A former IBM finance leader is on a blockchain-based mission to get central banks to use digital currency

October 28, 2022, 10:55 AM UTC
Carmelle Cadet, CEO and founder of financial technology company Emtech.
Courtesy of Emtech

Good morning,

Over the past few years, many employees—including finance professionals and CFOs—chose to leave their jobs seeking more meaningful or mission-driven work.

“It’s been a trend that we’ve seen with executives, as we’ve approached them on other opportunities,” Alyse Bodine, managing partner and global head of the Financial Officers Practice at Heidrick & Struggles, recently told me

After a 10-year-career in finance and technology at IBM, Carmelle Cadet made a pivot to working toward financial inclusion. Cadet is the founder and CEO of Emtech, a New York-based fintech startup with the goal to rebuild central banking infrastructure for the Web3 era.

Cadet first joined IBM through an internship program and was hired as a financial analyst. But her path was headed toward leadership. “I became the deputy CFO of IBM’s Blockchain division when it launched,” she told me. “When I joined the division, I was on maternity leave, and cramming in Bitcoin lessons on YouTube while feeding the baby,” Cadet quipped. But when she returned to work, “I hit the ground running.”

Cadet thinks blockchain has transformational promise, with its ability to represent an asset virtually, with a clear understanding and transparency of who the owner is, and who holds it at any particular time. For example, “CFOs understand how difficult reconciliation is in finance,” she says. “That’s partly because every number is moving on different systems. Blockchain really changes that.”

In her role as deputy CFO she was responsible for facilitating the global product commercialization and financial management strategy. “We came up with a product that was targeting the digitization of money, and realized that there were still problems in the system,” she says. “The regulators and central banks did not really understand what the technology was.”

But for Cadet, this quest is more than just academic.

At age 16, she immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and spent her first years as an unbanked person. If central banks used the technology to digitize paper currency, “we could make financial markets inclusive and resilient by design,” and create liquidity that benefits small businesses and individuals, she says.

Leaving her corporate job was a very big decision. “I spent a lot of years doing research before I jumped in,” she says. Cadet started Emtech in 2019. Her son was two-years-old at the time, and her husband was very supportive, she says. But it took her mother some time to come around. “I’m the only child and my mother told me, ‘No way you’re doing this to me when I can tell all my friends that you work at IBM. What is this blockchain thing?’” 

Covid started spreading just a few months after she took the entrepreneurial leap. “It was definitely scary because we didn’t have any clients or products at the time,” Cadet explains. “But our first win was going to an accelerator in Silicon Valley.” Though the accelerator gives you the tools to grow your company, you still have to go and pitch your idea to VCs, she says.

Emtech is working with Bank of Ghana, Central Bank of Bahamas, and actively engaging several central banks including Nigeria, the U.S., and Liberia. “We’ve won two central banks as far as having a pilot, and onboarding them, built the technology, and launched it.” The banks wanted to digitize their regulation and compliance practices first, before introducing their own digital currency, Cadet says.

“We have raised $4 million now,” she says. “We are still a seed company. So, pre-Series A. About 70% of our cap table are Black investors and investors from Africa.”

The U.S. doesn’t have central bank digital currency (CBDC). However, in September, the U.S. Department of Treasury recommended advancing work towards CBDC as part of the White House’s framework on the responsible development of digital assets. But experts say businesses are buying in on blockchain. “Our projection is that by 2024, at least 20% of large enterprises will use digital currencies for either payments, stored value, or investments,” Avivah Litan, an analyst and vice president at research at Gartner said in June. 

The path of a founder is fulfilling, but it isn’t easy, Cadet says. “A Black woman being a tech CEO that is VC backed is still rare,” she says. A new report by TechCrunch found that in Q3, Black founders raised $187 million, a steep drop from the nearly $1.1 billion they received in Q3 2021, and a decline from the $594 million the cohort raised in Q2. 

Regarding blockchain, finance chiefs need to get on board as it’s the future, says Cadet. She’s the CEO of her startup, who can also easily put back on the CFO hat as well. 

Have a good weekend.

Sheryl Estrada

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Big deal

The “2023 Workplace Learning Trends Report," released by Udemy (Nasdaq: UDMY), an online teaching and learning marketplace, highlights trends in business skills and learning cultures. The most commonly consumed business skills fell within the categories of communication and leadership, with significant consumption growth in customer experience management (increasing by 449% year over year) and nonverbal communication (increasing 268%), according to the report. The research also highlights top technical and personal skills in demand. The findings are based on data from thousands of Udemy Business learners globally and compare the total consumption of course topics between 2021 and 2022.

Courtesy of Udemy

Going deeper

Here are a few weekend reads:

Carlyle is searching for a new CEO. Here are some internal candidates who want the job—and one high-profile external exec who probably doesn’t” by Luisa Beltran  

"Meme-stock darling Bed Bath & Beyond appoints Sue Gove as permanent CEO amid store closures and stock meltdown" by Lucy Brewster

"Gen Zers don’t think they’ll ever own a home, and are buckling up for long-term financial instability" by Tristan Bove

"This expert’s 7-day food and fitness bootcamp will help boost your brain health" by Marc Milstein 


Here's a list of some notable moves this week:

Ned Segal, CFO of Twitter, was reportedly fired from the company on Thursday following Tesla CEO Elon Musk completing his $44 billion deal to take over the social network, Reuters reported. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Segal joined Twitter in 2017. Before that, he was SVP of finance at Intuit. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde, were fired as well, according to reports.

Celeste Mellet, CFO at Evercore (NYSE: EVR), an investment banking advisory firm, will depart the company for the position of partner and CFO at Global Infrastructure Partners, an independent infrastructure investor. Evercore will begin a formal search process for its next CFO. Mellet, who began her role in July 2021, will stay on and work with the Evercore team into February 2023. Before joining Evercore, she was EVP and CFO at Fannie Mae.

Georges Elhedery was named CFO at HSBC Holdings PLC and an executive director of the board of directors, effective Jan. 1, 2023. Ewen Stevenson will be stepping down as CFO and executive director on Dec. 31., and will leave HSBC in April 2023. Elhedery most recently served as co-CEO of global banking and markets. He joined HSBC in 2005 as a senior global markets executive.

Sudhanshu Priyadarshi was named CFO at Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. (Nasdaq: KDP), effective Nov. 14. He will lead the finance and information technology organizations. Priyadarshi was most recently CFO at Vista Outdoor Inc. He started his career at PepsiCo, where he spent 14 years in roles, including as CFO of global R&D and PepsiCo Global Nutrition Platforms. He also previously was CFO of Flexport and held a VP of finance and strategy role  at Walmart.

Brad Nagel was named CFO at Electromed, Inc. (NYSE American: ELMD), an airway clearance technology provider, effective Nov. 14. Most recently, Nagel held the position of divisional CFO of global lung health and visualization at Medtronic. Before that, he held various roles of increasing responsibility in finance at Medtronic, Target Corporation, and TCF Bank.


“The $44 billion price tag for Twitter will go down as one of the most overpaid tech acquisitions in the history of M&A deals on the Street in our opinion. Musk buying Twitter remains a major head-scratcher.”

—Wedbush Securities tech analyst Dan Ives wrote in a Thursday note to clients, Fortune reported.

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