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Marko Hafez, President & CEO of Blockstation – Interview Series

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Marko Hafez, President & CEO of Blockstation - Interview Series

Marko is a serial entrepreneur and innovator who started his first company at the age of 19 and never looked back. His passion for blockchain technology and the transformative potential of tokenization for financial instruments led him to co-found Blockstation.

You were an early believer in digital securities, having launched Blockstation in 2014. What was it that made you a believer before everyone else?

I first learned about the Blockchain capabilities in 2010 and monitored the price of Bitcoin up through 2014. I did extensive research to understand how records on the Blockchain are immutable and how it enables us to transmit value across the globe in the fastest and most cost-efficient way possible. Those facts, plus how the price of Bitcoin demonstrated significant growth in just 4 years, were major validation points for me.

I reached out to my good friend Jai Waterman, a software expert and eventual co-founder and CTO of Blockstation, to start looking into the Blockchain and the opportunities that come with it.

What we found was that most crypto marketplaces were (and still are) unregulated and have no proper Risk Management Protocols (RMPs), insurance, or regulatory oversight to provide investor protection, promote market efficiency and integrity – a big problem for mainstream adoption. Of course where there’s a problem, there’s an opportunity!  There was so much money, so much volume going through these marketplaces that the traditional financial ecosystem had no way to access.

There was no doubt in our minds that regulation for this new digital asset space was just a matter of time. Regulated financial institutions were going to have to adopt Blockchain technology in order to enable the trading of digital assets and enter this exciting new market.

At the same time, nobody was building a turn-key solution that would meet all of the entire ecosystem’s needs. You saw people focusing on custody, focusing on trading, but nothing holistic. It was clear to us that Blockstation would be the company to bridge the divide between blockchain technology and regulated financial institutions.

 

Can you share with us what Blockstation does?

To start, we are a Canadian FinTech company based out of Toronto that developed a compliant, Blockchain-driven, end-to-end platform for regulated stock exchanges and all their ecosystem  partners – brokers, depositories, regulators, market makers, everybody – to tokenize, list, trade, clear and settle digital assets and securities while fulfilling the same and functions they do for traditional assets.

In short: we enable the traditional financial ecosystem to get in on digital assets including Bitcoin, Ether, and Tokenized IPOs (Security Token Offerings, or STOs).

Our platform mirrors the traditional ecosystem but leverages smart digital processes and bolts on the blockchain to generate efficiencies, security and transparency, meeting Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF). It effectively lowers operational costs by optimizing workflow and processes for all stakeholders as well enabling investors to trade in a secure, reliable, and 100% insured environment.

Marko Hafez, President & CEO of Blockstation - Interview Series

 

In early 2019, Blockstation partnered with both the Barbados Stock Exchange and the Jamaica Stock Exchange in order to facilitate future Tokenized IPOs/STOs.  How did these relationships initially develop?

In 2017, a business development rep from the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) heard about our platform and invited us to visit the JSE in Kingston, Jamaica, to demo our technology as well as provide some education about the blockchain and its benefits for the securities market.

Jai and I saw this as a great opportunity, as the JSE is the strongest stock exchange in the Caribbean and internationally recognized as well. It had just been named the world’s top-performing exchange by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2015. The JSE has continued to be a strong performer internationally and an ideal partner for Blockstation, again earning Bloomberg recognition for the same achievement in 2018.

After those first few meetings and demos with the JSE leadership team and the Financial Services Commission (FSC) of Jamaica, our visions were in alignment and the relationship progressed to launching a successful trading pilot in 2018 and a schedule go-live for early 2020.

During that same period, the Blockstation team grew to include talented people who brought existing relationships with institutions such as the Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE), and others. They provided valuable inroads for expansion to other markets, and we’ll be announcing partnerships with other exchanges throughout 2020.

 

What are some of the projects that will be launching on the Jamaican Stock Exchange?

As you know, the first four Tokenized IPOs to be listed on the JSE Digital Asset Trading Platform (DATP) were recently announced on stage at the JSE Investment and Capital Markets Conference 2020.

Also, our Smart Listing Accelerator Portal (SLAP) went live recently so issuers are now able to login and start creating their prospectus.

