2016 Innovators to Watch: 11 to 15

11. Deb Liu, Head of Payments and Global Commerce, Facebook

liuPayPal, Ebay, Facebook: when it comes to tech giants Deb Liu has seen them all. Starting at Ebay as an intern, Liu moved on to lead PayPal’s corporate strategy and social commerce. She was among the developers of PayPal Distributed Payment Services and social networking strategy. Liu then went back to Ebay, this time as director of end-to-end product experience.

Now at Facebook, she oversees product management and engineering for dozens of products, including the payments platform, and the games business (where payments, for now, do the most work for the social media.) She also led the development of Facebook’s first mobile ad product for apps – you know, the money generator – and leads Facebook’s commerce initiatives. Facebook is just barely starting to realize the untapped value in its payments ecosystem. For now, enjoy requesting Uber or ordering flowers thanks to the chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger platform.

12. Chris Ballinger, Chief Officer, Innovation, Toyota Financial Services

ballingerIn a world of Ubers and Lyfts, no wonder mobility and rideshare have been under the spotlight of many financial institutions. The demand for financing beneath the ridesharing infrastructure has caught the attention of the major captive Toyota Financial Services as well, with Chris Ballinger as its lead for all-things innovation.

Ballinger joined TFS in 2003 as vice president of treasury, and, multiple promotions later, assumed the newly created global leadership role as chief officer, strategic innovation. In that role, Ballinger helps guide global TFS strategy to address future market trends and business model requirements.Under Ballinger, TFS last month signed a deal with Uber to create new flexible leasing options for car purchasers to cover their lease payments through earnings generated as Uber drivers. Allowing drivers the option to pay off their loan through rideshare earnings, especially during hardships, is “the biggest gift we could give,” Ballinger said.

13. Baiju Bhatt, Co-Founder, Robinhood

baijuNo one’s killing it quite like Baiju Bhatt’s Robinhood. Jay Sidhu of BankMobile put it succinctly — “Robinhood has cracked the millennial code.” How many fintech companies can say the same? 

Robinhood, a free stock-trading app, has been a sensation since millennials first caught wind of it, grabbing an Apple design award and amassing a waiting list reportedly several hundred thousand deep. Bhatt is a major reason fintech is cool again, and though it’s not clear how much money investment apps will make, Robinhood has netted $66 million from investors like Jared Leto and Snoop, and has mnay customers that love it and might be temopted by additional services. Bhatt himself stays up late and wakes up early and spends his long days making sure his company produces “the most unbelievably awesome stuff possible.” Bhatt’s company will even front investors money while they wait for their initial deposits to settle — nice.

14. Mike Sha, CEO, SigFig
mikeshaMike Sha is one of the inventors of Amazon Prime, the man behind Amazon’s Visa card, and the co-founder of Wikinvest, which created popular products, including a wiki and a portfolio tracker. Yes, those alone are enough to put Sha on this list (I mean, can you imagine life without 2-Day shipping?), but Sha’s days at Amazon are far behind him. His own (now) veteran-startup, Sigfig, has been under the digital wealth management spotlight for a while. Just last month, SigFig netted $40 million overall from Santander, Comerica, Eaton Vance, New York Life, UBS, and venture capital firms Bain Capital Ventures, DCM, Nyca Partners, and Union Square Capital Ventures. The startup will use the funds for a major expansion of its team, Sha said. If the investment world is to be ruled by robots, Sha is certainly keeping Sigfig a few steps ahead of the robo-advisory bunch.

15. Richard Brown, CTO, R3 CEV

brownBlockchain was a trendy thing to talk about in banking before R3 CEV, but the news of a consortium involving some of the country’s biggest banks made it real. But the financial world was surprised and skeptical when this consultancy announced it wanted to build and sell technology. But the hiring of IBM’s technology lead for financial markets, Richard Gendai Brown, made it real. Brown wasted no time letting the industry know what he thought of existing efforts (not much.) He is frequent commenter on the distributed ledger space, and his utterances are memorable. Often attributed to him, for example, is the witticism, “On the blockchain, nobody knows you’re a fridge.” Upon joining R3, Brown wasted little locking himself in a windowless room (literally) and puzzling out what would become Corda, the company’s highly idiosyncratic take on the bankcentric distributed ledger. What role it will play in the actual world of finance is an open question, but whatever happens, Brown will be found near the center of distributed ledgers and finance.

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