7 Questions with Morgan Deane, Board Member & Strategic Advisor at Spherium Labs
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
I’m a lawyer by profession but have spent my career working in investment banking across Europe, Asia and the US. Currently I am the CEO of a Swiss based international investment bank.
I have always had a disruptive & inquisitive mindset, and in 16 years of working in investment banking, I have frequently seen things that have been ripe for change.
This led me to be a keen supporter of Blockchain from the early days and I remain convinced it will be a catalyst for major change in the global financial system.
Outside of this, I am a competitive endurance athlete.
I compete in Spartan Ultra (Ultra Marathon races run in the mountains, with obstacles such as carrying logs, chains, rocks thrown in for good measure) and have my eyes set on competing in an Ironman in the near future.
People are often surprised that I have the time to do this but I truly believe that sports like these help me to clear the noise from my mind and learn to focus on the things that really matter.
2. Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors?
Spherium offers every person on the planet access to decentralized financial services – from lending & borrowing to investing & trading, and everything in between.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what level of financial & technical expertise you have. Our wallet is extremely simple to use and all you need is internet access to become fully ‘banked’. We give you complete control over the creation of your financial wealth.
The first Spherium release will be called “Spherium Amanah” which offers all of the above in a fully Sharia compliant fashion. It will focus exclusively on providing services to the Muslim world and it will be the first product of its kind on the market.
Because of the unique nature of our product, we will have many competitors because they all offer fragmented pieces of what we do. However, Spherium offers it all “under one roof” which makes us confident that the simplicity of the user experience will give us a significant advantage.
Over time, we expect that institutional players who would otherwise have sought to compete with us will look to become part of the Spherium ecosystem, as it will be a gateway to a previously inaccessible global diaspora.
This is what excites us the most as it would represent a complete rewiring of the financial system. For the first time ever, the user would be fully in control of their financial journey while the entire world of financial products would respond to their needs specifically.
3. How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers?
1.7 billion People on the planet are completely unbanked, and that number is even larger when you include the ‘underbanked’ i.e. those who have access to banking but only receive the most basic of services. Everyone laments the fact that the rich get richer, but we persist with a financial system that is not capable of closing that gap. In addition, the financial system has begun to use Blockchain technology to make things more efficient but has not addressed the inequality.
We know that DeFi has all of the capabilities to fix that so we decided it was time to shift the narrative. Instead of waiting for the traditional finance system to change, we decided to create a brand new financial ecosystem that solves the problem.
Let people choose which system they want to use, and in the process, ensure that everyone can choose at least one.
4. How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
So far we have bootstrapped and have benefitted from a team of driven, knowledgeable and passionate who are working on this because they believe in the change which DeFi can bring to everybody.
Everyone on the team has been through fund-raising journeys at one point or another and the lessons always seem to be the same.
A solid idea with a clear execution plan will find funding. You need to be prepared to get to that point on a shoestring so that all energy goes into the idea first, not how to get money.
5. Which are the key trends and opportunities in (European) financial services?
In a nutshell, the big opportunities lie in the move towards Blockchain and digital assets.
Europe stands to gain a lot from this because the legal and regulatory certainty around digital assets generally is definitely giving Europe an advantage over markets like the US.
Moreover, Europe’s harmonized regulatory regime creates easy access to a sizable market for any participant here.
Drilling deeper into the opportunities of Blockchain I think the biggest opportunity of all is DeFi. But the key cornerstone of this opportunity will be to avoid strangling it with regulation.
6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?
I’m mostly a non-fiction reader and am drawn to books which challenge me to alter my perspective. Most recently, I have enjoyed behavioral psychology books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Talking to Strangers’ and ‘Irresistible’ by Adam Alter.
Right now I am reading ‘Homo Deus’ by Yuval Harari. This, together with his previous book ‘Sapiens’, makes you realize that much of what we think has existed forever is actually just a recently made human concept. Which begs the question – why are we so afraid of changing the way we do things?
7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?
My favorite coffee place? Probably my own kitchen.
If I am honest, I’m a bit of a coffee snob and I’ve invested time and money to ensure I can immerse myself in a real barista experience at home.
I believe I make the best oat milk latte you can find anywhere.
But I never make them for anyone else so, in startup terms, my coffee has had no customer or market validation!