Back Issues
Class Notes

Building the Future of Finance

Combining business savvy with whole-brain engineering, Samar Sen bridges the gap between traditional banking and digital assets.

SAMAR SEN ('01) has never had so much fun at work.

"I feel the most alive I've ever been in my career," he says. "On Sunday nights, I can't wait for Monday morning. I'm building a team and a product I believe in."

Sen is head of Asia-Pacific at Talos, an institutional digital asset trading platform provider, where he works on advanced technology for trading digital assets and cryptocurrencies. When Sen stepped up to lead the fintech company's business in the Asia-Pacific region in 2021, he was the only employee in the Singapore office. Today, he oversees a team of nearly 20 who serve customers across the region.

Samar Sen

He believes Talos is helping build the future of finance by creating a bridge that connects traditional institutions to digital asset markets. "We are the largest provider of this type of technology in the world," he says. "Billions of dollars are traded through our pipes on a weekly basis."

Prior to Talos, Sen held product, strategy, and technology leadership roles at major capital markets firms. He's built a successful career by combining what he learned at Northwestern with creativity and business acumen.

The Whole-Brain Experience

From a young age, Sen was interested in how technology could transform society. His love of computer science began as a child in Nigeria, where he took coding classes. Over time, he realized that technology complemented his other interests, including art and music.

Originally from India, Sen later moved from Nigeria to England for high school. As he weighed his options on where to pursue his undergraduate studies, he consulted cousins who had studied in the United States. Northwestern soon became the clear frontrunner.

"Northwestern had strong schools outside engineering, which interested me because I was an interdisciplinary guy," he says. "I was good at computers, but I was also a painter and in a rock band. I wanted to go somewhere that let me take classes from different schools."

At the McCormick School of Engineering, Sen enjoyed the flexibility to explore his wide-ranging interests, including art, music, and writing. The school’s emphasis on whole-brain engineering is one of the reasons Sen is now active in Northwestern’s alumni community in Singapore, where he interviews prospective students. "I’m proud of how Northwestern leans into the idea that computer science isn’t just an engineering subject," he says. "It’s transforming every field."

Sen credits his intelligent information systems course, taught by Professors Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, with teaching him design thinking. "The class tested our ability to combine technologies in new ways and envision products that customers really want," he says. "It let me see my strengths as a product builder."

A Career of Creative Pivots

Sen had planned to work for a tech company after graduation from Northwestern, but the job offer disappeared when the dotcom bubble burst after 2000. He pivoted to finance and accepted a position at Goldman Sachs, where he applied his technology skills to help develop pioneering trading systems.

Interested in learning more about business operations, Sen earned an MBA from INSEAD and explored its campuses in Paris and Singapore. He chose Singapore as his new base, where he served as vice president at Barclays Bank focused on the Asia-Pacific region. Later, he moved to fintech startup TradeHeroas global head of business development, strategy, and partnerships. From there, he went on to become a senior digital product manager at bank BNP Paribas.

Borrowing from and combining multiple disciplines is what enables people to innovate. Deep down, I believe that’s the formula for success, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that in my career if it wasn’t for what I learned at Northwestern.Samar Sen

"I worked in wealth management and corporate banking, and it was an amazing time because Asia went through massive periods of growth and wealth creation," he says. "I became an Asia expert and built up a whole business network across the region."

Sen’s shift to digital assets began when he became global head of digital products for securities services at Deutsche Bank, which managed trillions in assets. There he discovered that his true talents lay in fintech.

As he learned more about digital assets and their underlying blockchain technology, Sen was drawn to the idea that companies are building new and better financial plumbing across the globe that allows people to transfer value to each other without fees and access exciting investment products usually reserved for the elite. These new networks are owned by the community rather than a few mega-corporations. Talos is one of the companies building key trading infrastructure for this new world.

Today, he says his role at Talos feels like a culmination of everything he’s done so far. "All the unique pivots and skills I picked up along my career helped me reach where I am today," he says. "I’m really proud of being able to marry all my different skills together in this role."

Those skills also include more artistic pursuits. Sen and his wife also run a creative agency that offers design, photography, and film services. Exploring his creativity helps Sen visualize new ways of brand storytelling and advancing product design at Talos.

"Borrowing from and combining multiple disciplines is what enables people to innovate," he says. "Deep down, I believe that’s the formula for success, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that in my career if it wasn’t for what I learned at Northwestern."