Fintech Week London 2023 returned for the third-year running – this time at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London – with a fantastic lineup of insightful speakers.
The Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal kicked off the day with a keynote speech on London’s strengths.
“London is home to over 1,600 fintech companies. No other city in the world can boast that. We’ve got the largest concentration of foreign banks in London. In fact, when I travel to America, I tell them that there are more American banks in London than there are in New York. I encourage you to make the most of this week.
“London also has amazing universities, the financial sector employs more than 400,000 people with companies keen to work here.”
Then we heard from Charlotte Crosswell OBE, chair of the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT), who called for collective action in driving fintech in the UK even further forward.
“Bold actions have to match bold intentions,” she said. “It’s easy to set roadmaps and make small wins. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made great progress already. But it’s only the courageous action of everyone in this room and around the country that will propel the UK fintech growth agenda.”
Global approach to crypto
Matthew Long, a director of payments and digital assets for the FCA, talked about the opportunities of crypto but also urged caution.
“Recent FCA research has shown us that one in 10 people in the UK have some form of crypto. For me, that’s a fascinating opportunity as a regulator but we’ve still got the message at the moment, which is if you invest in crypto, be prepared to lose all your money.
“And the reason for that is because we see the volume of fraud on a daily basis. Firms need to have high standards in 2023. Innovation is exciting and we must have the standard to sit along side it.”
The rise of embedded finance
Leda Glyptis, chief client officer at 10x Banking, delved into the hot topic of embedded finance with a keynote speech followed by a panel with Tom Bentley (NatWest mettle), Shaul David (ex-Railsr), Paula Costea (FintechOS) and Adam Moulson (Griffin).
On ‘how not to build a bank’, Glyptis said: “You need to stay compliant in whatever jurisdiction you work in, no matter what the regulator will do next. And we all know that the regulators have been on a particularly creative streak for the last 10 years. You need to stay relevant.
“And increasingly your customers will have options within retail SME or corporate banking, there are options and with embedded finance those options proliferate. We the last thing you need to do is be profitable. Innovation is great, but it cannot be a cost centre forever. So balancing those three things is done in the context of staying in line with a rapidly evolving digital economy…You are never done building a bank.”
Threat, opportunity or paradigm shift
For a panel including Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Alessandro Impellizzeri (CBI S.c.p.a.), Simon Boonen (ING), Himal Makwana (FIS) and Jill Docherty (Nium), ’embedded finance is just beginning”.
“Anything is possible,” said Dr Wandhöfer. “And, as we’ve seen in more recent months, I would say the evolution of some of the natural language processing and also large language model solutions in the AI space… as well as a combination of events is starting to make many things possible. I would encourage everybody in the audience to just think about how much magical stuff we can invent, because this is really just the tip of the iceberg.”
Next up on stage we heard a fantastic keynote speech from Joel Blake OBE from GFA Exchange.
“As an entrepreneur, for me, pain is one thing, potential is another and the potential for me is going to be what we call an inclusive space. So let me be very clear about what I mean. When we talk about diversity inclusion, we often talk about diversity inclusion in our social, moral, political hot potato seats.
“My argument is that inclusion should be a natural thing that we’re all a part of, because everyone is different. We like different things, different clothes, like different foods and like things differently. So why should the disperse of capital be any different?”
Blake was then joined by Susanne Chishti (Fintech Circle) and Eric D. Collins (Impact X Capital Partners LLP) to talk about investment needs inclusion.
“We have found here in the UK and around Europe, organisations that are really delivering and are underrepresented on sort of the fundamentals,” said Collins. “The great thing about if you look at organisations that are accounting firms that are fintech firms, or insurance companies or, that are financial firms and often tech firms – all of these organisations are places where you find deep pools of talent, people who are women and people of colour who’ve been in these places for decades.
“And by being in organisations and having roles that are very effective roles and responsible roles. These individuals then have an opportunity to be able to disrupt because they understand the soup to nuts as to what’s being done there. So investing in fintech or investing, when you are in Europe just makes good sense.”
Post-tech nation and crypto
Also under discussion – how can startups be enterprise ready? – a great panel with Layla White (TechPassport), Prakash Pattni (IBM Cloud), Matt Smith (SteelEye), Saira Khan (First Direct Bank) and Sean Kiernan (Greengage).
Lex Sokolin (Consesys), Emma Kerr (Visa Europe), Gwera Kiwana (MFS Africa), Simon Taylor (Sardine) and Justin Banon (Boson Protocol) got stuck into the Web3 economy.
“We started with analogue money and also analogue exchange,” said Banon. “So face to face handing over notes in the market. And then got to this place where we’ve got digital money but it’s not got the properties that we require from money and also we’ve got of ecommerce at the moment, which again, is okay, it’s digitised, but it’s not really very smart. When we move on to this Web3 blockchain substrate, what you get is these provable assets. The underlying technology ensures that either you get the item or you get your money back.”
With the day winding down, speakers at Fintech Week London kept up the momentum with a panel featuring Nadia Edwards-Dashti, chief customer officer and co-founder of Harrington Starr, Katrina Cruz, head of People & Culture at Weavr, Rashmi Prabhakar, programme director at GSS and Sarah Cox, VP of people at Curve.
Karan Jain of NayaOne discussed digital transformation and acceleration of the UK fintech scene.
“Last year was very much about ESG embedded finance crypto, that’s still there. It’s just a different evolution of it. In terms of where we are today it is very much about generating AI tokenisation in full swing, and SMB, crypto, and CFO tech. And where we’re headed is actually where banks start to stitch different types of technologies, different than text and not just for a customer journey, but for a customer outcome.”
Evan Lever talked about third-party risk management regulations and compliance, while The Fintech Times’ Polly Jean Harrison discussed marketing crypto assets to UK consumers with Jane Moore of the Financial Conduct Authority.
“So I’m a regulator,” said Moore. “My focus is consumer protection and market integrity. When we look at crypto, those are the main drivers that we have consumer protection and we have market integrity. We also have innovation and we also look at the benefits of crypto as well… And I go back to my initial was at the moment that crypto is high risk and it’s unregulated, and people must go into it prepared to use their money at the moment.”
Also at Fintech Week London 2023 – day one
While speakers were busy delivering informative sessions upstairs, others at Fintech Week London were networking on one level down at the amazing venue. From product launches to prize giveaways, the conference’s first floor was a hive of activity.
A bustling Speed Networking hosted by TechPassport gave attendees a chance for financial Institutions to meet fintechs in a fast, fun environment.