15 Takeaways from #Finovate Europe in sunny London

London was a joy not only because it was warm and sunny and I hadn’t been there for exactly 3 years, but also because it was about reuniting with a digital Fintech community. Thank you, Finovate Europe and Theo Lau, for the nudge to decide and join.

Here are some takeaways from the sessions I attended and the atmosphere. Allow me to start with some cynicism.

#AndTheIronyIs

  • According to McKinsey, only 16% of Digital transformation efforts create sustainable value. This is a courageous acknowledgment that even though business processes and offerings may be digitized, the sustainable value generated by becoming Digitally native is not there. Obviously, it is all about the cultural shift and the lateral leadership needed to make this happen.
  • David Brear and the 11FS mantra have not changed. Not even 1% of banking transformation is done, was born in 2016.
  • SWIFT spoke about the Tokenization opportunity and their December announcement to work with Clearstream, Northern Trust and SeTL. This presentation was not the same as in SIBOS 2016 which was my last SIBOS live attendance, but I have to join Ghela and scream. After 6 years nothing has been done and in 2022 I am hearing that SWIFT will build infrastructure to enable … de-tokenization!

Three Fintech sub verticals

  • Advice experience hasn’t kept up with Brokerage experience. And even though B2B WealthTech funding increased in 2021 (156% in $ funding and 46% in the number of deals [1]) it remains a lagger.
  • Proptech for some reason has not moved up the Fintech sub vertical list. There are so many opportunities to solve problems in this market and yet the #proptech tag is not trending.

By the way, RealMonitor was one of the Finovate Fintechs pitching with a proposition that solved a need for both the end consumer looking to buy a house and the financial service provider looking for mortgage leads. They are tackling the European problem of non-exclusivity in the real estate market that often leads to real estate prices differences varying by 50k-150k. Realmonitor offers consumers aggregation capabilities to enable them to identify price discrepancies and to mortgage providers, they offer data of those searching to buy real estate.

  • In Europe there are around € 9 Trillion locked in deposits. This is a staggering amount that DreamsTech, a behavioral PFM Fintech, mentioned to show how much more needs to be done to nudge people to invest. They are a fintech that has been successful in their mission in the Nordics and are now growing geographically in Europe.

Fintech by numbers beyond the usual funding figures is dear to my heart (see some of my visuals on the topic here). The € 9 Trillion topic is exactly what I used to call `unadvised assets` back in the days when Betterment and Wealthfront were the sexy Fintechs. My latest tracking of unadvised assets` was in 2019 and it seems that the needle hasn’t moved since — See Robo-advisors increase AUM but the Cash pile in the market hasn’t decreased.

Mantras

  • Payments are the gift that keeps giving and ironically, macro events (e.g. Brexit, sanctions ect.) and changes in consumer behavior, continue to validate this mantra.
  • If you feel that selling Fintech Saas to Banks is long and demoralizing, then try selling to insurance companies. You will then Love selling to Banks. This was a punchline from a Finovate panel with investors.
  • Fintech is having a midlife crisis. Ghela Boskovich provoked Andrew Vorster, moderator, and the panelists, Chris Skinner and Jamie Broadbent, Head of Innovation at RBS International.

To Finovate and other conference organizers

I have to congratulate the organizers for the exceptionally strong female presence on stage. Both as moderators, panelists, and keynote speakers.

I really enjoyed the ESG panels and applaud the ESG hackathon focus.

On the other hand, I echo Ghela`s midlife crisis observation but for Fintech conferences. We are all eager to participate mainly because of the human connection factor that we all value more than ever. However, the metaverse is upon us and more interactivity is needed. Slido feels antiquated already. We need conferences that are more interactive and delightful.

Fintech conferences going forward have to include BigTech, Telcos and E-Commerce. We are no more in the unbundling phase. We talk Embedded this and that, Open this and that and yet we stay within our Fintech network.

Fintech Conferences need to reinvent themselves and be more INTERACTIVE and more OPEN. These terms have taken on a very different meaning than they had before.

The keynote from Imma Martinez was in alignment with how I see OPENness.

Narratives and AI

  • Clearly, purpose-driven banking is upon us and those who don’t get it will not survive. The polarization and geopolitical tensions are bringing to the forefront the G for Governance. Businesses cannot stay neutral and they have to decide how to help society with major issues that governments simply cannot solve. This is a challenge but also an opportunity to redefine your mission as a business with an economic purpose not just a financial purpose. Mission statements and keeping companies true to their original mission is again dear to my heart (see highlights here)
  • Artificial Intelligence adoption is on the rise with the latest Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence report documenting several aspects of this rise.[2] From Imma Martinez`s [3] talk on `How To Use Data Analytics & AI To Create Human Centric Financial Products`, I share two important takeaways.
  • The shift from Data warehouses to Data lakes, and now to Data Mesh; is necessary to not only reduce costs but also to enable real-time analytics and insights within complex ecosystems.
  • Current AI algorithms are excellent in computational tasks but now we need to train them emotionally and psychologically. Facebook (Meta) is hiring philosophers and psychologists to train algos.

[1] CBinsights State of Fintech Report 2021

[2] Three main points from the 250+ page report here: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/efipylarinou_artificial-intelligence-index-report-2022-activity-6912011420440113153-zSKC?utm_source=linkedin_share&utm_medium=member_desktop_web

[3] Inma Martinez, Digital Pioneer and A.I. Scientist, Member of the Expert Group at The Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), an OECD and G7 initiative for A.I.

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