The five lead companies are:

Wipay from Trinidad (Money Transfer)

BRED from Toronto, Canada (Real Estate)

Lotus Energy from Australia (Energy sector)

VeleV Capital from Toronto, Canada (Mortgage Investment Corporation)

Connoisseur Culture (CBDMS)  from Montreal, Canada (Cannabis)

Other sectors in the pipeline include bio-health, video game publishing, music, sports, and mining.

Our full list of upcoming listings is available here

 

Do we have a date yet for when the first project in Barbados will launch and what are these projects?

We received interest from several issuers with the desire to initiate their tokenized IPO on the BSE.  We don’t have a specific time on this launch but everything is moving in forward and we look to potentially go live this year.

 

You’re based in Toronto, Canada, home of Ethereum and many more exciting blockchain projects. Do you feel that being based out of Toronto has been beneficial to Blockstation?

Toronto is home to a lot of people who are talented and knowledgeable about the blockchain and capital markets, plus it’s a hub of international commerce. We’ve made a lot of fantastic connections just by being located where we are, some of whom are on the Blockstation team right now.

 

In November 2019, you announced joining and taking a leadership role in the Crypto Asset Working Group organized by IIROC, a Canadian self-regulatory body. What are the goals of this organization?

The ball has been rolling in Canada for a while now, helped along by the mid-2019 release of the FATF report, which recommended a global standard for digital assets including the same AML and CTF requirements for Digital Asset Service Providers as for traditional financial institutions.

IIROC’s Crypto Asset Working Group (CWG) was created in late 2019 with the goal of developing a regulatory framework for crypto assets while addressing market integrity and investor protection. It’s highly collaborative, with representation from financial institutions and technology companies from every aspect of the industry – including Blockstation team member Linda Montgomery.

Our participation on this working group speaks to Blockstation’s status as a leader in compliant digital assets for the regulated marketplace, particularly as it relates to our ChainWatch AML/CTF tool. Our regulation-first approach is one of the major reasons we received a no objection letter from the Financial Services Commission of Jamaica and are able to move forward with the JSE.

We’re excited to be part of the IIROC working group and look forward to leveraging our successful partnerships with other securities regulators to develop a framework that works for the Canadian marketplace.

 

What are some of the other projects that BlockStation is working on?

It’s 2020 – it’s time that regulated digital assets became an everyday, mainstream reality in Canada and the US. While both markets have taken baby steps with some degree of licensing for service providers and a handful of institutions like Fidelity or Bakkt making headlines, we just aren’t there yet.

At Blockstation, we feel the time is right to build on regulatory efforts so far and bring industry participants together to demonstrate exactly what a full framework for a compliant, end-to-end digital asset ecosystem could look like in action.

In Canada, that means a live digital asset trading pilot to complement and inform the efforts of the IIROC working group. I can confirm that we already have interest from a number of motivated ecosystem participants including brokers, stock exchanges and even depositories, and we’re excited to move forward with a pilot in our own backyard.

In the United States, we’re working to unveil a new service offering entirely: end-to-end broker and issuer support for STOs in full compliance with securities regulations.

Issuers will benefit from the same tools for disclosure documentation, token issuance, and lifecycle management while being able to reformat their filings for various regulators in different jurisdiction. For brokers though, it’s a real game-changer. Once they’re on board, they’ll have centralized access to the full database of issuers, complete with an intelligent risk-profile matching engine that connects them with the opportunities that best match their needs.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Blockstation?

Blockstation is more than a FinTech company. Our team brings years of expertise in compliance, risk management, and capital markets. We’re always thinking years ahead to ensure that technology for traditional financial institutions is ready and waiting when regulations come into effect.

We do this successfully by having extensive and productive discussions with central banks, regulators, stock exchanges, custodians, brokers, issuers, and investors from across the globe. This collective data gives us an edge and a clear vision on what direction to take in developing the right technology at the right time.

We are blessed to have a great team with the right experience to execute on our current and future goals, and we look forward to a bright 2020 for Blockstation.

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Antoine Tardif is the founding partner of Securities.io, the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 blockchain & AI projects. He is also the founder of Unite.AI a news website for AI and Robotics, as well as Bitcoinlightning.com a news website focusing on the lightning network.

