Welcome to Office Hours, where members of the Argent community share personal career stories and, in the process, dispense invaluable advice, rare insight, and inspiration through lived experiences.
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Co-Founder and SVP of Operations, BlockFi
It’s nearly impossible to discuss personal finances today without crypto entering the conversation. Whether you’re a seasoned trader or someone who’s barely made it past a “what is crypto?” Google search, there’s always new information to parse through. Take, for instance, recent headlines reporting that crypto values have plummeted. The news has left even experts questioning the future stability and value of the crypto economy. For Flori Marquez, she sees a positive road ahead.
As co-founder and SVP of Operations of BlockFi, a financial services company that facilitates the trading, storing, and loaning of crypto, Flori has a unique perspective on risk, especially as it pertains to women. “As women, we are socialized to believe we need to know everything before diving into something new,” she tells us. “My biggest piece of advice for women is to rethink the definition of ‘risky.’”
While we’ll make no recommendations on where your money should be invested, you can think of crypto as a (decentralized, unregulated, and quite new) tool in your personal finances kit. It’s not essential, but, if you’re willing to play the long game and are curious to think beyond the offerings of traditional financial institutions, it can be powerful. For those experts who warn of crypto’s volatility, there are also ones on the other side of the aisle who are confident that there’s value in exposure to the market and determine that the reward outweighs the risk.
Today, BlockFi is valued at $4.5B and is driven by Marquez’s mission to bring more people to the table across the globe with a slew of services and unique tools to purchase and trade digital currencies. Ahead, Marquez shares how crypto is opening up opportunities for those who’ve never invested before and why she has confidence in the system. Yes, even in the face of all the headlines.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST MOTIVATION TO LAUNCH BLOCKFI?
“I started BlockFi because I imagined the possibility of accessible financial services for my relatives in Argentina. The plan is to bridge the worlds of traditional finance and blockchain and enable financial empowerment for clients on a global scale. I see us serving communities that have historically been excluded from the financial system. Today we are the leading financial services provider for crypto investors on a global scale.”
WHAT ARE SOME KEY PIECES OF ADVICE FOR SOMEONE JUST GETTING STARTED WITH CRYPTOCURRENCY?
“My advice for women who might still be skeptical is to start with a small investment today—as little as $1. Use what you would have spent on a night out to purchase crypto instead. You’ll see that by owning some crypto, you’ll start paying attention to the market and learning more through ownership.
“Part of our latest Real Talk: Women x Crypto 2.0 survey looked at how people learn about investing and making financial decisions. And unsurprisingly, the majority of women rely on conversations with their family and friends to inform their financial decisions. If you are in a demographic that is excluded from an industry, and you're getting all your information from your friends and family who are probably in the same demographic, it's going to reinforce exclusion. On the flip side, this highlights the broad impact that a single individual can have by bringing investment experience into a community for the first time. With crypto, we are still in the early innings of this industry. There’s so much to build and learn.”
WHILE WE’RE IN THE EARLY DAYS, WE HAVE SEEN A FEW DIFFERENT CRYPTO SHAKEUPS AND CRASHES ALREADY, INCLUDING THIS PAST MONTH. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE WHO ARE NERVOUS IN LIGHT OF THE NEWS?
“We are seeing quite a bit of volatility across equity and crypto markets over the past few weeks. We are in a phase of uncertainty, both on a macroeconomic level and within the crypto industry. What’s important in times like these is to remember that the economy operates in cycles. Corrections are a natural part of economic growth.
“I’ve been building in the crypto space since 2017. So, for investors that have been in the space for a few years, we’re still benefiting from the long-term price appreciation (Bitcoin is up 236% since two years ago).
“With the crypto industry specifically, the recent volatility has brought to light the fundamental difference in business models. At BlockFi, we are fortunate to have spent years building up a Risk Management framework that takes into account the potential for volatile markets.”
"The question is not ‘should I take the leap?’ The question is, ‘what am I giving up if I don’t?’”
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE COMMUNITY ASPECT. HOW DO YOU BUILD THAT AND BRIDGE GAPS, ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO DO FEEL EXCLUDED FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE CRYPTO SPACE?
“I look at our growth as three stages. The first threshold is to get a financially savvy person to use crypto by creating financial products and figuring out how we can convince the average U.S. consumer to use BlockFi. Then the next challenge is can we expand to the rest of the world. Already 35% of our clients are overseas without having actively marketed because they want these products. After all, they've never been available before. The final frontier is if we can do it for financially savvy people in the U.S. and the rest of the world, then we have to launch almost an entirely different product to be the starter pack for investing and using financial products.
