Boaz Yaari is the CEO and Founder of Sharegain, a capital markets Fintech that is democratising securities lending. Sharegain’s solutions empower asset managers, wealth managers and custodian banks to unlock the additional revenue that securities lending can offer them and their clients. Boaz leads a fast-growing team of 38 who are split between the UK and Israel.
Hi Boaz, what are you working on today?
COVID-19 has been a real catalyst for us – it has vindicated our business model and our solution. So we’re currently moving into scale-up mode. That means my role is evolving quickly and requires a very different skill set. I now spend a lot of time helping the team and exercising those scale-up muscles that we’ll need over the next few years.
How did you get to where you are now?
There’s a George Bernard Shaw quote that I think best sums it up: “Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” I’ve been a paratrooper, a lawyer, an FX derivatives trader, a hedge fund portfolio manager and now a Fintech founder and CEO. They’re very different roles, but they all call for tenacity, strategic thinking coupled with tactical flexibility, and good risk-reward management.
What attracted you to this business?
I was drawn to securities lending because it was a relatively unknown space where I could see a lot of blue ocean opportunities. Every stock, bond or ETF owner has a right to lend their securities, but only big institutions have been able to actually benefit from it in the past. No one else seemed to care that most investors were locked out of a new source of income which derives from a basic ownership right. That was how we knew there was an opportunity to go big and do things differently. There’s a great saying that I love: “the most scalable ideas are not the ones that are solving dramatic problems, but the ones that are solving neglected problems”.
What has been the most pivotal moment of your career so far?
That would have to be leaving the hedge fund world to found a start-up. When you’re a portfolio manager, you’re somewhat pampered because you have a team behind you for support and your role is very focused on generating returns. When you found a start-up, you do EVERYTHING. You’re a CEO, project manager, marketer, bookkeeper, QA analyst, plumber, electrician, whatever the business needs. You have to be jack-of-all-trades and you have to master every single skill. That builds character and requires a lot of humility. It really makes you understand the value of your team and what makes a good company. I also stepped into a tech world which was new to me and had to put my money where my mouth is for many months, so it was a huge pivot on every front.
What aspect of the fintech industry excites you the most?
As a portfolio manager, I always loved how instantaneous the feedback loop was in capital markets. You can make a decision and within a short period of time (hours, days, weeks) you’ll see whether your decision was the right one or not. At Sharegain, the horizon was naturally much longer – it took years to build a valid proposition and a brand. At the same time, the pace is fast, so that feedback loop still keeps us hungry and aware.
What would you change?
We talk a lot about “democratising” at Sharegain and I think that’s much bigger than just securities lending. There’s an information asymmetry in capital markets – if you’re a big institutional player, you’ve got a lot of data. But if you’re a small retail investor, you have very little, even though you may find yourself buying and selling the same stock in the same place and at the same price. We’re on a mission to level that playing field.
What do you invest in personally?
Well I’m invested 120% in Sharegain – I’ve become a cliché of myself! So I hardly invest elsewhere, either for return or for pleasure. My approach to investments is that when the risk or reward is compelling, that’s when you have to invest. It’s about being patient, finding the right time to act and then putting a sizeable position (risk-adjusted) to work. I don’t believe in diversification and I don’t believe in being invested all the time. That might work for some investors, but not for me.
Where do you celebrate?
Well we’re still in lock-down so I’m not doing a lot of celebrating at the moment. But what I miss is a Vesper Martini from the best martini bar in the world, the DUKES Bar at the DUKES Hotel in Mayfair.
What is at the top of your bucket list right now?
I’d like to do a course in free-diving (preferably somewhere nice and exotic like The Maldives), that’s got to be top of the list.
What does success mean to you?
For me, success isn’t a destination. It’s about going on a journey and being able to enjoy that journey (most of the time), wherever it takes you.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A quote from Rory Vaden: “It’s ok to be scared, just do it scared.”
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