Sometimes I like doing zero preparation for upcoming events. AQL in Leeds, venue of Fintech North. I’ve no idea, I thought perhaps a hotel. Maybe a conference centre.
So when I arrive I’m confused. It reminds me of a public swimming bath from 1979. Tiles and stone staircases. Maybe it’s the pool that forms the glass ceiling that forms the floor in the auditorium upon which speakers present from a steel platform that makes me want to dive in. And what’s below the glass floor? The internet for Leeds apparently. It used to be a chapel. I like this place, it’s quirky, unique, familiar somehow, like my old comprehensive school.
And of course during the first coffee break I meet someone who in fact went to my school. The North remembers. Fintech North was predictably smaller than the London equivalent would be, but more manageable for it, less noise and distractions if you know what I mean. Over the next few days and weeks hopefully some of the speakers will be kind enough to write articles.
Karoli Hindricks – CEO of Jobbatical – the competitive advantage of diversity. I found Karoli a really engaging speaker, she’s Estonian by origin, and has the expansive freedom of self that comes from having spent time in what amounted to a prison for an entire population. Diversity is treated as many as a buzzword, a tick box exercise, but when you delve into the commercials of it the numbers speak for themselves. The greater the diversity, the greater the creativity of the teams and the greater the revenue and profits. It’s actually good business to have a cross section of human beings working together. Who knew. One annecdote that sticks in my mind is of a company, presumably tech, that employs 21 men and 1 woman. Guess what. No-one wants to join a company with 21 men and 1 woman. So they can’t hire that 23rd employee, so they can’t grow, so they’re stuck. So this diversity thing becomes more and more significant as the company scales, and lack of it can become a genuine obstacle to growth.
Brexit got mentioned, as ever, but you know what, it’s just a competitive situation, nothing more. All the negative media about the impact of Brexit spun out by PR agencies in Berlin and Paris is just PR, political and commercial spin. Apparently not even French banks want to be based in France, so let’s just crack on at what we’re good at and enjoy the fact that competition is only there to make us continuously improve our commercial ecosystem and not become complacent.
What else pleased me? Sara Parker of Vocalink, listening to her inspired me to think we should have a couple of regular feartures along the lines of “The most important companies you’ve never heard of”.
Who else.. Dan Rajkumar, from Rebuilding Society and Whitelabel Crowdfunding, I’ll ask him to write something along the lines of: Journey to FCA Authorisation, he spoke eloquently about it from personal experience, he was also instrumental in founding Fintech North a few years ago.
Laura Bailey from Zerado and Disberse was on a couple of the panels, I’ll see if she wants to put some words together, Stuart Sherman, the Canadian from IMC, he gave a particularly enjoyable presentation on Ai and chatbots, including some very wry examples of the above done badly, not just badly, almost unfeasabley nievely in the instance of Microsoft Tay.
So yes, Fintech North, a major success, in my opinion. Friendly, easy, informal, riddled with talent, some new faces, some familiar, got to hand credit to Julian Wells from Whitecap Consulting and Chris Sier from Finexus for putting it together, along with all the dozens of others who were involved and the hundreds who attended.
It’s close to heart, I’m writing this from Sheffield, we’re opening our newsroom and journalistic departments here. The North remembers. Ay. We remember.
The Fintech Times