Fintech View from the Top

Horizon Scanning: xpate, ENGINE Insights, Amobee and Rightpoint in View from the Top

There are plenty of defining years in the history books, and as 2020 draws to a close, it’s almost certain that the global pandemic will ensure that this year is featured prominently. With events cancelled, launches delayed, and country-wide lockdowns, the way we work has changed forever. Still, for financial technology and surrounding industries, this was also a year of challenge and opportunity. 

This December, The Fintech Times is asking industry leaders for their ‘View from the Top’ to gain an insight into the decisions behind the last 12-months. Today, we’re looking at horizon scanning, hearing from Mike Shafro, Amber McCullough, James Malins and Michelle Palomera on their 2020 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2021. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…

This year has been unprecedented in so many ways, not just in the fintech world but all over the globe. As it draws to a close many are wondering what is going to come next.

Mike Shafro, CEO, xpate

Mike Shafro is CEO of xpate, a payments platform, has nearly a decade of extensive experience in the fintech and e-commerce sectors, along with several years of entrepreneurship. He thinks that this year has been a mixed bag for different businesses and “unlike any other on record.”

“While some companies are undoubtedly feeling the pressure and challenges brought on by the global pandemic, others are thankfully thriving and looking ahead. Some even have lofty expansion plans that involve breaking into new regions, which presents the challenge of utilising cross-border payments.

“We predict that 2021 will see increasing numbers of companies becoming familiar with this growing payments trend, in part due to the opportunity (yes, I said opportunity) that has arisen as a result of the pandemic.

“Businesses no longer feel compelled to rent unnecessary office space thanks to the mass adoption of remote working. Many have adapted, thrived even, under this new way of working and efficiently managed distributed teams.

“With this comes the realisation that they no longer need to find the best person for the job within a 30-mile commute of the office and instead can fish in the wider world’s talent pool. If we consider every business now has this opportunity at its fingertips, it immediately exacerbates the cross-border payments conundrum.

“There has never been a better time to pressure FIs and fintechs to automate and simplify the processes and paperwork associated with this necessary evil. If we are to truly seize the opportunities globalisation has brought with it, we must implement both technological and administrative processes that take over manual tasks, negate friction, and open doors for greater cost-saving measures while enhancing the customer experience.

“After all, it’s not what we do in the eye of the storm that matters, but how we weather the aftermath.”

Amber McCullough, VP Business Advisory, ENGINE Insights

Amber McCullough is VP of Business Advisory at ENGINE Insights, the research and analytics division of ENGINE. In this role, she leads client research in the financial services space servicing the entire industry and believes the shift to digital will be the future. 

“Since the onset of the pandemic it is no surprise that there is a shift to digital – from banking to investing and trading—digital tools have facilitated financial activities. The convergence of digital tools and advice to offer a more holistic solution with technology as the backbone.

“Digital tools in the world of financial services are not necessarily new but have accelerated in both features and usage in recent months. For example, Bank of America was an early leader with its digital banking options, and through its digital assistant Erica. Currently with a user base of 30M+ Bank of America has a ripe opportunity to cross-sell Merrill Lynch investment services. This ‘all-in-one’ use of fintech will help serve a cross-section of client needs and is expected to grow.

“Fintech solutions have taken the pressure off advisors, allowing them to provide greater consultation to their clients. Financial technology will ultimately be used to support the advisor and allow them to consult more broadly with their clients.

“Finally, Underserved markets, including women and minorities, are ripe for targeting in the world of financial services as these ‘secondary’ segments are growing in both numbers and wealth. Targeted solutions are democratising financial tools and offering an easy entry point for those that may not have been viewed as viable prospects previously.”

James Malins, GM of Cross-Channel Strategic Solutions, Amobee

James Malins is GM of Cross-Channel Strategic Solutions at Amobee, an independent advertising platform building better technology solutions. He thinks financial advertising is going to be a common theme as we head into 2021.

“A common New Year’s resolution for consumers is to focus on saving money and being more fiscally responsible, however, that momentum slowly dissipates over the course of the year.

“Over 2020, Covid-19 has actually reversed this trend. We’ve seen financial customers spending more this year — and with social distancing orders still in place, we expect this trend to continue throughout 2021.

“This makes it a prime environment for financial advertisers, and as such, we’ll see them continue to increase their investments for campaigns post-pandemic.”

Michelle Palomera, Global Head of Banking and Capital Markets, Rightpoint

Michelle Palomera is the Global Head of Banking and Capital Markets at Rightpoint, a Genpact company. With over 25 years of experience in customer and digital consulting, she believes that the future lies in citizen developer trends.

“As we move into 2021, the citizen developer movement will take off. It will remind us of days gone by when traders coded their own algorithms. However, the citizen developer trend will prevail beyond the simple automation of operational workflows — it will start to drive and power customer experiences.

“The newly empowered knowledge workers that are being borne out of the workforce shift and the need for speed will be key drivers of this movement, aided by enterprise cost and efficiency directives for automation and integration. We’ll continue to see no-code platforms quickly rise and become verticalised, which will add value as shift-to-cloud and as-a-service models take off and drive the need for micro-services to enable open banking models and ecosystems.

“It will be critical that financial institutions have their data and analytics environments in order, as well as a firm handle on their customer journeys and patterns, to deliver superior service and capabilities in the micro — whether that means serving customers in the micro-moments, creating and providing micro-content or enabling micro-payments. We’ll likely see micro-driven automated commerce driving toward auto-bundling and nearly automatic ordering in subscription models as well.”


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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