This week saw Fintech Week London return with a brand new team and format. The week-long event saw senior decision-makers, industry thought leaders and fintech experts come together in the UK capital to discuss and share insights on all things fintech. Check out some of the highlights of the week below.
Monday July 12, 2021 will be remembered as the day when London’s physical fintech scene re-opened as Fintech Week London kicked off with a message from Rajesh Agrawal, the Deputy Mayor of London for Business. Welcoming everyone to the event, Agrawal began by reviewing London as a fintech hub, saying “Over the last 10 years our tech ecosystem has grown rapidly. London and the UK tech companies continue to attract investment despite the covid-19 pandemic. So far this year, London’s fintech companies have benefited from $5.3million of VC investments. From 2015 – 2021, the number of fintech startups headquarters in London has increased by 64%. There are now 3018 fintech headquarters in London, which is the highest amount globally.”
He ended his keynote by adding, “We cannot predict what the new business world will look like but what we know is that London has always shown remarkable resilience. The Fintech sector will continue to play a key role in driving the recovery forward.
“More than £6m UK adults downloaded a banking app for the first time in March 2020. Half of Londoners used digital-only banking services in 2021. London is a fantastic place to live, work and play – the cultural vibrancy can be felt in every aspect of London life. With 230 different languages spoken, diversity is one of its greatest strengths.
“I now call London home. I hope that today and this week will inspire you to grow your business in London, fill you with confidence that support is here for the sector and give you a sense of pride, contributing to what makes this city so great.
“As always, London is open for business.”
The second day of Fintech Week London saw the fintech community meet in person, with hundreds of industry members gathering together to network face to face.
The day began with a keynote from Chris Skinner, Chairman at Fintech Week London, in which digitisation and the degree at which the world was accepting this transformation was then discussed. “We’re in this world right now where everything is going digital, and you suddenly realise that as long as you can connect digitally to the network, you can get everything at home… The digital transformation will create human transformation because digital is a way in which we can use technology for good for the planet and for society.
“We move from the age-old world of the government controlling the views of the people to the people controlling the views of the government. That’s the big change in my lifetime. The government doesn’t control the buttons. We control the buttons. We control the clicks. We control the thinking. This is a massive change not just in retail and commerce and manufacturing and technology, but in society and in finance and government and banking.”
Skinner concluded by saying, “We’re organising, governing, creating, innovating visions of technology and finance all in one place, and it’s London, and that’s why I’m delighted to be chairing London Fintech Week, because we’re going to change the world.”
A key theme for the day’s discussions was digital identity, with a panel session around the evolution of digital identification, including biometrics and the fear of new verification. The panel consisted of John Abbott, CBO and CMO at Yoti, Irra Ariella Khi, CEO at Zamna, Andrew Bud, Founder and CEO of iProov, and Edgar Whitley, researcher at the London School of Economics.
On the fear of verification, Bud said, “What happens if my face gets hacked? It is irrational but these narratives build up. We have to chip away at them with logical reasoning.”
Yoti explained how a trust contract must be made so people trust where their data goes. The data cannot be accessed or sold – creating a personal wallet for someone. Bud built on this by saying, “The UK has its own troubles and tribulations when it comes to digital identity and where this trust framework will very well prove to be the next step towards the future that may prove useful in other territories as well.”
Once again day three saw delegates arrive at the venue in person, with the themes of the day’s programme involving big tech and big banks, and the “coopeitition” – a term used to describe the extent of competition versus collaboration – between banks and fintechs.
The latter topic was the feature of one of the key panels of the day, one that was particularly enjoyed by all who attended it due to the insights gleaned from the impressive set of panellists.
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, Joanne 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.”
The fourth day of the event moved back to a hybrid format, with the morning’s sessions held at Level 39 and the afternoon running online. The themes of this day were around payments and cryptocurrency, with a particular focus on the latter with a crypto and blockchain break out in the afternoon.
The Fintech Times own Editor in Chief, Gina Clarke sat down with Eelco Dettingmeijer, Nuvei’s SVP for Sales and Partnerships in EMEA, to discuss all things NFT, posing the question: Hype or here to stay?
The session kicked off by talking about the current trends in digital payments and NFTs, with Gina asking Eelco what his take was on the boom in popularity that has been seen this year.
He said: “One of the main drivers I can see is the global pandemic. Having digital assets and digital identity in gaming, such as skins, has really brought this to the surface and allowed this to take off.