“Crypto also addresses inclusion because you can get rid of credit scores and you can send assets to anyone in the world. The second way it’s inclusionary is it’s brand new. You saw this with the Robinhood craze during the pandemic. People for the first time who historically have not been traders have been voting with their dollars and getting into trading for the first time. And since crypto is new, it eliminates this barrier of ‘stock trading is for the Wall Street bros.’ Everyone’s on the ground floor so there is room for experimentation and to change the demographics because it doesn’t come with this bias of who gets to play in the space. And it’s BlockFi’s responsibility to shape the space and the demographics of who gets to play.”
ARE THERE ANY COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS YOU WANT TO DISPEL ABOUT CRYPTO?
“A lot of folks fear entering the crypto space because they perceive it to be a gamble, a risk. Typically as women, we are socialized to believe we need to know everything before diving into something new. My biggest piece of advice for women is to rethink the definition of ‘risky.’ This can be for investing but also for your career.
“There are also a wide variety of projects within the crypto space, and it is pivotal that as a potential investor, you pay attention to the differences between each one. For beginners, the two things I would advise looking at are 1) how is the project regulated and 2) does the project clearly explain how it generates the returns it promises.”
HOW DOES A NEW DEFINITION OF RISK PERTAIN TO WOMEN’S CAREERS, TOO?
“Looking at my close friends, especially women, I think people think about the risk of accepting a new role as, ‘What’s my base salary?’ The things that are missed are ‘How am I investing in myself? What is my career trajectory?’
“So, as it relates to startup roles, you may give up a higher base salary for more responsibility, but in turn, you will be able to learn much more in a shorter amount of time. The ‘stable’ job will always be there, and chances are, you’ll find yourself eligible for more senior roles after two years in a nascent industry than you would have if you had stayed in a larger company. The question is not ‘should I take the leap?’ The question is, ‘what am I giving up if I don’t?’”
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOMEN COULD BE GIVING UP BY NOT ENGAGING IN THE CRYPTO MARKET AT ALL?
“We are in the early innings of a new industry, which means that we can shape who gets to play in the space. By engaging with the crypto market as a woman, you are helping change the statistics of what the tech industry looks like. This is an opportunity that is only a moment in time.”
AS AN ENTREPRENEUR, AS WELL AS AN INDIVIDUAL, HOW DID YOU BUILD YOUR OWN CONFIDENCE AND COMFORT AROUND TRADING CRYPTO? WHAT ARE STEPS OTHERS CAN TAKE TO BUILD THEIRS?
“Volatility is par for the course in crypto. When I started BlockFi in 2017, bitcoin hit a max of around $20K and then fell to around $3K a few months later. As a novice investor, this means you should only invest what you are willing to lose. I believe investing in crypto is a great way to force yourself to learn a bit more about the space, but you should only start with an amount of capital that makes you comfortable.
“Also, while it’s important to recognize that crypto-assets can be highly volatile, it’s important to zoom out. Bitcoin's return on investment over the past five years has outperformed five leading banks' stocks by 4,214% on average. If you are looking to invest in crypto in the long term, I would look at dollar-cost averaging your entrance into assets like Bitcoin and holding the investment for a longer-term period.”
WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE CRYPTO PLAYING IN THE FUTURE WHEN IT COMES TO FINANCIAL WELLNESS?
“I’m eager to see broader mass adoption of crypto financial products worldwide, and crypto embedded seamlessly into consumers’ everyday financial lives. We are seeing more consumers entering the crypto space for the first time across the US. To give a sense of the momentum behind crypto, five years ago less than 50% of people had even heard of Bitcoin in the U.S. Today, 90% of people have heard of cryptocurrencies. Looking to the future, I would wager that in the next five years, crypto assets will be a common recommendation for a well-balanced portfolio.”
HOW ABOUT CAREERS IN CRYPTO? WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON?
“Crypto has become much more digestible for the average consumer than it was even five years ago. That said, we also need lots more representation! Crypto is just still at the beginning building phase and it presents a great opportunity for those who have been historically excluded from traditional financial services to come into the fold and build something completely new. We currently have over 100 open positions across our firm—from engineering, marketing, operations, people management, sales, product, and more—so if you’re at all interested please apply!”