‘We’re innovating at the cusp of a whole new ecosystem’: A former Goldman Sachs exec explains why she made the leap to blockchain

Breanne Madigan

  • Breanne Madigan spent 13 years at Goldman Sachs. Now she’s joining the financial technology startup Blockchain as its head of institutional sales and strategies.
  • She told Business Insider that she was interested in blockchains and cryptocurrencies because, she believes, they will “completely reengineer the way we operate in the future.”
  • Since it’s an emerging market, she’ll have to convince institutional traders that cryptocurrencies are a safe place to invest. But she thinks the team at Blockchain speaks for itself.
  • She’s also excited to be an early builder of what she sees as the future of finance.

Breanne Madigan grew up at Goldman Sachs. It was her first job out of college, and she stayed there for 13 years, first as an associate in money markets, moving up to chief operating officer of global foreign exchange, and finishing out her tenure as the head of institutional wealth services for the Americas.

It was a long career at one of the top financial firms in the country, and one which led her to one fundamental belief: Technology is changing the world of finance.

At the heart of that change, Madigan believes, are cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology behind it. So after more than a decade, she changed course and decided to join a blockchain startup — Blockchain, the startup, to be more precise.

Starting next week, Madigan will join Blockchain as its head of institutional sales and strategy. Her goal: To help scale the company’s business and convince some of the biggest investors in the world that blockchain technology is the future of financial services.

Madigan sat down with Business Insider to discuss what she learned in her time at Goldman Sachs, the future of finance, and why she left a long career in banking for the wild world of cryptocurrency.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Becky Peterson: Tell me about your new job.

Breanne Madigan: I’m thrilled to be joining Blockchain. I’m going to be joining as the head of institutional sales and strategy. At a high level, it’s really building and helping more traditional investors gain unparalleled access to the future of finance. I can’t give too much in the way of details now about all of the exciting things that we have coming, but I can do my best to give you a flavor of what’s in store for now.

I’m officially starting a week from now, but I have had the chance to spend time with the leadership team and Liana [Douillet Guzman, COO] in particular on strategy, and I’m looking forward to getting started officially on Monday.

Peterson: How is your new role different from what you were doing at Goldman Sachs?

Madigan: I’d say overall, in terms of my career at Goldman, I’m really grateful for the wonderful experiences that I had there where I was fortunate to help build and manage a number of new businesses, in some cases from scratch.

Some of the key attributes that I’ll leverage in my new role here include, first and foremost, a healthy obsession with the quality of the customer experience. We learned at Goldman that always putting the client first is the right way to build any business with long-term excellence in mind.

I guess another thing that I see in common is a culture of very high expectations. Not only of themselves but also of their colleagues, because we all wanted to deliver the very best for our clients. And what’s great about me joining Blockchain is that we have all of the very same dedication to excellence but now while operating on the cutting edge of what we view as the future of finance.

‘Blockchains will completely reengineer the way we operate’

Peterson: What attracted you to making the switch from traditional banking to cryptocurrencies?

Madigan: I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that blockchains will completely reengineer the way we operate in the future, broadly speaking. And I think for this next phase of my career, I am really focused on building new businesses, on partnering with exceptional management teams, and a team that has the vision for the future of the financial system. I’m delighted to say that Blockchain really exceeded every aspect of my goals in this regard.

We’re innovating at the cusp of a whole new ecosystem that we believe will change the way that we operate in the future. I’m very thrilled to be a part of their story from the early days, and very much looking forward to helping develop the strategy but also building the products that will really be the foundation of the industry going forward.

Peterson: How did you first learn about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology?

Madigan: Just anecdotally — reading and learning more about the market, getting excited by talking to colleagues at Goldman. I think a lot of people have said that it’s a proverbial rabbit hole — the more you read, the more excited you get.

I’ve done small investments here and there, and I’m just really excited about the growth potential of the market. And I think Blockchain is the optimal place to position myself to really be a part of the early parts of the growth of this industry and ecosystem.

There is still a lot to ‘iron out’ in crypto for institutional investors

Peterson: You’ve spent the last three years of your time at Goldman working closely with institutional investors. What do you see as some of hurdles or barriers to entry for newcomers to crypto?

Madigan: A lot of the traditional financial markets are very mature, so when you’re a core institutional investor who operates with governing rules around your fund, and return expectations, it’s a little more cookie-cutter.

In an emerging market like cryptocurrency there is still a lot to be ironed out. But we are really well-positioned in terms of interpreting what is currently available from a regulatory perspective, and making sure that we’re really operating as open and accessibly as we can, and innovating as we get more clarity around the regulatory landscape.

But since it’s not as cookie cutter as the developed liquid markets, some of the institutional investors are looking for more clarity around the rules and the market place before they jump in.

Peterson: Once you start talking to these investors, how do you persuade them to work with startup like Blockchain versus a larger bank like Goldman?

Madigan: We really built the best team of thought leaders who are really mindful of the regulatory environment and the risks associated with building new platforms in a market like this that is evolving every day.

Ultimately, it’s about these institutional investors learning more about the market and getting more comfortable with their management teams. And I have 100% confidence that as we bring in more institutional investors, they’ll realize that the quality of this team and the quality of our offering, and I don’t think we’ll have quite the hurdle that maybe you’re anticipating now.

Joining Blockchain means being on the ‘cusp of innovation’

Peterson: It seems like a lot bankers are already convinced that blockchain is the future. We seem report frequently on people leaving large banks and firms to join crypto startups. Why do you think this is?

Madigan: It’s becoming increasingly clear by the day that blockchain technology really has the capacity to fundamentally change how the global financial system works, and that’s obviously quite exciting and motivating.

I think the opportunity, for those of us who have been in more of a legacy business for a long time, to now to be on the cusp of innovation, and to really be part of literally building the future of finance; it’s a really intriguing proposition.

I’m really most excited to be doing this specifically at Blockchain based on the quality of the team. I think everybody has this clear, shared vision of building a radically better financial system, and when you think about the impact that our company software has had already, we offer the largest production blockchain platform in the world, which has powered over 100 million transactions already and empowered users in 140 companies across the globe.

So I think people from Wall Street would naturally be excited by an opportunity to be involved in this type of emerging ecosystem, and especially the opportunity to work at a company like Blockchain.

Peterson: In terms of the future of finance, what do you think will be some of the biggest changes that we see to the financial system in the long term?

Madigan: We all agree that transformation doesn’t happen over night. It’s very much in the early stages of both crypto and our company, so a lot remains to be seen. Having said so, I think we’re really, already, starting to see the transformation impact that this technology will have on individuals and industries broadly across the globe. We all agree that it will fundamentally reengineer the way we transact and exchange value.

I think we as a company will continue to innovate, and find new ways to serve a great proportion for the world. We have a lot more in store that we will share in the coming days and weeks.

SEE ALSO: $1.6 billion cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is reportedly in talks to become a licensed brokerage firm

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