Weekly Briefing No. 77 | Nothing But Podcasts: Spring Break Week Special

We’re on an extended Spring Break this week, but as promised, we didn’t want to leave you high and dry. If you are on Spring Break or could just use a break from our article heavy format, we invite you to listen to the selection of podcasts that we’ve been gathering. Next week, we’ll be back in the saddle with a regular edition.


Fintech exceptionalism.

We’ve never bought into the idea that fintech is just another tech vertical. In fact, we think that the majority of fintech start-ups are really technology-enabled financial services companies. To enhance the weight of our worldview, we are including the attached podcast featuring Howard Lindzon, a fintech renaissance man who is an author, hedge fund manager and angel investor. Along the way, he also co-founded StockTwits — not too shabby.

This man gets banking transformation.

A former chief data officer of Barclays and Yahoo, Usama Fayyad is exceptionally well positioned to offer wisdom on a number of core technology challenges facing financial institutions today. In this insightful podcast, Fayya opines on automation, how banks can increase the pace of their development efficiency and the value of payments data. Our favorite part, though, is his perspective on the tension between trying to fix legacy systems or building entirely new ones (Minute 20:00).

Ron Johnson is back and he’s out to get Amazon.

Not many professionals have had higher highs and lower lows than Ron Johnson. The Minnesota native is credited with making Target so hip that it could be pronounced with a French accent. Then he headed to Apple, where he reimagined the stodgy computer shopping genre by transforming its retail stores into an uplifting shopping experience. Fresh from these victories, Johnson took his magic to J.C. Penney, where he was named CEO and charged with reinvigorating the brand. Unfortunately for Johnson, his performance there has been characterized as one of the most unsuccessful tenures in retail history. Now Johnson is on the road to redemption with Enjoy, which is seeking to take on Amazon by solving the last mile problem in e-commerce.


Is the American Dream dead or did it just move to Canada?

In 1970, 92% of all 30 year-old Americans were earning more money than their parents had earned at that age (adjusted for inflation). Today, that number has dropped to around 50%. That sizable decrease encapsulates why many people today have concluded that the American Dream is dead. Those pessimists include about 50% of all millennials. Still, while the unvarnished economics of the American Dream is deeply concerning, there is a silver lining. It’s called Canada.

The ghost of Old Hickory in the OCC charter?

What do you get when you stick an undisciplined, wildly coiffed populist in the White House and and mix in a rancorous debate over how best to regulate the financial services industry? You set the stage for what became known as the Panic of 1837. Depending on your political perspective, you may either see no connection to current events or you may hear plenty of relevance to today — especially in the debate over the OCC’s fintech charter, which has pit federal vs. state regulators in a bitter feud.


Are you in a career rut? If so, meet The Iceman.

Never attempt the kind of breathing exercises discussed in this podcast without proper training. That’s the opening salvo in this podcast about Wim Hof (a.k.a. The Iceman) whose breathing practice was inspired by the ancient yogic tradition of pranayam. In the wake of the suicide of his wife, Hof began a spiritual journey that turned his life around and led him to accomplish extraordinary feats, many of which involved the extreme cold. They include scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, completing a barefoot marathon in icy Finland and swimming 66 meters under a meter of ice above the polar circle. If you find yourself in a career or personal cold streak or are just looking for a way to develop your own superpowers, we recommend learning more about this cold-loving Dutchman.

A special thanks to Ronen Olshansky of Los Angeles based Cross Campus for telling us about Hof.

Gary Cohn’s career changing phone call.

In 1994, Gary Cohn was a freshly minted partner at Goldman Sachs who was running a big trading book and managing a large business in London. Trying to be a trader and a business builder at the same time was proving difficult for Cohn, so he picked up the phone and called his boss in search of wisdom. After letting Cohn pour his heart out for 40 minutes, the senior partner abruptly told Cohn to figure it out and hung up. That brand of tough love wasn’t appreciated at the time, but it proved pivotal in the meteoric career of the former Goldman president and now Director of the National Economic Council.

What did you think of our nothing-but-podcast version of The FR? Let us know here.