FIA Expo 2021 Video: ‘Everyone is Threatened’ by Disintermediation

John Lothian

John Lothian

Executive Chairman and CEO

Robert Fitzsimmons, executive vice president at Wedbush Securities, spoke with John Lothian News at FIA Expo 2021 about his observations, insights and opinions on everything from the conference itself to the state of cryptocurrency today. As executive vice president, Fitzsimmons manages futures, fixed income groups, and securities lending.

Among the talking points from the conference, one topic of concern was the notion of disintermediation, which essentially cuts out the middle men — removing banks, brokers, or other third parties — allowing individuals to invest directly. 

Fitzsimmons noted that ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher had mentioned his fear of being disintermediated in the Expo exchange leader panel. “It makes you realize how in the value chain, everyone is threatened,” Fitzsimmons said. “This world has gotten very competitive.”

The impact of the growth of cryptocurrency on the financial industry is enormous, Fitzsimmons said. “It dovetails with some of the themes of the conference,” he said, including the rise in retail.

He credited FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried for “leading the charge” on cryptocurrencies as crypto continues to skyrocket in popularity.

“You look at his [Sam Bankman-Fried’s] value proposition and his buying of LedgerX,” and his talk about disrupting the entire industry. Clearly we’re moving in a direction that the crypto exchanges are already at: 24/7, new technology, get away from the batch processing, real time clearing,” Fitzsimmons said.

Despite lower attendance numbers at this year’s FIA Expo conference, he said that the energy levels were still high. Adding to the pandemic safety measures, many employees are still working from home. Fitzsimmons said he didn’t like the idea of working from home at first, but  he now sees its value and efficiency. Between the Zoom calls, increased personal time and less travel time, he’s even seen productivity go up.

Ultimately, Fitzsimmons said, education is key. When asked what interested him in new products, he stressed the importance of understanding the products, and “…[working] with our clients, educating them, making sure we have the control and continue to grow the ecosystem of the futures industry.” 


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