After months of solely digital events, Fintech Week London marks the change and the start to the return of normality, as the first in-person fintech event in London is held since the pandemic began. This week-long event will have senior decision-makers representing the most innovative companies in financial services gathering in the UK capital to discuss the position of London as a Fintech hub post-Brexit.
Over the course of five days in a hybrid format, holding both in-person and virtual panels and discussions, Fintech Week London will welcome executives from high-street banks, digital challengers, technology giants, and new disruptors, who will come together to shine a light on ground-breaking developments in Financial Technology.
Day three began in a similar vein to the previous days with an introduction from Fintech Week London’s CEO Raf De Kimpe. De Kimpe introduced the themes of the day: big tech and big banks, and the coopeitition, a term used to describe the extent of competition versus collaboration between banks and fintechs; the effects of the pandemic on fintechs, and how fintechs are enabling inclusion and eliminating boundaries.
Big Tech and Big Banks – Coopeitition
This session revolved around the development of fintechs and banks, and how they have evolved to survive alongside each other. The moderator was Joy Macknight, editor at The Banker, and the panel consisted of a full female cast including, Joanna Dewar, CEO of Global Processing Services, Leda Glyptis, Chief Client Officer at 10x Future Technologies, Kate Rosenshine, Global Cloud Lead at Microsoft, and Adizah Tejani, Partnerships and Product Innovation at HSBC.
Explaining the competitive environment, Tejani said, “We have to make sure that we keep our customers safe regardless of what technology partnership we are looking at. We need to make sure that we consider the risks of that, and we need to make sure that we are compliant to all of the different stakeholders that we have to be compliant with across the world. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking about how we push forward in different areas as well.” Though technology is great and helps many, Tejani reiterated, “we need to remember that there are still customers that need the bricks and mortars availability of our services as well” but that technology could enable this access.
When discussing the type of mindset that banks needed about partnering with fintechs as the fine line between competition and collaborator blurred, Glyptis said, “There isn’t a clear line between collaborator and competitor, your client might be your competitor in another part of the value chain. Banks have been used to doing this and now also have this with big tech.”
The topic of conversation moved on to challenger banks, and what they need to be profitable and successful. After dissecting what makes a challenger bank run, Glyptis concluded with “it is vital we ask these questions without cutting the runway that these businesses need, but at the same time, if they’re not profitable businesses that can stand on their own two feet, then the experiment [of challengers] has failed.”
How Fintech Eliminates Boundaries
This panel was focused all on the boundaries that fintech can help move. Whether that’s in terms of geographical location, government or social considerations, to name just a few, fintech is breaking down barriers for consumers all over the globe.
The panel was moderated by Rita Liu, CCO and Director at Mode Global Holdings, and featured Rich Wagner, CEO, Cashplus Bank; Rita Martins, Fintech Partnerships lead for finance and risk, HSBC; Marian Gospodinova, General Manager, Europe, crypto.com; and Angela Yore, MD and Founder, Sky Parlour.
Liu kicked off the conversation by stating that this topic is almost philosophical when speaking about how fintech eliminates boundaries, and also how it was very broad in terms of the kinds of boundaries that fintech eliminates. In light of this, she asked the panel what kind of boundaries fintech are dealing with
Angela Yore said: “The reason I love this sector so much is that we’re making a meaningful difference to inclusion. And I don’t just mean in the UK where we still have people that don’t have a bank account, but also I mean in countries in the developing world with very simple technologies. It’s not always about high-end tech like biometric ID or all of that, but things like simple peer to peer payments happening across Africa, and for that reason, Fintech is eliminating many barriers.”
Martins added to this and said “One of the key things fintech does is really tap into communities that didn’t really care or want to engage with financial services before. Fintech is really tapping into and helping financial education and literacy, and making sexy and mainstream.”
The conversation moved to discuss regulation, with Yore saying “sometimes you need a disaster to accelerate change”, in reference to the Wirecard situation.
The panel were quick to emphasise that regulation was a good thing and that the UK regulatory system is one of the best in the world.
