The LBS alumnus recently spoke about his journey to create one of the world’s foremost fintech investment firms
LBS’s Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC) were delighted to welcome LBS alumnus Nigel Morris (MSc 19, 1985), Co-founder and Managing Partner of QED Investors, a fin-tech venture capital firm, to speak exclusively to London Business School.
The fireside chat with Professor Luisa Alemany, Academic Director of IEPC, was part the latest in the IEPC ‘Private Capital: A view from the top’ series. It revealed how Nigel made his way into the world of startups with Capital One back in 1994 and how that journey led to his founding one of the world’s leading fintech investment firms, QED Investors.
Nigel proved to be disarming in the unassuming way he described his transition from Capital One to QED, a journey he styled as, “putting one foot in front of the other and figuring it all out day by day.”
“The Capital One experience was absolutely amazing and I would not have changed it for the world. I got to work with Richard Fairbank [the co-founder of Capital One], who is one of the most special human beings on the planet. I had two years running a public company with Rich and it was incredibly special. It grew amazingly, growing from a market cap of $1bn to $10bn. We grew our earnings at 25% and it was a great place to work, developing tremendous initiatives such as ‘What's in Your Wallet? Brand,” says Nigel.
However, Nigel eventually began to wake up to the fact that in his middle to late forties the experience was slowing down for him. “My curiosity was not being stirred as much as before, and I was not certain if this was what I wanted to do in the long run,” he recounts.
“I was told that this is what happens in the last third of your business career, and was asked if I had thought of getting myself a nice red sports car. Clearly, I was changing and Capital One was changing, and I thought that there were new pastures I wanted to take on.”
Nigel eventually returned to London from the US and lived here for a year, detoxing from a public company, moving from being focused and driven (“I wouldn’t change it for the world!”) at Capital One, to being much more “pluralistic and broad”. During this period of exploration, Nigel joined the board of London Business School, and involved himself in a wide range of eclectic organisations, such as the Brookings Institution, National Geographic and The Economist. These engagements presented platforms for ideas that Nigel had relished and hankered after for many years.
“So I thought that perhaps I might just be a pluralist for a while, and dibble and dabble and generally be a dilettante, until I found the experience, though interesting, wasn’t enough.”
Returning to the US, Nigel began to coalesce a body of “Capital One refugees” who, combined, began to think, what can we do here?
“Ideas were beginning to come to us and we thought we’ll make some investments, and maybe we’ll have some fun and not lose too much money.” This approach has evolved over 13 or 14 years, leading eventually to the formation of QED Investors, self-described as ‘Fintech operators turned fintech investors’.
Nigel describes this development as the ‘Rubicon crossing event’, provoking questions about whether the group was any good at investing, and would portfolio fund managers want to work with the group.
During this time the nascent team of like-minded individuals witnessed the digital economy growing and with the “wind was roaring at our backs, we saw that this was no longer a hobby or folly and that we needed to do it properly”.
With characteristic humility, Nigel says that it has been “great ever since”, and indeed it has.
Today, QED Investors is a leading global venture capital firm based in Alexandria, Va, US. Founded in 2007, QED Investors is focused on investing in disruptive fintech companies in the US, the UK and Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. QED Investors is dedicated to building great businesses and uses a unique, hands-on approach that leverages its partners’ decades of entrepreneurial and operational experience, helping its companies achieve breakthrough growth. Notable investments include AvidXchange, Bitso, Current, Creditas, Credit Karma, Kavak, Klarna, Konfio, Loft, Nubank, QuintoAndar, Remitly and SoFi.