Seamless, the fintech and e-commerce international event series, has set its stage in the heart of Europe with the launch of the inaugural Seamless Europe in Berlin.
The event, which organisers hoped would see 5,000 attendees, 350 speakers and 230 exhibitors and startups unite across two days in the Messe Berlin convention centre, puts the focus on financial services and retail with two exhibition halls and multiple stages.
Discussions on day one covered technologies that are shaping the payments, fintech, retail and e-commerce industries including embedded finance, unified commerce, digital marketing, cross-border sales, open banking, Q-commerce, AI and blockchain.
The morning began with a keynote presentation from Anna Maj, from the European Innovation Council, European Commission, who addressed the use of data to build partnerships and a collaborative ecosystem in fintech.
She stressed the need for cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaborations, as well as the importance of encompassing sector-agnostic technologies like AI and blockchain.
“Perhaps we should redefine or reconsider the collaboration paradigm, the collaboration model,” she said: “I mentioned some of the technologies that are enabling us to be able to scale innovation. So if I talk about collaboration right now, I mean collaboration between human and machines.”
Maj also noted that despite the vast amounts of data being produced, technological progress is lagging behind. The exponential growth of data is not being matched by a corresponding increase in computational power.
Interview with Raisin CEO
We also heard from Tamaz Georgadze, founder and CEO of Raisin, who talked about building an interconnected financial network to boost collaboration and promote new innovative solutions.
European fintech scene
In an exploration of the European fintech landscape, industry experts and thought leaders gathered for a panel discussion titled ‘Building the Foundations of the European Fintech Scene.’
The panel featured Per Nymand-Andersen from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Thomas Krogh Jensen, CEO of Copenhagen Fintech, Chiara Padua, deputy head of Fintech District, Toms Jurjevs, founder and CEO of Sun Finance Group, Georgi Penev, director of the Bulgarian Fintech Association and Joachim Wuermeling, member of the Executive Board at Deutsche Bundesbank.
They provided insights into the evolving landscape of European fintech and the strategies required to support its growth, including the need for regulators to better understand the evolving fintech landscape and adapt their approach.
The panel also discussed the importance of collaboration and openness in Europe’s fintech ecosystem, emphasising the need for partnerships to promote effective competition and innovation.
Krogh Jenson identified three crucial components to boosting fintech – access to risk capital, access to talent and regulators promoting innovation. While Padua said: “Collaboration with incumbents and other fintechs is the only way to grow.”
A panel session in the afternoon, chaired by Fidelio Tata, professor of corporate finance at the International School of Management, delved into the future of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and the evolving landscape of digital finance. They debated if CBDCs are crucial or a ‘solution in search of the problem’.
The panel featured Maximilian Maischein, an expert in digital currencies from DZ Bank AG, who offered valuable perspectives on the importance of CBDCs in maintaining the Euro’s relevance in the digital payment space. He emphasised the need for the European Central Bank (ECB) to stay ahead of emerging digital currencies and maintain the Euro’s position as a trusted payment instrument.
“If the digital euro is designed in the wrong way, it will destabilise the current financial system by disintermediation. It means that the citizens don’t necessarily hold accounts anymore with the banks and deposits with the banks and only hold deposits with the Central Bank, which would be a problem for the current style of financial system we have,” said Maischein.
Thomas Eichenberger, head of business units at Sygnum Bank, highlighted the necessity of exploring blockchain-based settlement systems, smart contracts and distributed ledger technology to stay competitive in the evolving financial landscape.
“We definitely need a distributed ledger technology-based means of settlement, a means of payment that is government authorised, whether this needs to come in the form of CBDC and whether this should also be able to come in the form of commercial bank money token, a tokenised deposit, a deposit, or any other form of government authorised blockchain-based means of payment and settlement is still to be debated,” said Eichenberger.
While Varlam Ebanoidze, head of fintech and suptech at the National Bank of Georgia, shared insights into Georgia’s progress in developing its own central bank digital currency, the digital Lari. He stressed the importance of striking a balance between privacy and regulation, enabling innovation in financial services while addressing concerns related to illicit activities.
“Georgia is quite a socially oriented country with budget allocated to addressing social needs and supporting refugees. It would be good to introduce transparency measures when it comes to spending, such as programmability or smart contracts. This led to identifying a unique use case tailored to the Georgian context, particularly in terms of enhancing transparency.”