“I don’t fear regulators, I talk to them,” said Wagner. “If people don’t talk to them they’re not going to be knowledgeable about your business or what you do. They are actually open for business, especially in the UK, and I would encourage the industry to talk to them and educate them because we will all be better for it.”
How Fintech and the Pandemic Have Impacted Eachother
This session revolved around the last 18 months of quarantining and working from home, and how fintechs have adapted their priorities due to the pandemic, and the extent of digitisation that has taken place since the start of 2020, and if the trend will continue after the pandemic is over.
The panellists were Martin Boyd, President of fintech solutions at FIS, Marilena Ioannidou, Director of Venture Solutions at British Business Bank, Symmie Swil, Head of SME Banking at Starling Bank, and Bruce Curry, Vice President, Credit Risk at FICO. The moderator was David M. Brear, Group CEO at 11:FS.
The initial topic of conversation was how big banks had responded to the pandemic, Bruce Curry said, “This is the 88th financial crisis in the last 100 years, most people think we’ve only had two. This is one of the first whereby the public and private sector have stepped in so much to support and protect the people… that the downsides of the pandemic on the financial wallet are yet to materialise.”
The panel went on to talk about how the pandemic has changed the relationship between consumers and big banks as a result of digitisation. Symmie Swil started by saying, “the most interesting thing is what this has done for trust… we used to have people calling us saying ‘can I please speak to a relationship manager’ but that’s not our business model, and they would initially be like ‘I’m not sure.’ Now people just want to make sure they don’t talk to us ever. They love the fact they can do stuff at their fingertips… people are upset if they ever have to contact us now.”
The panel concluded that there had been a lot of positive change as a result of the pandemic, and though there were still some risks that should concern people, Brear finished with, “We’re no longer in a time period where people just talk about stuff, we’ve moved to a period where people are actually doing things which is exciting!”
Closing Panel: Next big things that we haven’t about
This panel was moderated by Andrew Vorster, Innovation catalyst, The Banking Scene, who insisted that his panel needed no introduction due to their knowledge and influence in the industry: “if you don’t know who these three people are, are you even in fintech?” Chris Skinner, Chairperson, Fintech Week London, Ghela Boskovich, Founder, FemTech Global and Leda Glyptis, Chief Client Officer, 10x Future Technologies came together to discuss the topics that were not yet talked about at the event and possibly should have been on the agenda.
Boskovich began by sharing her thoughts on what hadn’t been talked about, leading with how difficult it is to actually deliver and execute on some of the fundamentals – “in part because there hasn’t been a mandate to build what we’ve been talking about.
“The only mandate that actually exists in the context of fintech is really PSD2 and Open Banking, and if anybody has been on that open banking journey, they know how bloody difficult it’s been to actually arrive at a consensus among very disparate groups.”
“We’re waiting for open finance, we’re aiming for a mandate from government, the legislative framework and legal framework that says you have to do this for competition, and that goes well beyond here.”
Glyptis continued and shared her thoughts on regulation, saying “We know for a fact that the regulator sets the tone and pace of adoption. It has happened across the board – things that were unthinkable became part of our mainstream vocabulary because the regulator either mandated them or pointed the way towards the time when they would be expected.”
“We’ve talked about the shiny things,” she continued, “and because we haven’t been particularly good at making progress with the hard stuff for many reasons, we’ve moved onto the next shiny thing. Do I think that the regulatory agenda drives the pace of production? 100%, do I also think that we’re finally getting to a point where we’re beginning to realise that there’s not going to be a single magic trick that will solve everything, but actually layering different technologies coalescing? We will also do it if we figure out a way of making this work right.
Skinner then posed his own question to the panel, asking how will when we know when the financial system works, with Boskovich replying: “Money is a myth.”
“Money is just a proxy for permission and access. End of story. So when access and permission are managed seamlessly and we actually articulate the language around permission access with exactly what that is, then the financial system will actually be successful, self-evolving and will serve a purpose.“