You know her as the host of CNBC’s “Fast Money” and the former co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” Melissa Lee is a two-time Emmy award nominated journalist, recognized for her insight and journalism in investment banking, hedge funds, and private equity.
I was able to speak with Lee on the phone immediately after CNBC debuted its August 27th documentary, “Bitcoin: Boom or Bust.” In the one-hour special, Lee explores the good, bad, and ugly of bitcoin and blockchain technology, by speaking with fascinating individuals such as Harvard Economics Professor, Ken Rogoff, “Crypto Kid,” and Jordan Belfort, also known as The Wolf of Wall Street.
From Financial Consultant to TV Journalism
Before her career in television, Lee was a financial consultant at Mercer Management Consulting, focusing on the banking and credit card sectors.
Andrew Rossow: Did you ever see yourself in journalism or sitting in as a recognized host on CNBC?
Melissa Lee: Did I see myself where I am right now? No. But, I knew I wanted to be a journalist early on.
I stumbled into financial news when I landed my first internship and fell in love with the whole world of business, which wasn’t an area I was exposed to growing up. Specifically, I didn’t know it existed as a niche in journalism.
AR: What areas of finance did you cover when you first started?
ML: I started on air at CNBC almost fourteen years ago and I started as a general assignment reporter, so I really covered everything from banking and hedge funds to private equity and general market topics.
AR: How did you wind up hosting CNBC’s Fast Money?
ML: Like many things in life, it was a combination of luck and where I was at the network at the time. At that period in time, I had been substituting and anchoring for many different shows, including Fast Money, for a period of a year or two. So, when a vacancy opened on Fast Money, it fell into my lap.
AR: What specifically about Fast Money do you enjoy the most?
ML: I love covering stocks and their intraday movements, including how they trade. This includes focusing in on the psychologies and the sentiments that drives any particular stock or stock story. It’s been a great fit and has been a great run so far. And here we are now eleven years since the inception of the show, and eight years since I joined it.
Exploring Digital Money
AR: What about digital money and the Blockchain strikes you most?
The Promise of Blockchain Technology
ML: First, the promise of the technology is very appealing. I don’t care if you’re a bear on crypto or what your feelings are about investing in the digital asset. I think the technology is extremely exciting.
Businesses are recognizing the promise of the Blockchain in the most mundane of things, like managing their supply chain. The application is across industries, so it’s not just shipping or technology companies, but also healthcare companies using the blockchain, and energy companies using the blockchain.
There’s one business we shot for the documentary, which was a very exciting use case. That was a business based in California, operating out of Capetown, South Africa. What they did was crowdfund solar panel installation. So, we visited the school where they were able to install these panels and crowdfund it FROM people around the world. They were able to break down the investment into the smallest cell and people were able to basically buy the cell so to speak, and rent it back to the school, and get payment by a Bitcoin. The fact it was cryptocurrency made it frictionless and it went from there.
Technology like that is really exciting, and we are at the very beginning in seeing what the full potential could be.
Currency as an “Asset Class”
ML: On the other front, you have currency as an asset class, which is a fascinating one. How many people can say they have covered an asset class since the very beginning, or the fact there’s a new asset class? Think about when the last asset class formed. I can’t even imagine what that asset class was. Because, we are in a world with stocks, bonds, and real estate—all of which existed before. But, all of a sudden, we have this brand-new asset class that institutional investors are starting to look at. Even being a part of the space as an observer from the beginning of the excitement is a very exciting thing as a financial journalist.
Millennials and Young Investors
Following up to Lee’s point on sitting back as an observer and enjoying the ride as this new class develops, I was curious on what she thinks young investors and millennials such as myself should be considering.
According to Lee, it needs to be the same approach an investor would have with any other asset class. “The cycle of Bitcoin and crypto is compressed,” Lee described.
“We have seen a tremendous run and a tremendous decline in a very short amount of time. What investors need to understand at this point is that this is money you need to be willing to part with. So, if you lost it, you must be okay with that. And that’s the same for a risky stock investment…if it’s the extra money you’ve saved up from your summer job, and you want to make a bet for the long term, then I would say, go for it, if you’re willing to lose that money.”
CNBC’s Documentary, “Bitcoin: Boom or Bust”
Earlier last week, CNBC released a one-hour special, called “Bitcoin: Boom or Bust,” about the good, bad, and ugly sides of bitcoin, where Lee hosted.
According to the network, this was an “…original documentary employ[ing] pop culture, captivating imagery and a hip-hop score (a staple in crypto-culture) as it follow[s] a wide range of fascinating characters, each with their own passionate argument either for or against Bitcoin.”
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All images used herein are authorized by CNBC and NBC Universal.