financial tech revolution.
What is your best finance-related tip for businesses?
I would encourage folks to be open minded. Because financial services is one of the most critical areas of business or even your personal life, it is often one of the last areas to be innovated. But digital change is coming and it’s coming for the better.