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The Big Interview

DigiFinex co-founder Kiana Shek says women make ‘better leaders’

DigiFinex co-founder Kiana Shek discusses education, women in leadership roles, and China's blockchain initiatives

With the ongoing dearth of women in the blockchain space, it’s not very often that you come across one at such a high level. Yet Kiana Shek didn’t become the co-founder of the top-100 exchange DigiFinex by accident.

She started working from the age of 13 and made her way up to being a director of Baidu at just 26. And as you may have guessed, she’s got some interesting opinions.

Kiana Shek is a ‘survivor’ and a ‘challenger’

I ask Kiana to explain how and why she decided to co-found an exchange and what got her into cryptocurrency. With a background in Big Data and AI, she enthuses:

“The future is fintech, and blockchain is definitely the soonest to be seen through commercialisation. I always feel excited to be part of a big thing… To catch the big wave, I started to learn about blockchain technology and crypto trading.”

She explains that “back then” (DigiFinex was founded in early 2018), reliable or credible sources of information were few and far between.

So, she “decided to do a favour for my friends”. Kiana held what she calls a “mini fundraising from my network”, and “built an exchange to connect the engineers to the capital market”.

She makes it sound effortlessly easy. But Kiana admits to having the support of a strong founding team from the largest listed companies in the US, Hong Kong, and China.

Their extensive experience in building network systems and financial trading platforms helped make DigiFinex one of the most successful exchanges today.

So what’s it like being a woman in the blockchain space, especially at such a high level?

“Tough”, she says, “although women with careers are tough everywhere. Meanwhile, we’re equipped with higher EQ/AQ and aggressive mindsets. We are survivors and challengers inside organisations and toward societies because we tend to work harder.”

Indeed, filling the shoes of director at one of the world’s largest tech companies at such a young age must have required extreme dedication.

“Honestly speaking, I highly agree that women can do a better job as leaders because we care more about our customers and our people. That makes DigiFinex different, with a higher standard of ethics.”

Building the DigiFinex exchange

What is the DigiFinex exchange all about and where is its client base from? Also, what makes it different from the countless other exchanges in the market? Kiana believes that the DigiFinex difference is its customer-first approach.

“We strive to provide the most secure one-stop exchange for our customers to maximise profits from their crypto-assets. Our company culture makes us different from so many others because we value creativity and diversified views that foster a fun working environment.”

Employees at DigiFinex are also highly valued and encouraged to take the lead. They’re even offered co-owner plans to incentivise them and “ensure that everyone takes pride as part of the team”.

As you might have guessed, the majority of DigiFinex’s clients are based in Asia, although the company has a presence in South America and is gearing up to expand its footprint into Europe and Africa in the near future.

“By the end of this year, we expect to serve customers from 200 countries,” she says.

So what’s the number one item on her to-do list? Actually, she has three: “Specialisation, globalisation, and compliance.”

DigiFinex works constantly to improve its products and services on both its desktop site and mobile app. The exchange is also working on developing its DigiFinex Token (DFT) ecosystem and aims to “build the most effective channel to connect good blockchain projects, investors, and communities”.

Longer term, DigiFinex is “creating educational courses and setting up a professional analysts team to provide comprehensive content to people who are new to crypto and insights to seasoned traders”.

Last but not least, “we continue to explore global opportunities and actively apply for local exchange licenses. Our Korean branch has a local license, and we have also obtained an Australian license recently”.

DigiFinex is based in Singapore

Kiana previously worked for a Chinese tech company. So what does she think of China’s harsh stance on cryptocurrencies and exchanges? As usual, when broaching the subject of China, she answers with tact and discretion.

“China is one of the leaders in crypto mining and developing blockchain use cases.

“In terms of regulation on trading cryptocurrencies, China adopts a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to protect the retail investors, because the huge price volatility and several reported incidents of fraud have infringed upon the interests of consumers and affected the stability of the financial market.

“Therefore, a tough stance with clearer guidance will help create a more sustainable environment for long-term growth.”

But DigiFinex, like all other cryptocurrency exchanges, is not allowed to operate in China. I ask whether she thinks China is sending money offshore by forcing companies to set up in Singapore.

The DigiFinex co-founder remains supportive of China’s policies and is optimistic that change is in the air. After all, she points to President Xi Jinping’s endorsement of blockchain technology last month and the fact that China’s State Council has removed Bitcoin mining from its list of “industries to be eliminated”.

“This is seen as a positive sign for wider Bitcoin adoption in the long term. We expect the regulations to be more favourable for compliance and customer-oriented exchange platforms such as DigiFinex, catalysing the development of the industry for better business transformation.”

How about countries creating their own cryptocurrencies?

Kiana believes that central banks launching their own digital currencies is an “inevitable phenomenon”. She says that “in a digital economy, it helps bring down transaction costs, extend financial services to rural areas, and increase the efficiency of monetary policies”.

However, she makes the distinction between cryptocurrencies and digital currencies, saying: “The central banks will not call it cryptocurrency because crypto is permissionless and decentralised, whereas central bank digital currencies involve permission and government control.”

That said, she believes that the creation of digital currencies by central banks will help “legitimise crypto and enable the conversion between them”.

“I think exchanges play a key role in fostering a healthy trading environment and building a full-fledged ecosystem. Comparing to the forex market, this is just a matter of time.”

 

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