Exchanges

Hirander Misra, Chairman of GMEX Group & Chairman of SECDEX – Interview Series

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Hirander Misra, Chairman of GMEX Group & Chairman of SECDEX - Interview Series

Hirander Misra is the Chairman and CEO of GMEX Group (GMEX), offering innovative solutions for the creation & operation of electronic exchanges and post trade infrastructure in securities, FX, derivatives, commodities, crypto & digital assets.

He is also Chairman of SECDEX, the Seychelles based Securities, Commodities and Derivatives Exchange, which is a full ecosystem for digital and traditional assets enabled by blockchain technology.

Can you start by sharing what GMEX Group is?

GMEX Group (“GMEX”) is a global provider of innovative multi-asset exchange trading and post trade business solutions and technology ecosystems. As a market infrastructure vendor, we focus on technology and interconnectivity. Our solutions address the end to end regulatory and contract environment needs for issuance, trading, clearing and settlement of securities across exchanges, across all asset classes including traditional, alternative and digital assets, digital currencies as well as hybrid digital securitisation of traditional assets including derivatives.

GMEX’s focus is on digitally transforming global financial markets, enabling participants to launch new solutions, expand current operations and scale to meet market demands. We carry this out using two proven engagement mechanisms to enable our clients to use technology to achieve their commercial goals:

  • Market Advancement Programme (MAP), which delivers multi-asset Exchange and Post-trade enablement with an optimal combination of traditional and digital market infrastructure technology and services
  • Partnership-driven Approach, we do not just sell technology, rather we use a combination of FinTech, business and investment solutions empowering partnerships and ventures.

 

What sparked your interest initially in launching GMEX?

When we started out in 2012, the existing market infrastructure vendors were very much of the customer-supplier mindset, providing legacy technology at inflated prices without taking into account the real business and operational needs, including any commercial constraints which may exist. This was our opportunity to differentiate ourselves!

We provide business expertise, the latest technology, connectivity & operational expertise delivered through an aligned partnership driven approach for exchanges, trading venues, clearing houses, depositories, registries and warehouse receipt platforms. In many cases this also allows us to align interests by taking equity in the ventures we are working with, as and where such opportunities make sense.

In 2016 we were able to capitalise on the opportunities that blockchain presented, initially on provenance of commodities and subsequently within capital markets. We were surprised at how most projects just harnessed the technology in the same way that traditional technology was being used and thought, what is the point? That spurred us on to look at ways in which the technology could be leveraged to revolutionise and democratise the way capital markets and marketplaces for other asset classes operated.

 

Can you tell us about GMEX Investments, and what type of investments are made?

The investment focus for GMEX is early stage equity and token strategic investment in market infrastructure and related FinTech companies, which are synergistic with what GMEX does in terms of servicing and product capabilities. In addition, we also venture build our own initiatives.

Given the interesting pre Series-A FinTech opportunities we are coming across, we have also launched Digital Investment Fund PCC (“DIF”) in the Seychelles, which is the is the world’s first fully regulated tokenised hybrid fund. We have an interest in companies, which have genuine intellectual property in the blockchain and artificial Intelligence (“AI”) space within financial services, combined with early client traction.

 

Can you elaborate on the digital exchange trading and post trade technology offered by GMEX Technologies?

GMEX offers the first truly hybrid exchange and post trade ecosystem, Fusion, bridging the gap between traditional and digital assets underpinned by regulatory frameworks. This is quite analogous to interconnected telecommunications networks. We ensure our solutions are aligned with the business objectives of our clients and partners.  GMEX Fusion is a hybrid centralised & blockchain distributed ledger technology suite and middleware, which is deployed and trusted by multiple international regulated financial institutions around the globe. The suite includes:

  • ForumPortal, a tokenisation, registration and issuance platform;
  • Forum Trader, a secondary trading front-end and order management system;
  • ForumMatch, a high-performance exchange trading platform with integral matching engine;
  • ForumDetect, a market surveillance system;
  • ForumIndex, an index calculation and dissemination system;
  • ForumCustody, a digital custody platform for clearing and settlement;
  • ForumWallet, a wallet management platform, which can also interface with third party wallets;
  • ForumCCP, a clearing platform facilitating credit checking, position keep and margining;
  • ForumCSD, a central securities depository and registry platform facilitating settlement;
  • ForumPay, a simple and secure platform for making international payments, money transfer, withdrawals and deposits across multiple financial instruments.

