The world of finance typically brings to mind dozens of stereotypes, with movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short creating a pretty negative connotation of the finance world in our psyche. The realm of finance, in summary, is often depicted as the epitome of human greed. And yet, in a world driven by the insatiable need to maximise profits, with little regard to much else, an unexpected new trend can be spotted to be making waves. Against all odds, it looks as though capitalism could be going vegan.
Urban Dictionary’s number one definition of the Finance Bro is: “One who drives a BMW with white interior leather, balks at dehumanizing hookers and overall douchey appearance to impress everyone around him with the finance firm he works for.” Finance culture has obviously got a pretty bad reputation, and for valid reasons. Meme accounts like @litquidity perpetuate memes of what it means to work in finance with starter packs featuring JUUL pods, golfing, and cis white men interning at Goldman.
Veganism and the wave of social awareness regarding the environment have just recently become popularised. Veganism, in complete contrast, used to be reserved for the few that many used to perceive as too ‘hippy’. The finance bro and the realm of veganism seem as far away from each other on the spectrum of humanity as possible, and yet somehow we’re seeing them merge.
The Economist referred to 2019 as “The year of the vegan,” due not only to the general public’s swing toward veganism, but, evidently, the financial sector’s shift as well. Veganism isn’t solely about eating a certain way; rather, the idea is focused on individual lifestyle and health concerns related to what is mostly environmental damage caused by animal agriculture.
So how are these trends affecting those on Wall Street? Luckily, there’s a need to stay on-trend, as millennials begin investing and changing habits. With the number of Americans identifying as vegan having soared sixfold since 2017 according to GlobalData, it has become evident that there’s big money in veganism. Protein alternatives have recently dominated headlines, with Beyond Meats and Impossible Food making waves in financial sectors.
In recent years, consumers have also been demanding from companies and financial institutions to report on environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG), with regulation slowly coming into place to enforce such demands. Another reason why veganism and environmentalism are both looking lucrative to the finance industry’s own agenda is climate change. The risks associated with climate disasters pose a serious threat to people and, therefore, to investments. The looming financial consequences of climate change have become enough for investors to begin considering serious action in terms of sustainable finance. Unlike political figures, who are able to ignore the serious damage to come, climate change will hit the finance world where it hurts—in their monetary gains.
Investors are getting increasingly excited by meat alternatives and other investment solutions that provide both financial and social returns. It feels as though anything is possible. A vegan exchange-traded fund (ETF) is expected to launch next month, “seeking to address the concerns of vegans, animal lovers and environmentalist by avoiding investments in companies whose activities directly contribute to animal suffering, destruction of the natural environment and climate change.”
Of course, in the context of the entire finance world these actions are minuscule and new, but it’s clear that some of the finance bros might be going vegan. It’s just a matter of time now before we truly witness what could prove to be one of the most surprising unions ever.
It was just a few days ago when my notifications began to overflow with what seemed, at first, to be spam. A templated message with links to register for a new kind of currency called Q urged me to sign up. Immediately. Before I knew it my friends were battling one another for referral points and I was linking up my Facebook account, without even thinking about it, to my own Initiative Q account, a new kind of digital currency that is planning to shake up the industry. I currently only have Q7,297 out of the possible free Q28,072 points I can collect, because I have failed to convince more acquaintances to sign up. And I don’t blame them.
Initiative Q is not at all a cryptocurrency, but yet, its diehard fans are already deeming it as the potential successor of Bitcoin; with a more stable touch. In just four months, the payment initiative has managed to spread like wildfire among crypto enthusiasts and all of the people who never jumped on the crypto wave while the getting was good—like myself. Three million users have opened accounts with Initiate Q thus far through a successful marketing approach that saw the company dishing out free Q for every referral, alongside a ‘referral only’ access link that gift-wrapped the whole experience as more bespoke, more exclusive, and I’m guessing, seemingly more trustworthy. What sets Initiative Q aside from its crypto comrades is that no money has yet been exchanged in return for Q.
“The world needs a better payment system. We are glued to its existing infrastructure and the only other option is cryptocurrency, which I don’t believe answers the real problems.” Initiative Q founder, Saar Wilf, who was also the brains behind the transaction verification system against fraud which was acquired by PayPal, told Forbs in a recent interview. “Crypto – like all currency – has built its value based on trust but is decentralised from government. It circumvents the systems, which I think most people realise can be as bad as it can be good. We want Q to become mainstream and that’s why we give it away for free to those willing to promote it.”
Just like cryptocurrency and any other currency for that matter, the value lays in the perceived value it accumulates, and at 100,000 new users each day, Q is certainly on the right path. On its typically quirky, user-friendly and dominantly purple website, the Q team present users with a detailed timeline of how they see Initiative Q pan out for the next three years. “The Q payment network will allow safe, fast, and low-cost transactions, using a global currency” and by late 2021, Initiative Q believes its payment method will “exceed $100M in monthly transaction volume in the launch locations.”
Besides the scepticism that is surrounding Initiative Q and my network’s lack of compliance to sign up and grant me my full 28,072 free Q points (which I still have no idea if it’s worth a lot or like, a little), its premises seem valid. From the reduction of fraud (sellers currently spend 8 percent of their revenue on fraud), making financial processes easier and faster to, as Wilf puts it, using “artificial intelligence to allow families and businesses to share accounts. To have an international currency that can be traded and shared without the ill-equipped processes that are currently in place and cost so much time and money. We want to use technology to trade smarter and more secure.”
Right now Initiative Q’s real-world value stands at three million subscribers, eight employees and absolutely no currency on the market. But even if I just gave away my Facebook information and spent several minutes interacting with an optimistically pleasant purple website, I believe it was worth supporting an initiation that is trying to find alternative ways to our finances. Whether it makes it or not, is another question.