James Nicolson, Developer in Huntington Beach, CA, United States
James is available for hire
Hire James

James Nicolson

Verified Expert  in Engineering

Financial Systems Leader and Developer

Huntington Beach, CA, United States
Toptal Member Since
July 6, 2020

James is a leader and engineer with deep expertise in technology solutions for the financial services sector. He integrates business and financial strategy with technology, data and software architecture, design, and coding. Believing in the power of knowing a lot about a lot of things, James connects the dots, creates simplicity, rolls up his sleeves to do the work, and cultivates great teams.


API Architecture, Architecture, Node.js, Apache Kafka, MongoDB, Azure...
Payment APIs, GitLab, API Architecture, HTML5, Git, Online Payments, Fintech...
Standard Bank Group
Payment APIs, GitLab, API Architecture, HTML5, Git, Mobile Wallet...




Preferred Environment

Amazon Web Services (AWS), SQL, Python, Rust, C++, MongoDB, Java, Node.js, React

The most amazing...

...experiences I've had were creating financial solutions, from strategy to coding, on four continents, in big firms and my own fintechs, with truly awesome teams.

Work Experience

Architecture and Strategy

2020 - PRESENT
  • Developed the strategy and design of a fintech platform for a top-five CPG business.
  • Established engineering teams, processes, and tools.
  • Implemented payments, lending, and eWallet products.
Technologies: API Architecture, Architecture, Node.js, Apache Kafka, MongoDB, Azure, PostgreSQL, Strategy, Resourcing, Data Architecture


2018 - 2020
  • Created a blockchain-based SaaS platform for supply chain finance. The platform uses advanced cryptography to securely share, verify, and prove information about financial transactions.
  • Launched a platform to help small businesses operate online and nurture local communities.
  • Developed a technology foundation that orchestrates supply chains and then measures the risks in those ecosystems, allowing us to create innovative financial services opportunities to address those risks.
  • Created a scalable data platform for managing a complex ecosystem in order to promote trust and simplify automation.
Technologies: Payment APIs, GitLab, API Architecture, HTML5, Git, Online Payments, Fintech, Architecture, Technology Strategy & Architecture, Online Banking, Africa, B2B, Small Business, Leadership, Financial Markets, React Native, Continuous Delivery (CD), Machine Learning, JavaScript, Blockchain, Amazon Web Services (AWS), CTO, SaaS, Back-end, Software Engineering, MongoDB, Node.js, React, Rust

Chief Architect, Corporate and Investment Banking

2013 - 2018
Standard Bank Group
  • Optimized business operating models in 20+ parts of the organization to maximize the benefits of digital transformation, including payments, treasury, foreign exchange (FX), lending, client engagement, and credit risk.
  • Established and led digital design labs for rapid experimentation on pressing client problems.
  • Served as a trusted partner and advisor for technology strategies in financial markets, transactional banking, and investment banking.
Technologies: Payment APIs, GitLab, API Architecture, HTML5, Git, Mobile Wallet, Online Payments, Architecture, Technology Strategy & Architecture, Online Banking, Africa, B2B, Ethereum Smart Contracts, Leadership, Financial Markets, Continuous Delivery (CD), Machine Learning, Blockchain, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Back-end, Software Engineering, Messaging, React, SQL, Java, C++

Product Lead, Civic Marketplace

2017 - 2017
Civic Technologies
  • Developed the first identity marketplace on a public blockchain platform.
  • Designed and created smart contracts for self-sovereign identity management.
  • Integrated with the bitcoin network as an anchor for verified identity data.
Technologies: API Architecture, HTML5, Git, Architecture, Small Business, Ethereum Smart Contracts, Leadership, Continuous Delivery (CD), JavaScript, Blockchain, Amazon Web Services (AWS), SaaS, Back-end, Software Engineering, React, Node.js, Ethereum

Head of eCommerce Technology

2010 - 2013
Standard Bank Group
  • Won "Best Super Regional Bank SDP” in the Profit and Loss Digital FX Awards.
  • Created trading channels for personal and institutional clients in equities, FX, and commodities.
  • Led teams of developers that pioneered Lean software development within the organization.
Technologies: API Architecture, HTML5, Architecture, Technology Strategy & Architecture, Online Banking, Africa, B2B, Leadership, Financial Markets, JavaScript, SaaS, Back-end, Software Engineering, Java

