Today's interview is with inspiring individual James Banister, the CEO of FXecosystem, a company that provides services to global money exchange markets. James is an entrepreneur with dyslexia who also spreads a message of empowerment with those he meets along the way. Camp Spring Creek: We first learned about your work through this Guardian article, and were moved by your belief that "The most important thing dyslexic people want to prove is that there’s something else they can bring to the table." What is that "something else" for you and how did you find your way to that point in your life?
James Banister: For me the “something else” is the skills I have cultivated that don’t depend on reading quickly, such as creative thinking, problem solving and considering things from more than one perspective. I always wanted to work in the City of London (home to the UK’s hugely successful financial industry) and I was determined that the difficulties I faced during my education and my lack of formal qualifications were not going to stop me from getting there.
CSC: You talk about focusing on the wider picture of a business, enabling you to forsee problems before they occur and head them off "at the pass," as they say. It's been shown that many people with dyslexia have strong spatial thinking and analytical thinking skills. Can you tell us briefly about an example of these skills working in your favor, either professionally or personally?
JB: This has been central in formulating my business strategy and considering the future of the business, which is one of the most important aspects of running a company. I can picture a range of “what if?” scenarios and this helps me to anticipate (hopefully accurately!) how circumstances might evolve.
CSC: One thing you've done that makes your business stand apart is "develop innovative and cost effective FX connectivity." For those of us outside the business and trade worlds, what does this mean? Or perhaps most pertinently, what specific problem existed that you solved, and how do you think dyslexia might have played a hand in that solution?
JB: I have over 20 years’ experience in foreign exchange and my deep understanding of the industry enabled me to see how technology could be used to increase speed. For banks and other financial institutions, speed of pricing is crucial. FXecosystem provides access to high tech lines, over which FX prices travel and we can help to transmit this data to our clients much faster than the blink of an eye. Like many things which sound complex, it’s actually quite simple. My dyslexia helped me to bring a direct and analytical approach to where and how an improvement could be made in this market. When it comes to running the firm and gaining new clients, it helps that I enjoy developing and maintaining business relationships. However, it’s not enough just to have a successful meeting; it’s the follow up afterwards which really counts. Early in my career I honed my skills in taking notes (no one remembers everything they discussed), reviewing them straight afterwards and following through.
CSC: One thing we make a point to focus on at Camp Spring Creek is empowering our campers, giving them confidence in their abilities (rather than labeling a "disability"), and teaching them how to self-advocate. In all your travel, professional interactions, and meetings, have you met or worked with others who you believe might be dyslexic? Have you had occasion to discuss dyslexia with other adults and/or assist someone in identifying his/her learning differences and seeing those differences as an advantage?
JB: I have several friends who are dyslexic and they have fulfilling careers. Each of them has focused on where their strengths lie to achieve their goals. I often discuss dyslexia with family, friends and colleagues. Lots of children have dyslexia. I want to help young people get what they want and need from education as a route to a rewarding life. You are not alone in these challenges and the huge effort is worthwhile. Be confident and believe in your abilities and others will too.