Work in Fintech is launching NFTs for Good, the first utility non-fungible token collection aimed at companies, with the proceeds used to provide on-chain learning and work experience for young people from diverse backgrounds looking to work in fintech and web3.
Matthew Cheung, chief executive of fintech ipushpull, and Ying Cao, former head of digital products at Barclays Investment Bank, are co-founders of the social project. The artworks are diversity-themed and overseen by Benyamin Ahmed, the 13-year old creator of Weird Whales and other NFT collections that have generated $20m in sales.
Cheung told Markets Media that his parents were immigrants and he went to a state school in England where only three or four pupils form the whole year went to university.
“I didn’t have any family or friends to help and there was no career guidance at school,” he said. “I’ve been lucky and ended up creating two companies but there were little things which would have been easier if there was someone to help me along the way.”
As a result, Cheung started to mentor pupils at his old school and help provide work experience in all aspects of fintech or Web3, not just development.
His “lucky break” had come from finding work experience at a local stockbroker when he was 15 after watching the film Wall Street. He went back every year and an introduction from a person in that office resulted in Cheung getting his first job in The City of London.
Cheung has a day job leading ipushpull and about a year ago he realized he needed help on his mentoring project. He interviewed Ying Cao, chief executive of executive coaching platform Liyt, for his podcast about diversity in fintech and they found they had much in common.
Cao grew up in China and arrived in the US 16 years ago to study for a masters degree in economics at Yale, but still found it difficult to find a job on Wall Street. She explained that a total stranger helped her to land her first role by submitting her resume.
“This person changed my life and that inspired me to be that person for someone else,” said Cao. “A small thing can literally change a person’s life.”
Cao became interested in fintech when she was working in credit trading and saw that most of sales and trading wrote orders manually in notepads. She then helped co-create a new group within Barclays to review the bank’s digital strategy.
She continued that, as a woman of color, she had to be someone else in order to be successful on Wall Street. As a result she became a board member of WIND, Women in Derivatives, which was launched to increase diversity and now has around 6,000 members. “A new industry doesn’t want to replicate a similar problem,” Cao added.
The funds raised via the NFTs will be used to offer students, graduates and young people looking to work in fintech and web3 work experience and internship programmes (1-6 week courses), as well as access to coaches and mentors.
Cheung said: “The reason we are raising some money is so we can hire people full time and do this properly, rather than us doing it in our spare time. There is so much demand for helping young people get into this industry.”
Proceeds will also be used to build a blockchain-based gamified and tokenized learning, training and mentoring platform which is open to everyone. Cho explained that success comes from curiosity and passion, but these qualities can be difficult to demonstrate.
“We can observe how the students interact with our platform, how many times they contribute, what type of content they produce and which projects they are interested in,” said Cho. “We can codify this behavior and make suggestions to the companies who are hiring which is a unique approach.”
Companies can use the proof of work on the platform to assess a candidate’s abilities, instead of just relying on resumes or personal recommendations.
Cheung continued that each time someone uses the platform that will be tokenized and ultimately provide a visualisation of their experience based on their on-chain credentials.
“That is linked to your identity,” he said. “The very long-term vision is to provide on-chain credentials of learning and work experience.”
He described the NFTs as the first B2B product which provide more utility than just a piece of art.
“We see them as the building blocks for DeFi and that has been a hot topic in financial services,” he added.
Work in Fintech will use blockchain public ledgers to clearly show how the proceeds of the raise will be allocated in the interests of transparency and accountability. The proceeds will fund work experience programmes, internships and careers fairs in 2022 and 2023.
Cho said that as fintech is a new industry, there are no standardized hiring processes, so Work in Fintech will also be helping firms develop best practices.
“In the short term we want to help people find jobs in a more innovative way“ she added. “Ultimately we want to create a Metaverse of working in fintech.”
The NFTs have already generated strong corporate interest, with sponsors and partners including Adaptive Financial Consulting, Blockchain.com, ipushpull and one of the world’s leading inter-dealer brokers according to the project. They will be launched on June 20 at NFT.NYC, the annual New York NFT industry event.