When investing, your capital is at risk.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, people lost their jobs, savings and pensions, as the very institutions designed to protect them failed to do so.
Consumers lost faith in the financial system and began to demand transparency and accountability from the firms they trusted with their livelihoods. It only took a few years for better, tech-first, more competitive services to enter the arena and transform an industry that for all intents and purposes, hadn’t seen much disruption in the last hundred years.
Jason Cozens created fintech startup Glint to tackle the fragility of the financial system, by taking one of the most trusted and proven stores of wealth and making it liquid. Now, for the first time, consumers can buy, spend and save gold, just as instantly and inexpensively as they would fiat money.
We sat down with him to get the full story.
When was it (and where were you) when you first came up with the idea for Glint?
I was standing in front of my TV, watching the global financial system go to the brink of a collapse in 2008. As banks such as Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock went down, like many, I started to realise that a bank is not a risk-free deposit of funds – you put your money in the bank, it ceases to be yours, it is then loaned out – put at risk, with very little by way of interest payments in return.
News presenters began to herald ‘Quantitative easing’ as the magical solution to the crisis, and it became very obvious that government monetary systems inherently favour the have’s over the have not’s, as fiat currency (government issued money) depreciates outside of our control. I realised that the British Pound and US Dollar had lost more than 85% of their purchasing power in my lifetime.
This was the catalyst that helped me create Glint, which enables real gold, digitised as everyday currency, outside of the broken banking system using Glint’s Mastercard and P2P functionality. In my opinion, gold with Glint is the fairest, most democratic way to enable everyone to prosper and have control over the money that they earn – how they save it, share it and spend it.
What were you doing in your career before this and how did it help you get the venture off the ground?
After qualifying as an Architect, I got into Virtual Reality back in the early 90’s when it first became cool. My first company, Visuality, showed the world what projects would look like before they were built, such as the Sydney Olympic and Wembley Stadiums, the reconstruction of the incredibly beautiful St. Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle after it burnt down, and ‘House’ which was a temporary public sculpture by British artist Rachel Whiteread. I then hired a team of software engineers so we could build the eCommerce sites and back-end systems of high street retailers such as JD Sports, Watches of Switzerland and European manufacturers such Weidmüller. By the time the 2008 financial crisis had come around I had 17 years of experience in digital product development.
I believed that there had to be a way in which the growing digital ecosystem could be used to enable physical gold in a vault, that clients had legal title over, to be used as money in electronic payments. I had a lot of experience in adopting new digital based technologies to do things more efficiently or in a completely new way and I understood how to build teams, products, businesses, and digital systems from the ground up… but I still had a lot to learn!
Fintech is a buzzword nowadays, how is Glint providing something new to the market?
Most fintech companies are only delivering iterative improvements to existing solutions. Glint is delivering what billionaire entrepreneur and venture investor Peter Thiel calls a Zero to One innovation; something radically new in payments and money, taking it to the next level. But what you need to understand about Glint is that we are not just a fintech, we deliver an independent and reliable private money that gives everyone, eventually everywhere, equal opportunity to prosper. We have taken gold, trusted for millennia as a store of wealth, and made it liquid – instantly, securely and at very low cost to our clients. I believe that we were the first to enable our clients to actually spend physical gold that they own (kept safe in segregated accounts in a vault in Switzerland), digitally at the checkout.
This is ground-breaking stuff! We are creating a movement that’s distanced from over-printed fiat currencies like the USD or GBP, which in the UK has lost 92% of its purchasing power since I was born, whilst gold has increased in value by 500%. Now, we know that gold can go down in value as well as up, but over time it has proven to be an incredible hedge against inflation.
Look at where we are today in the UK. Inflation has exceeded predictions and is now 2.1% and in the US, it’s hit 6%! Fiat currencies are losing their value, meaning we can buy much less with the money we’ve earned and saved. Other businesses might sell you gold bullion or an ETF; many are looking at the crazily volatile cryptos, or the Stock Market to maintain the purchasing power of their money. Glint offers the digital ease of a crypto, the market value of a stock and the instant liquidity of currency to spend on anything from a coffee to a family holiday, as we enable our clients to buy, save, send and spend real physical gold.
We have a slogan that rings true. Gold is security. Glint its key.