 

Why are cryptocurrency exchanges attracted to using GMEX?

Cryptocurrency and digital assets exchanges are attracted to using GMEX because they appreciate we have genuine proven solutions and a practical understanding of digital assets as opposed to the hype and vapourware that some are touting out in the market.

They like the fact that the technology stack is designed for the needs and quirks of cryptocurrency and digital asset markets, which can include 24 hour trading, 18 decimal places due to fractional ownership, high volume requirements and the need to offer tokenisation and digital custody services beyond just exchange solutions.

Importantly, as markets in this space become increasingly regulated, GMEX is able to support our clients with our regulatory and business expertise in operating markets across the globe, which is highly valued.

 

How scalable is GMEX technology?

Cryptocurrency and other types of digital asset exchanges are facing a very serious challenge with the increasing volumes of orders they need to cope with. Investors and speculators expect their orders to be executed within a few milliseconds especially in hectic market conditions i.e. when volumes are at their highest peak. Any slowness in order execution will cause loss of confidence and order flows to switch to other venues. Exchanges must ensure their technology can stay ahead of the fierce competition. Recent volatile cryptocurrency market conditions were a performance wake-up call for cryptocurrency exchanges.

Our technology stack is modular and component based and is designed to flexibly support multiple assets and numerous private and public blockchains. It also has the ability to easily interconnect many nodes, whether they are running our technology or are third party platforms. Our low-latency and high-throughput exchange solutions combined with high availability ensure successful operation in critical market infrastructure environments. Superior performance is also achieved by way of a low hardware footprint. We also include appropriate open source components to remove third party licence fees. The technology stack scales through use of virtualisation and cloud services, as an alternative to local deployment, where there is a need for a turnkey Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) model to be offered as an option.

 

You are also Chairman of the SECDEX, the Seychelles based Securities, Commodities and Derivatives Exchange. Could you tell us about the SECDEX and why it matters?

The SECDEX Group business consists of a regulated:

  • Exchange;
  • Central counterparty clearing house (CCP);
  • Central securities depository with registry;
  • Digital marketplace; and
  • Digital custodian.

SECDEX is unique as it is the first fully-regulated, multi-asset, hybrid market infrastructure ecosystem combining the benefits of a digital exchange with those of a traditional exchange to deliver seamless trading, clearing and settlement. It is based on the strengths of GMEX Group as a founding shareholder combined with the professional services of Digital Partners Network (DPN) as a co-founding shareholder. DPN services include specialist legal, finance, compliance, corporate structuring, finance, strategic consulting, technology-enabled digital transformation and potential investment through a digital fund.

This is game changing, as until now there have been too many intermediaries for these different services, and they have not been offered cost-effectively under a single umbrella. This means that in addition to the listing of traditional securities and derivatives, Security Token Offerings (STOs) can be undertaken in a regulated, trusted environment with issuance, full professional services support for the tokenisation process covering legal and valuations in addition to capital raising, with listing and secondary trading on the SECDEX Exchange.

 

It was also recently announced that the SECDEX group has welcomed a new addition to their ranks – SECDEX Digital Custodian (SDC). Could you tell us about this digital custodian solution?

SECDEX Digital Custodian Limited (SDC) is a regulated digital custodian offering cold storage and custodial services for cryptocurrencies, security tokens and other digital assets. SDC caters to retail, high net worth (HNW) and institutional users including exchanges, marketplaces, brokers, banks, payment service providers and traditional custodians.

SDC services include:

  • Safeguarding of digital assets
  • Transaction recording and reporting for its users
  • Automated transfers, balance confirmations and account related requests
  • Escrow services
  • A multi-signature authorisation protocol to ensure that no single party is able to initiate and complete a transaction within its custody. Furthermore, under its technological platform operated by the venue, each key is held with segregated accounts.

SDC, in a short space of time, has already attracted USD 544,718,948 of assets which it has tokenised with immutability and transparency on the Ethereum blockchain.

 

One of your other projects is promoting Blockchain solutions to drive financial inclusion across Africa. Could you share some of your views regarding this?

