Firsts in FinTech with Betsy Cohen - Commerce Conversations
Betsy Cohen sits down with Dan Rosen, Founder of Commerce Ventures to discuss her career spanning law, banking, and investing on Commerce Conversations.
Betsy Cohen is a pioneer in FinTech, having chartered her own banks and led one of the first financial institutions to pioneer the sponsor bank model. After capitalizing on SPAC excitement in the past few years Betsy and Cohen Circle are focused on investing at early stages. Dan Rosen of Commerce Ventures and Betsy dive into her personal journey and look forward to what’s to come.
Listen to the full episode
Highlights from the Conversation
Growing up with a physician father and social worker mother, a life of service was drilled into her from an early age.
After absolutely hating philosophy as a major, she changed her focus to law on a whim.
Then after law school she was awarded a prestigious internship with a law firm and performed brilliantly. However upon completion her manager conveyed that the senior leadership of the firm was not yet ready to have a woman as a professional colleague. After that moment she swore never to work for someone again and began her entrepreneurial journey.
After law school Betsy went to go teach and then became interested as a new bank law passed, enabling new banks to be chartered in the early 70s.
She then became one of the first women to lead a bank as she filed for charter in Pennsylvania.
Betsy called herself an observer, looking for negative space and could start to see that the banking space was simply not going to serve the digital world of the future as the early 2000s approached.
Betsy wondered how banks could serve financial technology companies, and that birthed the Bancorp – a pioneer in what would become the sponsor bank framework.
Dan recalls that Betsy was the person who he first heard the term SPAC from, an area where she and her son Daniel developed expertise.
Unlike the fund model, the SPAC model enables you to deeply understand the company in Betsy’s perspective.
Today, Betsy is more focused on investing in FInTech and advising founders with her deep experience in bank partnerships.
LSE Focal Point Podcast: A Conversation with Daniel Cohen
The Focal Point Podcast is the official podcast of the LSESU Business and Investment Group.
In this epsiode, Co-Founder of Cohen Circle and Chairman of Cohen & Company Asset Management, Daniel Cohen, chats about the early opportunities he saw in SPACs and what they bring to financing that traditional IPOs do not. He also shares his outlook on the SPAC field for 2023 following a decline in transaction volume and investment performance in 2022, and how FinTech SPACs can fulfill investor demands.
Highlights from Daniel's conversation
On Being Opportunistic
You should be opportunistic about the things that you know about, and then when you develop expertise, you really use that in whatever way you can to maximize your opportunities to again develop more expertise.
On Building a Strong Team
The world is constantly changing. So you both have to add new talent in terms of investing and at the same time, keep a lot of the core expertise that you already have. Whatever success we may have achieved in management investing, it's really by being willing to trust people that we delegate to and allowing people to take on their own independent responsibilities.
On What it's Like Working with his Legendary Mother, Betsy Cohen
We're both very collaborative and creative and are willing to take measured risks.You also get to go to lunch with your mother much more often than you would, otherwise. That's a big plus.
On How he Got into SPACs
We had a lot of experience, Betsy and I, in running public companies. She had started off running a public company in in the 1980s. I had been involved in my first public company with Resource America in the 1990s. I had been the founder and CEO of a number of REITs and other vehicles as well as Cohen and Company. So we were comfortable with the public markets and we thought the opportunity was really there.
On His Advice for New Grads
LSE produces some of the leading financiers in the world and some of the leading bankers in the world. [New grads] have to think about whether this is really what they want to do. Because you're gonna be doing it for a long time, so you really should enjoy it. The second thing I'd say that I've learned from working with my mother for a long time, is you always constantly have to be learning at every stage of your career.
Amanda Abrams on FinTech Leaders: The Future of SPACs and Public Markets
Miguel Armaza sits down with Amanda Abrams, CEO of Cohen Circle, a fintech focused investment platform and one of the pioneers and most active firms behind several fintech SPACs since 2015.
This article is part of Fintech Leaders, a newsletter with over 37,000 dreamers, entrepreneurs, investors, and students of financial services. I invite you to share and sign up here!
My guest today is Amanda Abrams, CEO of Cohen Circle, a fintech-focused investment firm and one of the pioneers and most active firms behind several fintech SPACs since 2015. Some of their SPAC transactions, include CardConnect, Payoneer, Paya, and Perella Weinberg Partners.
If filing 12 SPACs gets you the title of SPAC King, then Amanda and Cohen Circle Co-Founder, Betsy Cohen, are definitely SPAC Queens with a total of 11 SPACs.
In this episode, we discuss:
The SPAC process and why Amanda suggests CEOs should still consider this route to go public.
“There's a broader investor pool. Sponsors focused in a SPAC transaction are bringing in strategic investors, leveraging commercial relationships, who are often providing a portion of the financing themselves. Enough to anchor a transaction or provide some traction in the market. And I think that's an advantage that you can't really use in an IPO.”
The SPAC Boom of 2020/2021. What drove the mania and some of the mistakes that were made?
“There was a convergence of factors… many of these  transactions were just wildly successful out of the gate and I think a lot of people saw SPACs as this really exciting and easy way to make quick money. So you had celebrities launching SPACs and everyone and their mother was launching a SPAC… now, we backtracked a bit, we have a really saturated market and probably too many SPACs out there.”
Key differences between a good SPAC process vs a bad one. And how do we know if a company is ready to go public?
“We spend a significant amount of time with the company's finance team and their CFO… We not only evaluate the companies that we're looking at, but we partner with them so that in the months leading up to that SPAC transaction, we can help them overcome any hurdles that they have.”
Lessons from working with dozens of CEOs and boards, the future of fintech… and a lot more!
“Decision-making ability is one [quality] that that comes to mind. I see it pretty consistently amongst people that I would think of as great leaders. These people, they're consistently making decisions early and quickly. They show conviction in the decisions they make, even if, perhaps, they don't have 100% conviction themselves or they don't have perfect information.”
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