Lex Sokolin is a futurist and entrepreneur working on the next generation of financial services. He is the Head Economist and Global Fintech Co-Head at ConsenSys, a blockchain technology company building the infrastructure and applications that enable a decentralized world. Sokolin focuses on protocol crypto-economics, digital assets, public and private blockchains, decentralized finance and autonomous organizations. Previously, he was the Global Director of Fintech Strategy at Autonomous Research (acquired by AllianceBernstein), an equity research firm serving institutional investors. He covered artificial intelligence, blockchain, neobanks, digital lenders, roboadvisors, payments, insurtech, and mixed reality.
Lex Sokolin was merely ten years old when his family moved from Moscow to New York in 1994. Growing up, young Sokolin wanted to be an architect, an interest that later evolved into the field of decentralized finance tools and building a crypto-economy.
After graduating from Amherst College in 2006 with a double major in economics and law, jurisprudence and social thought, Sokolin joined the then-leading investment firm Lehman Brothers as an analyst. He says, “I worked in the investment-management division where I worked for a strategy group that oversaw a pretty large wealth management business.”
However, Sokolin was soon met with disaster when the firm collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis; recalling the incident, he adds, “I had the pleasure of going through the Lehman collapse very early in my career. It was excruciating, but it was also very informative. I learned a couple of things there. Number one is: that people at every level of seniority and any level of education make elementary behavioural mistakes in terms of allocating their own money, as well as allocating their clients’ money. I learned to appreciate diversification in an intuitive way after that happened—for me, that was pretty lucky.”
Sokolin then returned to academia and earned his MBA and JD from Columbia University. During this time, he also founded a robo-investment advisory company, NestEgg Wealth, which was later acquired. In 2016, he joined London-based equity research firm Autonomous as a partner, where he was looking to pioneer the next big thing in financial services. “It had felt to me like the fintech movement of the early 2010s was missing the point.“
Sokolin then shifted to covering blockchain during the 2017 boom to continue his journey to uncover the next big thing. “The crypto spark started getting louder and louder and louder to me,” he said.
Due to this, when AllianceBernstein later bought Autonomous in 2019, Sokolin instantly deep-dived into the crypto space. He joined a leading blockchain software technology company, ConsenSys, where he co-led the fintech product group. His team was tasked with creating software for integrating decentralized finance tools into MetaMask, the famed crypto wallet.
The next year, Sokolin was promoted to the Chief Marketing Officer, and in 2021 was appointed as a head economist, overseeing everything from coin economic design to spinning out decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs.
Talking about the crypto market, Sokolin says, “Many people today may still have the wrong idea about crypto. In reality, it’s an industry anchored in hundreds of millions of people worldwide and billions of assets from the largest financial institutes.” He continues, “The real meaning of the word crypto is short for ‘cryptography,’ which refers to complicated math that ensures privacy and security regarding sharing information online.”
Explaining this further, he says, “By invoking the idea of mathematics, software and technology is meant to give sovereignty, privacy, dignity and respect back to people when they are out there on their own in the digital world, surrounded by algorithms that large corporations run. You know, I think that’s the soul. That’s the Promethean fire of this industry.”‘
Talking more on the subject, he adds that it is also the reason why bitcoin has captured people’s attention so powerfully in recent years. He says that not only can you not place a digital commodity onto a chain, but you can also add computation. “It’s possible to design software that can run on any program run by machines and decentralized nodes all over the world and syncs together on an agreement of shared truth,” proving to be a game-changer for the fintech industry.
Talking about yet the revolutionary effect DeFi has had, he says, “Just as an example, the value in DFI over the last year and a half has gone from $500 million to something like $75 billion. Today there is over $110 billion in stable coins, you know, and so a substantial portion of the world is engaging with these financial constructs as part of their regular portfolio.”
Due to his pioneering work in the industry that has led to innovations in one of the most tracked industries in the world, he has received many awards and accolades. Including Britain’s Crypto List: People to Watch 2022 by Bloomberg, The most prominent Digital Futurists to watch out for in 2022 by Engatica, The 100 Most Influential People 2021 in FinTech by Fintech Weekly, Blockchain 50: The Innovators Using Blockchain & Crypto To Transform Industries in 2020 by CB Insights amongst others.
In conclusion, his advice for blockchain and crypto, especially during this rough phase for the market, is,
“Don’t sell or promote blockchain but sell and promote the things it can do. If you are interested in identity or banking, or insurance, focus on that and understand how the world moves in that direction together. Interoperability is also essential, as determined by standards and composability, which is why I think DeFi has had recent success.”