If the dramatic impact of cryptocurrency, blockchain, NFTs and the whole nu finance schemozzle on the traditional financial services industry were to be personified in a single individual, it would probably be Vivien Khoo. Formerly a managing director for Goldman Sachs, the ne plus ultra of the old-skool investment banking world, she is now a crypto evangelist par excellence, trying to both fill the knowledge gap that has seen interest in crypto far outpace understanding of it, and also solve one of the key challenges the crypto industry faces: its fairly dismal lack of female representation.
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After first joining the crypto world with a job at Bitmex, a crypto exchange and trading platform, she is now running not one, not two, but three industry organisations that she also helped to set up: the Asia Crypto Alliance, and the female- focused Satoshi Women and Digital Women Leadership Network, which has been rebranded to W3W (Web 3 Women). "I feel like I'm overcompensating for lost time when I was stuck on conference calls at Goldman," she says.
Born in Hong Kong, Khoo moved to the UK to attend boarding school from the age of 11, and then lived for several years in Canada, where she attended university, before heading back to Hong Kong to start her career in the financial industry.
She has spent most of her career specialising in compliance: the business of making sure an institution and its clients stay with all the relevant legal and regulatory guardrails. In that respect, she says, "My career has been pretty straightforward." It wasn't, though, in any way intentional. She started off at Credit Suisse in the mid-Nineties, working on the equities trading floor, which she quickly found she disliked intensely. "The CEO offered me product control or compliance, and I hate number crunching, so I went into compliance by default," she says.
She moved into the regulatory world with Hong Features Kong's Securities and Futures Commission fairly early in her career, just three years later, working in its Corporate 120 Finance Division. Regarding it as a good opportunity- jobs with the regulator are hard to come by, largely because people don't tend to leave very often-she stayed there for a further three years. The world of regulation probably wasn't her natural home, she admits, but it was good experience. "If it weren't for the SFC, I probably wouldn't have got the Goldman job. I got a lot of good exposure there, but culturally, as an organisation, there's a lot of bureaucracy. It's very difficult and it takes up a lot of your time."