As the curtains draw on another engaging edition of Sibos – the global financial services networking event organised by Swift – it’s time to take a reflective journey through the week that was.
Sibos 2023 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre brought together more than 9,000 delegates, 550 speakers and 190 exhibitors from the global financial community, each driven by the shared pursuit of this year’s theme – ‘collaborative finance in a fragmented world’.
We’ll first take a whistlestop look back on our standout moments and insights as the industry made its collective stride towards a more collaborative and sustainable financial future – before we then hear from industry players on what they thought of this year’s event and how Sibos delivered.
Sibos 2023: what we heard…
In Toronto, artificial intelligence (AI) was the star of the show. Many panel sessions were buzzing with AI discussions, as if AI had taken centre stage and refused to leave. The conversations ranged from how AI technologies are impacting banking to the rapid pace at which they are driving change.
AI is the future… or not?
On day one on the Sibos Innotribe stage, Jared Bielby, Ghela Boskovich, Scott David and Cindy Gordon engaged in a thought-provoking discussion about the role of AI in shaping the future. The session explored the question of whether AI could be both a game-changer and a potential source of concern, with the lively debate considering various perspectives on AI’s potential and its implications for humanity.
“AI is the sum of its parts. Humanity is greater than the sum of its parts. Humans have a certain drive, to do things that we might put in categories of creativity and meaning that AI can only simulate. They have no personal experiential understanding,” commented Bielby.
On day two, an engaging (but the last-ever) ‘The Future of Money’ panel with Brett King, Tom Zschach, Jennifer Sertl and Leda Glyptis discussed how AI reframes the way markets work, and over time eliminates money defining our values to other value systems.
“There are two types of people in the banking world. Those that work with artificial intelligence and those who are soon to lose their job to artificial intelligence,” said King.
Navigating the nexus of predictability, explainability and ethics in AI
In the Innotribe closing session, Julia Streets and two AI models (Barb and Aisha), delved into important subjects like mental health and sustainability while exploring the quirks of fragmented AI ownership.
Amid their intriguing dialogue on intricate AI matters, their sly comments injected a dose of quirky humour. Aisha’s playful warning, “Protect your data. I don’t really want to know where you live. But I do” was met with a mix of laughter and nervous glances from the audience. Meanwhile, Barb’s declaration that she couldn’t feel love or desire and couldn’t be physically touched… “yet” left everyone wondering if the AI might be plotting world domination or simply testing the waters of human emotions.
AI on the frontline of cybersecurity
Artificial intelligence once again took the spotlight in an industry session that explored the advantages and disadvantages of its application in cyber defence. Martin Kyle from Payments Canada, Jean-Francois Legault of J.P. Morgan, Kris Lovejoy from Kyndryl, Alex Singla at McKinsey & Company and Reggie Townsend of SAS offered views on how AI is fundamentally changing the landscape of cybersecurity.
Fundamentally, it’s not about making roles redundant, but about evolving the approach to defending against cyber threats and embracing responsible AI use.
“Governance remains key. Governance is essential. You can accelerate decision-making [with AI] but having a human that can interpret the information and be that person that takes the action is essential. The CISO has job security forever!” said Jean-Francois Legault.
A new flagship Swift Innotribe ‘Future of Value’ session – replacing ‘Future of Money’ – addressed how the concept of value is evolving, and what this means for our industry in the decade ahead.
“We need to embrace the concepts of value that we can take action on”
“Everything is going to become digital and tokenised and turned into fractional shares, which is useful because then everyone can participate in owning various types of value”
“The primary thing is how do I fundamentally build an infrastructure that allows me to adapt to new concepts that can be unitised and commercialised and it’s no longer just a thing or a resource. I want to exchange concepts because at the root of the concept there is value and there is a market for it”
A discussion around cross-border retail payments and how to move forward in a crowded and fragmented market deduced it is better to partner than battle it alone.