There are an estimated 700 million unbanked farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and every country has its own structures and complexities. At the heart of the problem is the lack of price transparency for farmers for their produce. Better prices would mean improved income, allowing them to better afford seeds, pesticides, fertilisers and even opening up credit.

FinComEco, the financial and commodities ecosystem, links agriculture to the latest financial technology down to the individual smallholder farmer level and beyond from origination to destination. This is achieved via a model which is adaptable to local requirements with an underlying ecosystem of technology, finance, exchanges, logistics, sourcing and supply chain infrastructure. Its aims are to:

  • Facilitate financial inclusion with social impact for smallholder farmers;
  • Bank the unbanked through facilitation of finance;
  • Facilitate cheaper inputs and access to warehouses; and
  • Provide commercial farmers better access to markets.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share regarding either GMEX or SECDEX?

GMEX has collected feedback about digital asset deployments from securities exchanges who are

  • Conscious of the importance to offer digital assets for trading
  • Concerned by new technology investments
  • Uneasy with the Blockchain/DLT technology due to a few scandals and scams
  • Reluctant because of unknown legal and administrative implications

GMEX, DPN and SECDEX have responded by combining their strengths in a single value proposition with a multitude of technology, regulatory and services options to enhance the knowledge and associated business opportunities available to traditional securities exchanges.

With a growing number of jurisdictions recognising security token equivalence to traditional securities, it is now evident that exchange operators should embrace the transition to digital or, more appropriately, a hybrid integrated approach. Traditional exchanges, whether incumbent or challenger, are now acting under similar regulatory frameworks and are on the same level playing field with regard to digital assets. Early movers are taking advantage of this new territory. However, given the pace of change and anticipated exponential growth of the digital economy, firms should see this as a catalyst to re-engineer their objectives, processes, and strategies rather than just replace like for like. It is vital to act now to leverage this opportunity and to be part of the paradigm shift into this new era of digital exchanges and post trade, which ultimately can benefit investors, SMEs and the wider capital markets.

Thank you for the great interview answers. Readers who wish to learn more should visit:

GMEX Group (GMEX), offering innovative solutions for the creation & operation of electronic exchanges and post trade infrastructure in securities, FX, derivatives, commodities, crypto & digital tokenised assets.

SECDEX, the Seychelles based Securities, Commodities and Derivatives Exchange, which is a full ecosystem for digital and traditional assets enabled by blockchain technology.

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Crowdfunding

Andrew Adcock, CEO of Crowd for Angels – Interview Series

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Andrew Adcock, CEO of Crowd for Angels - Interview Series

Andrew is the Chief Executive Officer at Crowd for Angels an equity crowdfunding platform. He often attends and speaks at events on Crowdfunding, Alternative Finance and Investment. Previously, he worked at NinetyTen, a web application developer and provider of Private Social Networks, whose clients included Nokia, Channel 4 and Shop Direct

You were one of the original Co-Founders of Crowd for Angels. Can you discuss the inspiration behind launching this business?

I was indeed one of the Founding team at Crowd for Angels, but the inspiration for launching the company comes from our Director Tony de Nazareth, who combined his decades of financial knowledge with the ‘social media’ approach. This was to get the community involved when funding and supporting a business, thereby creating brand advocates that not only financially supported the aspirations of a company but also became a voice and customer of the company.

How much do you involve yourself in the pitch decks and packaging the deals that are found on Crowd for Angels?

I am involved in most companies that seek to list on Crowd for Angels. I take a genuine fascination in the lives of start-ups and companies looking to expand. Each has its own story and passion, which I am enthused by. Having raised funds for my own company and invested in many others, I hope to provide insight for the company.

What type of due diligence is performed on the companies that are listed?

A lot! Crowd for Angels breaks due diligence down into 3 key areas, firstly, we conduct factual checks such as KYC, AML, PEP, Credit Checks on the directors, reviewing accounts produced by the company and verifying facts stated on their pitch. Secondly, we conduct market checks, for instance, is the product available and as described, is there an addressable market, is the valuation reasonable, what legal challenges the company might face and is it ethical. The final check is one of sanity, which is not only tested by Crowd for Angels, but also by our Angels, who will ask the company their own questions.