Director, Global Markets Technology

2004 - 2010
Standard Bank Group
  • Grew the business from $80 million to $1 billion in revenue during my leadership tenure.
  • Created new business platforms in South Africa, London, Hong Kong, and Brazil. Examples include credit derivatives, interest rate derivatives, equities, and fixed income.
  • Led geographically dispersed teams in building and operating business platforms by excelling in quantitative finance and technology.
Technologies: Architecture, Technology Strategy & Architecture, Africa, Leadership, Financial Markets, Back-end, Software Engineering, Middleware, SQL, Java, C++

Head, Global Markets Technology

2000 - 2004
Standard Bank Group
  • Implemented trading and risk systems for interest rate derivatives, equity derivatives, credit derivatives, and commodities.
  • Created and developed teams of quantitative finance and technology specialists in a market domain where they had few formal skills.
  • Supported businesses to double revenue over these three years.
Technologies: Africa, Leadership, Financial Markets, Back-end, Software Engineering, Oracle Database, C++

Senior Engineer

1998 - 1998
Altech Alcatel Telecoms
  • Designed and developed an embedded C++ application for data line management devices.
  • Optimized the design of digital filters for wireless telephony solutions based on the DECT protocol to improve call quality.
  • Created a new product line for South Africa's state telco.
Technologies: Africa, Financial Markets, Back-end, Software Engineering, C++

Small-business Community Platform

Co-founded a small-business SaaS platform that enables towns to establish self-managed local community hubs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's an online platform that puts each business first and empowers local communities. For example, businesses can offer their products and services, receive payments, and collaborate with their clients and other service providers. From the initial idea, the platform was launched within a week. Clients grew their businesses by up to 400% in less than two months.

Supply Chain Finance Platform (Blockchain Based)

Designed, built, and marketed a B2B supply chain finance SaaS platform to connect small suppliers to large corporates with low risk and high automation. The platform is in the pilot phase in two countries in Africa. It was built with Rust, Node.js, React, MongoDB, and RocksDB.

Banking Platform for a Global Consumer Group

Architected a banking platform for a global consumer goods firm. The platform gives small, unbanked businesses access to financial services like eWallets, card transactions, credit, and payments. I established the technology architecture and the delivery model.
2016 - 2016

Senior Executive Program (Africa) in Leadership

Harvard Business School - Boston, MA, USA

1988 - 1992

Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering

University of the Witwatersrand - South Africa


React, Node.js


Git, GitLab, GitLab CI/CD, Adobe CC


C++, Java, JavaScript, HTML5, Rust, GraphQL, Python, Python 3, Solidity, SQL


API Architecture, Back-end Architecture, DevOps, Management, Unit Testing, Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Delivery (CD), B2B


Amazon Web Services (AWS), Blockchain, Docker, Ethereum, Oracle Database, Apache Kafka, Azure


Redis, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, RocksDB


Spring, React Native


Financial Markets, Software Engineering, Data Architecture, Design, Leadership, Software Architecture, SaaS, Online Payments, Mobile Wallet, Payment APIs, Back-end, CTO, Fintech, Architecture, Financial Modeling, API Integration, Financial Services, Solution Architecture, Full-stack, Technical Leadership, Mentorship & Coaching, Team Mentoring, Machine Learning, Gatsby, Ethereum Smart Contracts, Mobile Apps, Messaging, Middleware, Small Business, B2B Partnerships, Africa, Online Banking, Technology Strategy & Architecture, Strategy, Resourcing, Electrical Engineering

Collaboration That Works

How to Work with Toptal

Toptal matches you directly with global industry experts from our network in hours—not weeks or months.


Share your needs

Discuss your requirements and refine your scope in a call with a Toptal domain expert.

Choose your talent

Get a short list of expertly matched talent within 24 hours to review, interview, and choose from.

Start your risk-free talent trial

Work with your chosen talent on a trial basis for up to two weeks. Pay only if you decide to hire them.

Top talent is in high demand.

Start hiring