This year’s Money 20/20 in Amsterdam was positively awash with fintech talent. Not that Daumantas Barauskas felt the pressure. When he sat down with TFT’s Katia Lang, the Genome COO happily waxed lyrical on everything from paytech to Big Tech, China to the States and all that’s in between…
KL: Did you enjoy Money 20/20 this year? What did you get out of the conference?
DB: The fintech community is expanding rapidly and I saw a lot of new faces as well as good friends from previous meet-ups. This year’s discussion about the future of money was especially exciting for us since our new product Genome is specifically designed as an operational financial system for merchants and users. All in one place.
KL: What do you want our readers to know about Genome?
DB: You know how the industry used to separate multi-currency wallets, IBAN banking accounts for business and personal use? I am not nostalgic about those times. Since companies started to introduce more hybrid solutions, we took it one step further and created one place with a seamless experience, smart onboarding, and absolutely all interactions online. We’ve started Genome as an ecosystem that makes it easy to meet a growing list of financial needs for online entrepreneurs who live, work and travel worldwide. Anyone who has lived and worked in several countries, anyone for whom business is really personal has experienced how fragmented and broken the world of finance is. I am proud to say that with Genome we’ll be able to fix a lot of what’s frustrating with cross-border banking and, instead, open a lot of new possibilities to all the global citizens out there. And that’s what Genome is all about.
KL: What changes can we expect to see in cross-border payments over the next 18 months?
DB: The traditional payments infrastructure is complex and we can’t control fees charged by third parties, which is why with new fintech products like Genome, we rely on regulated but optimised infrastructure partners. I suppose that the goal is to minimise cross-border friction in terms of costs, requirements and processing time. I think those trends will shape a new future for the sector.
The share of the cross-border payments will grow dramatically, but growth might not come from the expected sources.
Customers, not providers, will shape future services. Also, liquidity cannot be overlooked as a source of differentiation.
With Genome we’ll be able to fix a lot of what’s frustrating with cross-border banking and, instead, open a lot of new possibilities
KL: What are the major changes that you have seen in payments since 2018? Is the recent pace of change sustainable?
DB: Well, the rapid digitisation is what comes to mind first. According to EY research, fintech adoption rate among consumers almost doubled over the past 18 months. Furthermore, 96% of the 27 thousand consumers surveyed were aware of at least one fintech service that was alternative to the traditional way of payments and money transfers. Can we just take a second to comprehend this number? However, I don’t think this pace is sustainable. It will plateau inevitably, but only time will prove me wrong or right.
KL: How has Open Banking affected the payments industry and your company in particular? Does PSD2 give Big Tech an unfair advantage over the banks?
DB: I don’t think that PSD2 necessarily gives fintech “an unfair advantage over the banks”, but it’s radically changing the power dynamic. I mean now the banks will lose their untouchable status and fintech startups and companies can use this shortcut to build better payment systems, provide better services. Was Genome affected by Open Banking? We were prepared upfront so this major change gave us more opportunities. We are ready to standardise data from banks and ready to embrace changes that September will bring.
KL: What are your thoughts on the so-called tech cold war developing between the States and China? Can you see it leading to the formation of a Splinternet?
DB: I am very invested in it attention-wise. I think this so-called tech cold war is directly shaping innovations globally. If we’re talking about fintech, China and India are at the top with 87% fintech adoption, thanks in part to the massive usage of the Alipay and WeChat e-commerce apps in China and the Paytm payment app in India.
Can we compete with that?
I don’t know. And, in my personal opinion, we’ve already entered the era of Splinternet and the next stage will polarise the web to the extreme before collapsing altogether. Also, I’m concerned how the Internet varies greatly by country depending on political, regulatory, legal and other factors.
KL: What do you think about the future of payments in emerging markets? Is adoption easier in areas with less legacy infrastructure?
DB: Yes, and no. According to the IFC (the International Finance Corporation) general challenges for fintech in those emerging markets include low levels of formal financial services (like cash prevalence), lower income and financial literacy literacy levels, where the clients and users require education in terms of financial glossary, shortage of skilled entrepreneurs, revenue potential and last but not least – weak infrastructure. That includes a weak legal enforcement mechanism. So fintech startups can emerge faster, but if there’s no regulation, fraud will follow quickly. In Genome, we follow the highest security and encryption standards when it comes to customers’ data, payment details, and history. If there’s no privacy, can we really talk about safe payments?
KL: The Cashless Society — Is it going to happen? If so, when?
DB: I’ve recently read a piece about it and there was a quote from Charles Hoskinson, founder of a blockchain development startup Input Output Hong Kong, who said that “A necessary step toward a cashless society is having an open conversation about the future of money, including how to comply with different laws and regulatory changes in different countries”. Sweden is already a blueprint of a cashless society. They will start using their national digital currency, e-Krona, next year and become fully cashless in about 4 years. Following the question about Splinternet – a cashless society will be ensured not by countries but by tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. And as far as I can see, their plans and expansion speed in finance are astonishing. Faster than any government can follow. This is my prediction towards the cashless society.