What are some of the main reasons behind companies being turned down for listing on the platform?

There can be a number of reasons but a few we find most common are as follows:

  • The valuation is simply too high in comparison to the companies position
  • The company does not provide documentation (business plan, management accounts, incorporation documents)
  • The product is too early-stage or not yet developed
  • The directors have no ‘Skin in the Game’

What are the biggest benefits of equity crowdfunding?

I personally believe the biggest benefit is the ability to create brand advocates, people who support your business financially and become active customers, drawing in others to check out your brand, whether that is through word of mouth or social media.

Could you give us a success story of a company that raised funds on the Crowd for Angels platform?

One of my favourites is a company called CNPPS. A young entrepreneur, who was studying engineering at university at the time had created a permeable pavement solution that used recycled aggregate. Now that might not sound as fascinating as an app, but our world is covered in roads and pavements. His solution, used 100% recycled aggregate and was carbon negative, furthermore, it allowed water to pass through. Working with the entrepreneur we were able to raise £100,000 for a phase of testing that has now led on to a commercial contract and further funding for the company.

What made it interesting was the ethical approach the company had took to change an old industry, the tenacity the entrepreneur showed never giving up and that a business can truly be grown from the ground up, out of university none-the-less. So far in a 2 year period, the company’s valuation has increased 4 fold, delivering a solid return for the Angels involved.

Crowd for Angels is one of the few crowdfunding platforms that accept bitcoin. How many investors use bitcoin, and where do most of these investors originate from?

Yes, we have been accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment for investment since early 2016. At that time, we integrated this payment option to allow foreign investors to invest in UK companies without the costs and time associated with international bank transfers. Initially, we saw a number of Australians, Chinese and mainly Asian investors utilise this form of payment. However, as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies gained in popularity, we did see growth in European investors utilising cryptocurrency. Partly this is due to the gains they might have experienced and I believe the convenience cryptos offered. Now, we have over 14,000 members registered with a cryptocurrency wallet on our platform, with many of them in Europe.

A few years ago, the ANGEL token was released. What are the use cases for this token?

The ANGEL token was released to drive down the user acquisition cost of investors whilst rewarding stakeholders for interacting with our platform. It is hoped that when users interact and share content in the network, say an investment they had just made in a fledgeling company, that they would be rewarded with ANGEL. Crowd for Angels has then committed to buy back and burn ANGEL linked to the revenue generated from our pitches, thus creating a virtuous circle. We hope in the future, our Angels will also be able to use the ANGEL token as a method of payment towards an investment.

How do you see digital assets and digital securities eventually merging with crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding utilises technology to allow the masses to invest small amounts into pitches, but the shares are usually held with a nominee and should you wish to sell them or give them to someone else, it is difficult. Therefore, the integration of digitalised assets should be a no brainer, because it potentially gives the control of the asset back to the investor and follows a set of rules, that can’t be broken. In a utopian world, you would allow investors to purchase, hold and trade any assets that they wish. With the blockchain, you benefit from an immutable ledger that would record these transactions, giving you efficiency and transparency. I believe we are only a stones throw away from some big changes.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Crowd for Angels?

We are always open to ideas, a conversation can go a long way.

Thank you for the interview. Readers who wish to learn more may visit our Crowd for Angels business listing or the Crowd for Angels website.

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Interviews

Jim Dowd, Founder & Managing Director of North Capital – Interview Series

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Jim Dowd, Founder & Managing Director of North Capital - Interview Series

James Dowd is Founder and CEO of North Capital Private Securities (NCPS), a registered broker-dealer focused on origination, placement, and clearing of exempt securities; North Capital Investment Technology (NCIT), which provides technology for the exempt securities market; and North Capital Inc., a registered investment advisor. NCPS is the designated broker-dealer for many securities funding platforms in the early stage equity, real estate, private funds, and securities token markets.

North Capital recently completed the membership approval process with FINRA and achieved acceptance of Form ATS Initial Operations Report by the SEC. For those who are unfamiliar with this form, what makes it so important for North Capital and its clients?

