On Pioneers and Innovation in the West

"Go West Young Man" …an often used cliché.

For me, it is ironic because the first thing I did, like so many others looking for a career in the markets and finance, was to go east.  Whether it be New York, Toronto, or London - those are the destinations one often cuts their teeth in as they are the epicenters for trading, finance, market participation.  These business centers are full of career opportunities no matter where you are from for a hodge-podge of "foreigners" who are ambitious, excited and willing to learn. 

However, once you’ve been there a while, the opportunity seemed to shift.   People often head back west.  Why? What is it about the west?  I liked the word so much that I named my son “West”.

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I believe there is a spirit in the west that goes back to the pioneer days that endures to this day.  There is an excitement of breaking new ground, trying something new and innovating that is germane to the west.  

Whether it be in Houston or Calgary for Energy (for me I ended up in both), Silicon Valley and San Fran for tech and VC, or Seattle for software, payments and the online marketplace that is sweeping the globe, they are all in the west.  The culture of these western locations and the businesses that develop there are built on innovation and disruption. 

However, I also observe that much of the financial business has remained concentrated in the east. Perhaps it is the shear scale, concentration of banks or maybe it has been the focus of talent historically.   Many of the FinTech hubs are in the east, but with the concentration now shifting to new locations out west.  We have seen signs of this with Robo-Advisory firms like Wealthfront in California and Wealthbar in Vancouver.   Or even in Calgary with Solium (stock options software) and Benevity (corporate giving). 

The concentration of educated, ambitious engineers and computer scientists makes a difference.  Places like Denver, Austin, Seattle, Calgary and Vancouver offer an educated and experienced workforce along with a lifestyle often sought by the creatively disruptive crowd.   Engineers that once went into the ubiquitous energy business now have other options and other western locations to consider.

But here is my prediction - the same disruption and creativity we have witnessed in software, payments, electric vehicles, tech, and retail that developed in the west will also happen in financial services and markets.   Given online technology and the ability to connect to exchanges anywhere, location is less relevant.  The west will be a key driver of this shift as it has been in so many other areas. 

If you are planning a visit “out west” to Calgary, please let us know. For more about the innovative Auspice CTA and commodity strategies and the potential portfolio benefits, please give us a call.

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