Inspirational Woman: Sylvia Carrasco | CEO, Goldex

Sylvia CarrascoI am Spanish and came to the UK as a student back in 1994.  What was supposed to be a 9 months course has ended up being a 27 years one and I am still learning!

I started my career in the City working in investment banks in various roles until I joined a new team set up by CS that wanted to disrupt the world of equities trading and move it from voice to electronic trading.  After a few years of having set up businesses for others, I thought it was time to set up my own, and I launched a regulated business working alongside large banking institutions in Europe.  That business was tremendously successful and very rewarding to see it growing.  Never wanting to be idle, 5 years ago, I decided to do it again and, together with some old colleagues (and competitors) from the industry, I set up Goldex.

It was not in my plans to set up another company after having done it once successfully.  There was no real need.  But as sometimes happens in our personal lives, Goldex found me and I couldn’t say no.  Having spent my entire career in the “making” of electronic trading for equities, I came across the physical gold market as a retail investor.  I was floored to see that they had not taken part in the electronic revolution that all other asset classes had had to.  Allocated physical gold was not regulated and I saw a lot of complacency in the space.  As an entrepreneur, I saw this as an opportunity and the best in the equities markets decided to join me in our goal.

Today I am proud to say that we have set up the first marketplace for allocated physical gold.  We have built our technology from scratch and mirroring the one that investment banks and other financial institutions use to trade other regulated assets.  We started as a B2C company and still run a very successful app in the UK, but after other fintech companies started asking us how they could offer the same product to their clients, we decided to do it.  We have spent over a year re-designing our original technology to make it exchange-grade quality.  Our institutional fintech customers can easily integrate with our platform and be up and running in a matter of weeks.  Nobody else can offer them what Goldex offers.  They are tapping into the best technology in the gold space. They access multiple liquidity hubs in one go, get best execution in all trades and, to top it up, we do not ask for pre-funding or margins. Everything settles post trade.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and no.  What I mean is that I never accepted a job because it was just offered to me.  I have always sensed that a career should be a stepping stone towards a goal.  The goal can change as we progress in life, and it should, but a sense of direction is needed to achieve our goals.  When an opportunity comes our way we need to consider it and take the best decision for us at that particular time.  Hindsight is a beautiful thing. However, if you had told me 25 years ago that today I would be running the first gold marketplace in the world, I would have laughed.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I think I have overcome quite a few but then who hasn’t? I came to the UK from Spain as a student, not knowing a single person in the country and with limited English skills.  I managed to end up working in an investment bank, on a trading floor where 98% of people were men.  I have built a career in finance and today I am one of the few women CEOs of a fintech company.  How have I overcome them?  Three words.  Determination, determination and determination.  If you have your goals clear, nothing and nobody should stop you from reaching them.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

By far, Goldex.  It has been (and still is) terribly hard to break barriers in an established industry but the sense of achievement is overwhelming.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

The team I work with. Whether now at Goldex, in my previous business or before as part of a larger company,  I wouldn’t have achieved anything without good people around me.  Nobody can do anything alone.  Nobody, no matter how smart they are.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

To anybody, not just in technology, I would say that in order to excel at anything, we need to work extremely hard, have a clear goal, be determined, have thick skin and be curious.  If you add all those items to the list, you succeed in whatever you have in hands.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are barriers everywhere.  Not just in tech.  The barriers start from early age, at school and within the families.  Even in 2021, girls are still “not supposed” to do certain things and vice-versa.  Why do we still think that a girl shouldn’t want to play football, go fishing or climb trees?  Why can’t girls like coding and computer games from an early age? No wonder that there are so few women working in tech - they never made it.  And the ones that have need to fight against those stereotypes.  How?  As I say above, with determination.

What do you think companies can do to support the careers of women working in technology?

I do not have an agenda when I hire people in any role.  I choose the best, whether they are male, female, straight or gay.  The problem is that not many women apply to tech roles.  We don’t have a single developer in our company.  Why?  Either because not many applied or they were not suitable for that role.   With regards to progression, I would progress a woman the same as a man in my company. I don’t believe in positive discrimination - I believe in equal opportunities.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

It is hard to increase that 17% if there aren’t more girls that take on tech studies.  Unless the bottom increases, the top will remain thin.   My magic wand would have to be used to change our binary education and mentality from the moment children are born.  Only then we will see a more balanced percentage of female/males in any industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are numerous books, podcasts and conferences aimed at women working in tech and the fintech industries.  There are many networks set up by women aimed at women that act as a support system and that are incredibly valuable.  Today we have everything at our fingertips, from  social media channels to search engines.  Enter the community, network with others.  There is no need to fight the world alone when there are many women who generously give their time and experience to help others.  Remember, not even the smartest ones do things alone!


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