“Because we’ve spent so much more time online and so little time in the public space, being able to spend your money on digital assets and your digital identity has really accelerated the growth.”
When it comes to new businesses emerging in the space, he said “There’s a large ecosystem of everything that has to deal with the creation of NFTs, and also the trading itself in marketplaces. It spreads across a wide variety, like art and architecture, to simple stuff like a certain logo and a certain skin.”
For Eelco, one of the most interesting use cases is NFTs in fashion, which he believes will see massive growth.
“I do feel that from talking to a lot of fashion brands there’s a lot of investment going into this,” he said. “And it kind of makes sense as a lot of things around this like cryptocurrency and tokens got a bad rep in terms of sustainability, and this can really turn that around. If you imagine that NFTs and fashion got a lot more sustainable, you’re basically cutting out that entire ecosystem of environmental unfriendly things by going to something that is purely digital, and it also really helps in terms of exclusivity. More and more people are wanting a unique and exclusive way of dressing themselves and with NFTs it’s always unique and always exclusive to you.”
Finally, Eelco said: “The generation that has been brought up with having a unique digital identity online and spending money on that is much more the target audience on this than my generation,” with Gina adding how we’re likely to see a chasm of generational differences as the sector moves forward. “They are going to spend their money differently to how we are doing today,” he concluded.
The last panel covering the crypto and blockchain breakout was on Bitcoin. Moderated by Itai Elizur, Partner and COO, MarketAcross; Nimrod Lehavi, CEO, Simplex; Anna Stone, Head of Strategy, GoodDollar.org; and Eric Anziani, COO, Crypto.com.
Starting with what the panellists thought of Bitcoin, Stone said: “Bitcoin has done a wonderful job proving digital money is real, that it’s happening, it’s being adopted by institutions and real people want to hold it as well.
“I think what is yet to be proven in terms of winning is what actual use case bitcoin plays in our world of money.”
“We’re on the right track,” added Anziani, “But winning would be having 7 billion users globally, so we still have some ways to go to bring crypto and bitcoin in every wallet.”
Lehavi followed on from this, saying he hates to be the “party pooper”, but he thinks that nothing has changed in the last 10 years. “A decade ago I said that Bitcoin is going to be mainstream. And i was so wrong, it’s going to take another decade at least.”
The panel moved to discuss CBDCs, and were virtually in agreement that “CBDCs are the gateway drug to learning about digital currency.”
Anziani said: “CBDC’s are definitely not crypto, but its digital currency and I think people need to get more used to using digital currencies. Two months ago we did a survey with The Economist Intelligence Unit, and one of the drivers of digital currency adoption was actually CBDCs. People talk about it and see it in the media, and then look into what a digital currency is and discover Bitcoin and other cryptos.
“I think there is a value to it as it gets people to use digital currency, so overall it’s positive.”
The final day of Fintech Week London took a larger look at the fintech scene, investigating how it has been developed and being used across different parts of the globe. The now solely virtual event had panels looking at a variety of different geographical locations included MEA, Asia, and Latin America.
For the Latin America focus each of the panellists coming from a different country, they gave their insights on how fintechs had grown in the region, and how the pandemic played its part in accelerating the digitisation.
Representing Chile: Angel Sierra from FinteChile; Argentina: Mariano Francisco from Argentina Fintech Association; Brazil: Diego Perez from ABFintechs – The Fintech Association of Brazil; Columbia: Erick Rincon Cardenas from Colombia Fintech; Mexico: Carlos Torres Guzman from YG Consultants.
Each, in turn, discussed how their respective countries had dealt with the pandemic, with many echoing the same sentiment: that the pandemic gave fintechs the opportunity to flourish. Francisco said, “In the last three years, the number of fintechs in Argentina has gone from 100 to 300.”
He was proud of the fact that the “industry creates opportunities for the population” as prior to the pandemic, “between 50 and 70% of the population had bad or no access to banking.” Francisco concluded by establishing how fintech solutions had enabled more people to have access to payments and credit, and all of this was achieved online throughout the pandemic.
Guzman echoed this sentiment by pointing out “only three out of ten Mexicans had access to loans and credit… quarantine pushed Mexicans to use Fintech.”
The panel concluded with all the panellists being optimistic that fintechs had a promising future in the region, with the entire population of each country being able to benefit, not solely the wealthy.