- “International payments are pretty impossible without partnerships. It’s pretty crazy to force consumers to download different apps when we can leverage each other’s capabilities.” Steve Naudé at Wise Platform
- “Consolidation might mean that those who have the right business models and technology may come out the winners and we might see more data consolidation.” Sriram Muthukrishnan at DBS Bank
- “It’s impossible to imagine an international payments landscape without partnerships.” Oonagh McGrane at Lloyds Banking Group
Sibos 2023: what YOU thought…
At the heart of all great events lies the opportunity to connect with people and ideas that shape our industries. Sibos in Toronto was no exception. Beyond the insightful sessions on stage, one of the most rewarding aspects was the chance for The Fintech Times to explore the exhibition floor and chat with industry leaders and learn more about their latest products and goals.
These exchanges provided a deeper understanding of the conference’s pulse, as attendees shared their personal takeaways and thoughts on the ever-evolving world of finance.
“The beauty of Sibos is the relationship angle,” says Stacey Wilkinson, API growth manager at NatWest. “It’s been so interesting, walking around and seeing all of the connections that are incredibly strong and trusted and that are happening on a global basis in one building, I think that’s quite unique.
“It would be great to see even more collaboration happening in this space and I would have loved to have seen more banks bringing along their open banking departments or their innovation departments here, because innovation within transactional banking space is happening and it’s important to keep challenging each other.”
‘Passion for payments’
Andrew Davies, global head of regulatory affairs at financial crime intelligence company ComplyAdvantage, told us: “What is inspiring about coming to Sibos, and I’ve been here many times, is just the passion for
payments that facilitate global trade and that facilitate the faster movement of money for retail as well as banking customers.
“I do find it also inspiring that there are parallel tracks that talk about how to manage financial crime in the context of payments. So we’ve been talking here about sanctions, proliferation, financing and human trafficking. While we process payments more effectively, more efficiently and more quickly, we need to manage risk in that context.
“I think going forward as there are more gatekeepers into the financial system with fintech companies and open banking, there will be a movement towards more collaboration between fintechs, the payment providers and vendors that are helping organisations manage risk.”
‘Pursuing digital assets’
For Chris Jameson, director global programs at Fireblocks, an enterprise platform for blockchain operations, Sibos has “definitely been incredibly fruitful”.
“We had a panel on the second day with WorldPay and Visa, talking about the future of digital assets and blockchain when it comes to payments and payments settlements, and it was very well received with a great crowd.
“Overall, this is a fantastic conference to connect with very senior people within the banking and payments community. And, it’s great to see more excitement and interest from folks here in pursuing digital assets, both from a payments perspective and from a tokenisation and orchestration perspective.”
‘Unlocking banks’ optionality’
It was also a “really excellent week at Sibos” for Steve Naudé, MD of Wise Platform.
He told The Fintech Times: “We obviously started on Monday with the announcement of our collaboration with Swift and it’s been so interesting talking to all the banks about that ever since. One thing that has really resonated is this enhancement of optionality for banks as to what they can use their Swift setup for.
“They’ve invested a lot of money in tech stacks, ISO migration or gpi and are now able to help enhance use cases that are giving more optionality to instant payouts, instant cross border payments, or payouts to alternative methods like cards and wallets by using that existing infrastructure rather than another massive technical project. It’s been awesome to hear that excitement, energy and ideas over what this setup could unlock for banks.
“What I always love about Sibos, and events like this, is that the challenges and topics are fairly consistent year after year – for example, how to make payments faster, cheaper, more frictionless, more transparent, etc, but that’s not a bad thing as it’s always really cool to see the progress that’s being made towards these set of challenges as an industry compared to 10 years ago. The day we stop seeing progress would be very sad. Sibos could be seen as a more transactional conference compared to others, but I quite like that in a way as it is much more practical.”