Great question.  Our customers and many other issuers, investors and intermediaries who are involved in private securities markets want to see more transparency and liquidity in private markets.  Investing in  private deals has traditionally involved a minimum 7 to 10 year capital commitment, since there is typically no interim liquidity and no definitive exit plan.  I have one private investment that has been outstanding for 19 years, another that has been alive for 14 years, not to mention the many investments that did not work out.  Once someone makes a private investment, if they have second thoughts or change their opinion, it’s too late.  Almost every investor who allocates to private deals knows or should know this, and most would like to have liquidity and real price discovery for the private securities in their portfolios.  We hope our ATS will help to realize this vision, at least for the issuers, investors and intermediaries who share it.

 

The launch of this ATS serves as a natural extension to North Capital’s existing private securities infrastructure, TransactCloud. What is TransactCloud?

TransactCloud is our API-first technology stack that facilitates primary offerings of exempt securities.  We work with issuers and professional intermediaries — broker-dealers, RIAs, and funding platforms — to allow the offering, transaction, document processing, escrow, payments and clearing of exempt securities online.

 

Can you clarify North Digital’s stance on digital assets such as bitcoin, or in digital securities such as security tokens?

To be clear on this point, we ourselves are not investing in digital assets;  we are providing infrastructure to allow trading of digital asset securities through our regulated marketplace, the PPEX ATS.  We will not be trading cryptocurrency or utility tokens.  The SEC regulations related to alternative trading systems are very clear:  ATSs are for the trading of securities only.  We also will be listing and trading non-digital exempt securities.

 

North Capital also offers investment opportunities which are deemed as “frontier alternatives”. Could you share some details on what you would consider frontier alternatives?

“Frontier” in the context of investment management refers to the most emerging of emerging markets.   We coined the term “frontier alternative” to convey the same idea ~ some examples would be investments in art, collectibles, fine wine, litigation pools, digital currency, race horses, athletes, etc.   I fully expect that in ten years, some of these will have become mainstream alternatives.  Private credit is a good example ~ ten years ago, private credit was considered exotic;  today there are registered funds that invest in private credit and it’s considered a mainstream alternative asset class.

 

North Capital has been involved in over 1,000 primary offerings totaling $1.9 billion. What are some of these notable offerings?

It’s difficult to single out specific deals.  We have so many great partners who are doing innovative work.  Groups like Jamestown, Crowdstreet, RealtyMogul, RichUncles, Securitize, SportBLX, Exponential, Roofstock, Mythic Markets, Otis, Commonwealth, SeedInvest.  Quadrant Biosciences has a Reg A+ offering that we’re working on right now ~ our first collaboration with WeFunder.  Metaurus is one of our partners, run by a talented team led by Rick Sandulli and Jamie Greenwald, who I worked with 30 years ago at Bankers Trust.  They have two listed ETF-style products that are patent-protected and could revolutionize the way equity investors take risk.  I know I am leaving somebody out so I’ll apologize in advance.

 

Could you share some of the Broker/Dealer services that are offered by your firm?

We are a full-service broker-dealer for private and other exempt offerings, along with investment companies such as mutual funds and ETFs.  We also are an escrow agent for private offerings including serving as a qualified third party for Reg CF offerings.  Compliance support is integral to all of our activities — we help issuers and platforms to comply with securities laws.  Last year we were approved to broker EB5 deals, but that market is shuttered for now, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

What type of custody services are offered?

Today we custody cash, private securities, and mutual fund shares.  It’s still early days for our custody business, and we have deliberately limited our rollout to allow us to test systems and procedures.  But this is a high growth segment of our business.

 

Could you also share some details regarding the advisory services that are offered?

The advisory part of our business is done through a separate, SEC-registered investment advisor.  It’s a technology-enabled financial planning and wealth management business, along with a bespoke, consultative advisory practice for family offices and business owners.

 

The firm also offers technology-based investment solutions to broker-dealers, banks, fund managers, funding platforms, and private issuers. What are some of these solutions?

On the advisory side, the evisor platform is an online financial planning and wealth management platform.  We’re currently working with one bank on a pilot program, and we’re integrating it into our broader advisory and 401k business.  On the exempt offerings / broker-dealer side of our business, TransactCloud is a collection of products and services used by issuers and professional intermediaries for online securities offerings.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Readers who wish to learn more should visit of North Capital Private Securities.

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