Each week, Evan Harp sits down with one of the Exchange founders to learn more about them, their perspective on life, and what they hope Exchange can bring to the industry.
This week, he sits down with Matt Hougan, one of the world’s leading experts on crypto, ETFs, and fintech. Hougan is the chief investment officer of Bitwise Asset Management, the world’s largest provider of cryptocurrency index funds, with more than $1 billion in assets under management.
Evan Harp: What’s something amazing about you that people wouldn’t know right away?
Matt Hougan: I was a minor league baseball mascot. I was a nine-foot seal named Slugger, the sea lion of the double-A affiliate in Portland, Maine. He was not the main mascot of the game. I don’t want to oversell myself. The guy who does somersaults and somersaults on the field, that’s reserved for a gymnast. But I was the secondary mascot, playing in pseudo-celebrity basketball games, opening car dealerships, and dancing in YMCA parades. You haven’t lived until you try to play basketball in the nine-foot seal suit with giant flippers for hands. That was one of my first jobs, and it was a lot of fun.
Harp: What inspires you creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Hogan: One thing that is really true about me is that I am one of the most optimistic people I know. One thing that inspires me is a deep faith in people’s ability to do things that make the world better, and in the ability to create things that are fun, exciting and meaningful. So that open frontier of possibility and hope and potential is really core to what makes me me and inspires me every day in pretty much everything I do.
Harp: What profession other than your own would you like to try?
Hogan: Ah, assuming physical limitations that prevent me from being like a professional football player at 45 years old, outside of finances, I have a long-term dream of creating a museum. A museum on current affairs. I think a lot of the modern news flow and media is relatively superficial, and I see there are big issues in society that people want to engage with on a deep level. You can see that in book sales, you can see that in long-form podcasts, you can see that in people’s appetite to always know more and look at things from a 360-degree perspective. So in the post-ETF, post-crypto, post-finance world, I have this dream of creating a museum or environment that allows people to engage with those hot topics on a deeper, more physical, 360+ basis. degrees. The museum of the moment.
I realized this, as an example of what it would be like, there was a time when North Korea was in the headlines. I realized that most Americans can’t model what it’s like to be in North Korea, it’s not a place we can go. What if you could go into a physical environment that recreated what it was like, what it was actually like, to be there? That had detailed lectures on the challenges and opportunities there and some historical context. It would just be a more holistic view of that particular thing, and you can apply that same concept to most of the major problems in society, even abstract things, like inflation or guns in America, or a lot of things. I feel like that combination of learning and physical environments is really unique, and it’s not really something that exists.
Harp: Why did you want to launch Exchange?
Hogan: I want to launch Exchange because ETFs are really important. That’s something that’s often overlooked in this ETF discussion: ETFs have an impact on people’s lives. Many people ask me why I am interested in finances. It turns out that money is important. Money is what allows people to fulfill their hopes and dreams, allows people to send their children to college, allows people to buy houses. A lot of what we do in the financial industry is trading this 30,000 foot level talking about electric cars, crypto and smart beta, it’s very obscure because of the real fundamental impact that finance and investing have on real people. One thing ETFs have done is take a lot of money out of this financial mouth and back into people’s pockets. I think the conferences, or at least an iconic conference, that continues to build excitement, energy and hope around this idea of how ETFs can improve portfolios and help financial advisors build better portfolios for their clients is important. The ability to create Exchange with a group of people that I really like, the ability to create something fun and exciting in a market, is still very important. It is important that it grows, and that it grows in the right way. That was too good to pass up. It’s been fun! And I’m excited for year one, and then I’ll be even more excited for year two, three, four, five and six.
Harp: What are you personally most looking forward to from Exchange: An ETF Experience?
Hogan: Bringing people together again. One thing that separates ETFs from many other corners of finance is that it is a non-zero-sum community. There is this idea that all the different parts of the ecosystem come together and build something great that benefits everyone. We have not been able to do that for the last few years due to COVID. We have not been able to connect in person. So I’m really excited to be out there in the warm Florida weather on the grass by the beach, having cocktails and snacks with the great people in this industry. It will be so much fun getting back together. A lot of time has passed.
For more information about Exchange, visit www.exchangeetf.com.
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