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The Ex-JPMorgan fintech CEO who was an Olympic fencer

The competitive nature of sports often intertwines with the worlds of banking and startups. While this most often comes in the form of Strava based cycling escapades, a JPMorgan associate-turned fintech founder has a more illustrious sporting past, as a professional fencer. Nico Simko, co-founder of New York based fintech Clair, spoke recently on the Bank On It podcast about his sporting past and how that's influenced his style as a CEO.

Simko, driven by a love for Star Wars, began fencing at a young age in Geneva and eventually found himself in the Harvard University fencing team. He also "went to the Junior Olympics, went to about three different world championships and captained the national team before I went to college." His key takeaway from those experiences was that "you see failure from a different standpoint, you see it as a way of learning."

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Simko says start-up founders should follow two edicts. Be sure "from the get go that your idea is so good that, knowing the facts today, you'd make the same decision." And "put in every ounce of effort you can." This doesn't mean pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion: "if you only do 80% of what you aim to do, it's fine as long as you keep doing it."

When he's hiring, Simko says he looks for people "to take very complex problems, break them down into bits and pieces, then attack them with passion, but not overly involved attachment."  Rather than focus on the "mountain," he wants people to think about the next 20 steps at a time. 

Simko takes inspiration from another sport, football (⚽). His idol is Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who he says is "unbelievably analytical and strategic," but most importantly "gets his team to care."

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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