Iryna Lorens is co-founder of the Ukrainian fintech group Soldering moneywhich launched its innovative payment product in 2020 with the aim of connecting cryptocurrency and traditional finance.
Lorens, 30, also helped instigate the crypto charity project Unchain.Fund, which has helped more than 20,000 women and children affected by the war in Ukraine.
The biggest leap in my career came when I started working for a London hedge fund as an executive trader during the pandemic. When you work in crypto, there isn’t a big system of infrastructure solutions. Compared to a regular stock market, there are many tools you can use to protect your deposit or streamline your work; in cryptography, you have to do it manually.
The company was looking for people who didn’t make mistakes and a friend of mine recommended me to fill the role. I had been trading for five years but it was my first job in an official fund. It has been a great opportunity to work with the best people in the world, from big banks and companies like Mackenzie Investments.
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My boss had a PhD in mathematics, a bright and intelligent boy, who also played the violin. He was so smart that I couldn’t understand him at first, also because of his British accent.
He was a quant in the hedge fund as I had to execute the strategies and we had to have a clear understanding with each other.
He was quick to make decisions and it was hard to keep up in my early days. We were working remotely and I just recorded my screen so I could understand what was showing. There was no chance to make a mistake and it was a challenge. I learned a new set of vocabulary and how to create the perfect Excel spreadsheet.
He had done calculations for NASA in the past. I remember a situation where we had to do a calculation that could have been done on an iPhone, but instead created a special formula to create the same result. It was another kind of mentality and way of thinking.
Human errors are easy to manage, but many are unpredictable in a fast-paced environment. In the new cryptocurrency market, the biggest problems we face are on the trading side. You cannot access the exchange to close your hedged position, open a new one or rebalance anything. The only way is to diversify into a different exchange so that you can manage your risk. Due to this glitch, you can make strategic mistakes.
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I left the role after a year just before the war in Ukraine. It was a short-term risk to work for a large company and so I joined my partners to launch Weld Money.
What we have seen in the market has been a surge of digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, different tokens, blockchains and NFTs. When it came to practice, we realized that you can’t spend these digital assets anywhere. There was a huge gap, we built a solution and released a payment card that you can connect to any of your cryptocurrencies and pay anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted. Our idea is to have one card as the key to all cryptocurrency balances where you can switch between them in your wallet.
Two weeks before the official launch of our product, the war started. All our plans, savings and connections went up in smoke overnight. Either we stay in Ukraine and take the big risks, or we go away and try to transfer our team. We worked directly with the banks and had to start over. Our team never stopped working, but also started working as volunteers 72 hours after the war started and took a new direction.
We knew about cryptocurrencies, how to raise funds and a large network in Ukraine. We decided to open a crypto charity fund called Unchain.Fund and asked for help on the ground, raising funds to provide aid in the most difficult areas of the war. Our team created the background largely from bomb shelters.
Not only was it a quick way to raise money, but it was also a great way to distribute it to those in need. We issued an aid card, collected and verified requests, where the public consisted of women with children from the most affected areas.
You have two lives in this world. The second begins when you realize you only have one. This is the beginning of your second life when you don’t need any special motivation or coaching, just an understanding that today could be the last day of your life.
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Can you imagine, before the war started, that Ukraine was one of the leaders in the levels of cryptocurrency adoption? During the war, people started relying more on digital assets and I think the adoption of cryptocurrencies has doubled. I’m pretty sure we can be a leader now.
At Weld, we want to be the largest payment provider between the traditional world and Web3. You still need an infrastructure solution, so hopefully we can build a large network with banks and better cryptocurrency gamification.