Sean Park: Beck to the future?
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Sean Park: Beck to the future?

Sean Park, one of the bond market’s best-known characters during his time at Paribas and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, is now engaged in disrupting the financial industry he was once at the sharp end of.

His company, Anthemis Group – the meaning of which stems from a genus of about 100 species of aromatic flowering plants in the family Asteraceae – describes itself as a diversified financial services group advising, transforming and investing in businesses that “through technology are building better ways to provide and deliver financial services that meet the expectations of 21st century customers.”

If that sounds a little flowery, in fact they are investing in and carrying out advisory work for start-ups such as Simple, Fidor, Moven and The Currency Cloud, among others.

Simple, for instance, is an online-only banking platform in the US that BBVA bought earlier this year for $117 million.

So what’s this all about? In short: digital technology disrupting traditional areas of banking and finance. This is something that Sean – whom we remember well as a fresh-faced bond syndicate manager, but now seems to resemble the pop star Beck – knows something about.

Sean Park, Beck
Park? Beck?

In 2005, he and a few others launched the investment banking industry’s first digital markets division while at DrKW. Unfortunately, the idea, as he describes it, was “culturally puked up” and about a year later the plug was pulled on the division.

Park is now happily running a company where there is less ‘puke’ and more off-sites and hacking retreats in the French Alps. That’s handy for someone who still refuses to give up on his dream of one day skiing in the Olympics.

We’ve already sent him some Winter Olympics video games to help him make that dream a digital reality.

Lessons from the digital disrupters

The world’s biggest banks have been slow to embrace the digital era. What can financial services CEOs learn from new, tech-based companies that have successfully disrupted other industries? What needs to change?