How Peter Grosskopf ended up in the Financial Services Industry

2020-04-01 - Peter Grosskopf studied Information Systems at the University of Münster. He had dreams of coding his way through the rest of his life, only to end up in the financial services industry. How did that happen? In this podcast, he chats with Tobias about this interesting transition and the remarkable impact he has made over the years, especially in Germany’s financial services industry.

Today, Peter is the CTO of Börse Stuttgart digital exchange. Before that, he was the CTO at Solarisbank. Back in 2007, his love for Ruby on Rails drove him to try his hands on some startup projects, including one that involved selling t-shirts online. This venture turned into a software development company that he ran for five years.

Transition into the Financial Services Industry

Peter’s software development company took an agile approach to build software with Ruby on Rails. This was quite uncommon back then, making what his company was doing quite forward-leaning. He narrates how he moved to Berlin where he joined HitFox Group as the CTO. This is where he began a shift from the software development space to the financial services industry.

“A week before I joined (HitFox), there was a decision made to found FinLeap, which is nowadays the biggest company builder for FinTech ventures,” he says, “And so this switch into the financial service industry hits me on that job so that I was building prototypes for new ventures with my team.”

Peter saw the company grow from a team of a few to more than 280 people in just over three years. It was during his stint at FinLeap that he got interested in blockchain. His imagination roamed into a world where banking was decentralized. The idea intrigued him, so much so that when he joined the founding team at solarisBank, it was clear in his mind that this would be an opportunity for him to explore decentralized banking.

An Agile Approach to Banking

The banking sector is often not quick to jump at the opportunities to explore new technologies given its unending list of regulations. Yet, this does not seem to have dampened Peter’s spirits in his pursuit of a space within the sector where developers are freer.

“When we built up the company from the very beginning, I was thinking about: how do I manage to build up a tech team that does not feel like working in the bank? So I wanted to create a developer experience or a developer life that is more like working in Spotify or SoundCloud.”

“Usually compliance processes… stand a bit in the way of coding principles like continuous delivery and so on where you kind of roll stuff and you see what is the impact, and then you roll back just in case. So this industry doesn't work like that.”

By the time he was leaving solarisBank, Peter and his team had somewhat succeeded in formulating processes that made developers at the bank feel like they were working in a tech company. He says he has carried with him those lessons to his new company Börse Stuttgart.

Decentralized Banking as the Future

Tobias engages Peter about banks and the idea and challenges of using public clouds like AWS and Google Cloud. He also asks him what people can trade on the Börse Stuttgart digital exchange.

"The big picture is that we want to become Europe's biggest exchange for digital assets,” he explains, “For us at the moment it's Bitcoin. In the very near future, you will be also able to trade other cryptocurrencies on our platform.”

Peter believes that decentralized banking is the future, including possibly, decentralized exchanges. While it is very unclear what that future will look like, he plans to be at the fore of that transition. In fact, he says at Börse Stuttgart, they’re already moving some projects into that space.

“Our intention is to stay relevant in the future,” he asserts.

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