Is there anyone else currently doing this (or attempting to)? What would prevent new entrants from trying a copycat play?
Some, often with much bigger wallets than Glint, have tried and failed. There is one company in Australia that we know of which looks like it has managed something similar to Glint. There are also a few stable coins and other businesses that are trying to monetise gold but the ones we have seen have problems such as not giving legal title of the gold to their clients – how can you even claim to have sold gold to someone if it isn’t allocated to them? It looks as though they may have regulatory issues that require them to offer pseudo payment solutions where you have to first sell your gold and have it transferred to a card account before it can be spent. With Glint, your gold remains as gold up until the point of purchase.
How does Glint’s proposition benefit customers looking for greater financial transparency and stability?
At Glint we put our clients in full control of their money. They can save, send and spend in real, solid gold or in other currencies like the USD, GBP or EUR. Our clients’ gold really is theirs. It’s not a token or an ETF, its solid gold, allocated specifically to them, stored in a Brinks Vault in Switzerland and insured by Lloyds of London. Nothing stands between them and their gold and if something terrible happened like if Glint were to go into liquidation, their gold would remain theirs, protected.
Glint, headquartered in the UK, with teams in Boulder, USA and Tokyo, Japan, is a card-issuing member of Mastercard®, which enables our clients to spend their preferred currencies, including gold, in over 200 countries worldwide, anywhere that accepts Mastercard®. Our FX is up to 6 times cheaper than the banks, so there’s really no need to exchange currencies when travelling abroad, just spend with Glint. Spending with your Glint card is super-safe and super-fast, with transactions completing within ¼ of a second and when travelling in your home country there is no cost, even when choosing to pay in gold. When travelling abroad, we charge a miniscule 0.5% fee. Our clients can also choose to withdraw currencies from any ATM worldwide that accepts Mastercard.
We have also recently introduced our P2P facility Glint it! that allows our clients to send and receive real gold, (and other currencies), digitally, using a smartphone. This is perfect for splitting bills, making payments and gifting – think sending the gift of gold for birthdays, holidays like Christmas, Eid or Diwali. We have also established a number of corporate accounts that have enabled businesses to pay their employees a proportion of their salaries in gold. We are driving a revolution for fairer, safer payments and money for everyone.
What have been the biggest successes for the business so far?
Firstly, building a wonderful team and group of shareholders that I’m privileged to work with. Secondly, making the world’s first real-time payment with gold at the electronic point of sale at the Holly Bush pub in Hampstead, London. Launching in the UK and Europe, and later the USA were also major highlights, and we’re proud of our ability to tackle all the challenges thrown at the company, while attracting an enthusiastic and loyal group of clients in the process.
What will you be able to accomplish with the funds raised from this joint Seedrs-Republic raise?
Unlike fintechs like Revolut, Monzo, Starling and Curve, which were all able to base their solutions on the multi-currency payments platform of card processor GPS, Glint used the £20m that has been invested in the Company to date to build its proprietary multi-currency payments solution. This has allowed us to issue accounts in 37 countries including the UK, Europe and USA. Neither GPS’s platform nor any other platform in the world enabled gold as money so we had to build our own. We think we must be doing something right because the co-founder of GPS, Craig Dewar, invested his own money in Glint in our last round.
Now that the platform is built, tried and tested, the proceeds of this round will be used to grow revenue and user numbers ahead of a planned institutional raise at a much higher valuation.
What’s one thing you learned starting a fintech business you didn’t know going in?
It is difficult if not impossible to bootstrap a consumer-focused fintech because of the regulatory and operational resource that is required before your first client is onboarded, especially if you can’t sit under someone else’s regulatory umbrella or on a third party’s platform.
How do you like to spend your time outside of work?
I have very little time outside of work and that I spend with my wonderful partner and children.
How would you describe your company culture in a few words?
We have a diverse and inclusive culture that encourages growth and mutual support within a truly international business. We have strong leadership, but our team is encouraged to be self-starting and to take ownership of their tasks. We are social and friendly and although we have had to be away from one another, due to COVID rules over the last year or so, we have ensured that we have had regular team meetings on Zoom and where possible, in-person, socially distanced get-togethers. Glint is a business that cares about its people, who are in turn encouraged to care about each other.
The world of finance and technology can appear cold and inhuman, Glint endeavours to be the very opposite of that.