7 Questions with Daniel of Universal-Investment
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
Hello, I am Daniel Andemeskel, Director and Head of Innovation Management at Universal-Investment. I am currently responsible for the Group’s innovation agenda while at the same time developing the next generation investment platform for digital assets, leveraging on Blockchain and AI. Prior to joining Universal-Investment, I gained over 20 years’ experience in investment management in several functions. My motto is to envision new innovations instead of building faster horses (just like the famous quote of Henry Ford) which is why I enjoy speaking at international conferences and panels on innovation and digital transformation. Besides, I am a member of several Blockchain consortiums and forums and like to initiate collaborations on Blockchain.
Work aside, in my personal life I like to travel and discover new cultures and countries. Alongside my passion for cooking and wine. To compensate my full calendar, I am trying to do as much sports as possible, frequent morning runs are my favorite. This is rounded up with the fact that I am an early bird (waking up every morning between 4:30am and 5:00am). I use these morning hours for the innovation visioning and creative part of my job.
2. What are your focus areas, overall and within the FinTech space?
Blockchain is currently changing the way the investment world functions and provides promising opportunities to develop more efficient value chains. The benefits are wide-ranging and include the simplification of identity verification processes, the decrease in fraud and manipulation, the traceability of all operations – just to name a few. The application of blockchain and tokenization of assets through smart contracts is one of my focus areas within the FinTech space. In the future, this will allow us to offer investment services that are faster, more efficient and transparent for our clients.
3. Any recent deals that you would like to share with us, and why you invested?
Recently, we acquired the fintech CAPinside. Based in Hamburg, the start up connects investors and asset managers in the digital age and has built a fast-growing online community for the exchange of investment information. Leveraging on machine learning technology and algorithm-supported news selection from the financial media, the fintech provides users with valuable background knowledge and exclusive content – all on one platform. I believe that this acquisition is a great expansion of our digital marketing and distribution capabilities.
4. Which are the trends to watch out for in the next 6-18 months?
The current global pandemic and growing concerns about climate-related issues emphasize that investors are increasingly looking for opportunities to support causes that they care about. Still today, investors need to adapt to the industry, not the other way around. Therefore, one major trend to watch out for is that impact investing will gain in importance. Financial service providers need to adapt to this and develop products that combine positive financial, social and environmental results and enable clients to pursue individual goals.
Likewise, as a result of the pandemic, the social role of companies has attracted more attention than ever before. People assume that good behavior during the crisis is also an indication of future business success. Therefore, it is not surprising that companies are now more than ever listening to society. The society value concept reflects this important trend and highlights that the customers’ point of view is no longer the only thing that matters, but also the reputation of companies in society.
5. Your advice to European founders looking to scale up and raise funds?
Scaling up your business and raising funds can be quite challenging. My advice I would give to founders is to not fall into the trap of the “must-be-perfect”-syndrome and rather develop MVPs and aim for quick and efficient implementation. Proof of concepts don’t need to be perfect, they are needed to verify that an idea works in practice. Besides, it is important to always keep your customers in mind and adequately assess if customers actually want what you are developing. Products that are built with a customer-first mindset are most likely to succeed and secure funding. Of course, founders should promote an innovative culture within their businesses and recognize the importance of collaborating with partners outside the firm’s boundaries to build successful and innovative ecosystems.
6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?
The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee is currently on my reading list. The authors argue that in the Second Machine Age technology-driven machines will substitute cognitive tasks performed by humans. At Universal Investment, we view technology as a means for the purpose of achieving our goals and creating added value for our clients. Whether technology will complement or substitute humans in the future is an interesting discussion which I enjoy reading about.
7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?
I prefer the hidden champions, for example speakeasy bars like the Prescription Cocktail Club in Paris and cozy coffee places such as Café Karin and restaurants like the Sushimoto in Frankfurt.