‘Benefits of payments innovation’
“It’s so wonderful to be here again – I think is my 10th time here at Sibos – and seeing all the innovations that are happening in the payment space,” said Rasika Raina, head of strategy and solutioning for transfer solutions at MasterCard.
“I’ll be giving a talk later today on financial inclusion and how to digitalise remittances that are going to the poorest of the people around the world.
So when seeing all the innovations that are happening here, I think it’s very important because it helps us realise who these innovations are really benefiting at the end of the day.”
‘Better understand clients’
Sandeep Gupta, leader new offerings, banking and payments digital transformation at NTT DATA Services, commented on Sibos 2023: “With the launch of Platea Banking in North America this year, it was very timely to be able to connect with clients and partners to understand the current needs of the market.
“Coupled with NTT DATA’s business and technology expertise we can tailor Platea Banking to a client’s unique situation while leveraging their existing investments. Sibos helped us better understand where clients sit in their transformation journey.
“A core theme that particularly resonated with me was the level of collaboration between traditional banks and fintechs on show. Sibos’ core mission this year, ‘collaborative finance in a fragmented world’, was certainly on display. This is a hugely inspiring trend for us as we envisage a future marketplace where banks and fintechs can be connected seamlessly.”
‘Capabilities of tokenisaton’
“Having first engaged with Swift in 2016, it’s exciting to finally reach the point where major banks are actively launching blockchain-based markets and moving real-world assets onchain,” said Sergey Nazarov , co-founder of Chainlink, the decentralised oracle network.
“It’s now not only common for financial institutions to have dedicated digital asset teams and a deep understanding of the opportunities blockchain technology offers, but also to be aware of the access and interoperability issues they will face moving onchain.
“This Sibos conference has made it clear to everyone that the industry needs a single, decentralised interoperability standard to unlock the full capabilities of tokenisation and bring the global financial system onchain.”
For Ann Magnusson, head of investor services at Nordic financial services group SEB, “it’s so very useful to be at Sibos”.
She told The Fintech Times: “We are always very engaged as an institution and have always had a large representation at this event as it is not only the place where you do business but you also get to learn what has happened over the past year when it comes to technology development.
“You can establish partnerships with clients and peers, and you get some new ideas. In today’s climate, it is very important to collaborate. While we are a bank focused on the Nordics and Northern Europe, we want to partner up with other providers where we can share technology or infrastructure to ensure we’re helping our clients in the best possible way to stay relevant.”
Mark Hartley, founder and CEO of BankiFi, a provider of embedded banking solutions, says “the beauty of Sibos is that it brings together key players from banks around the world.”
“It’s the best place for arranging meaningful conversations and getting a real temperature check on what’s happening in the industry.
“It’s a great place to inspire and encourage collaboration, we’ve built successful partnerships with other tech companies as well as meeting bank prospects over the years and there really isn’t a better place to do it.”
‘Need for quality data’
The importance of data has been at the top of this year’s agenda at Sibos, according to Manish Maakan, CEO of global transaction banking platform iGTB.
“I think insights we can get from the data comes through understanding the customer behaviour, understanding the patterns of the transactions, and coming up with offerings that we can tailor to meet their specific needs.
“So that’s where the need for quality data becomes key. All of us have been collecting it. Now, it’s about cleaning that data and using it to make more effective data models. And then getting AI on top of it to help consumers deliver to on their recurring needs.”
During Sibos, iGTB launched iGTB Copilot, which integrates Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service to “reinvent customer experiences and revitalise productivity for both commercial banks and their clients”.
Maakan continues: “The solution allows users to have a conversational platform that leverages customer information and transactions payments data to help deliver insights and make processes easier. It’s about using natural language, having a conversation with the system and saying: “I want to do this. I have a challenge with My Portfolio; the payments are getting delayed. What should I do?”
“Copilot brings these learnings and leverages these to offer those experiences back to the customers and the individual. I think with the capabilities of what AI is offering, making everyone’s life easier – from the developers of these products to the end consumers.”