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 Europe, hearing from Jana Lvova, Albert Maasland, Monika Liikamaa and Edgardo Savoy on their 2020 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2021. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Fintech is a booming sector in Europe as the region is at the forefront of financial services innovation. London is considered to be one of the major global fintech hubs and is rivalled by cities across the continent. Whether its banking, paytech or a whole host of other variants, Europe is home to mass fintech innovation. In this View from the Top, companies Visa, Crown Agents Bank, TransferGo and Enfuce outline their own 2020 experience.
Jana Lvova is the Head of Fintech, Europe at Visa, and has over twenty years of experience in payment business and retail banking across Europe. The fintech team at Visa is responsible for designing and delivering winning propositions and seamless on-boarding experiences to Fintech clients. In her opinion, digital payments have been one of the major trends of 2020.
“During what has been an extremely challenging year, the ability to pay digitally has allowed consumers to adapt and shop how they want and need to. Consumer adoption of digital payments was already well underway but trends that might previously have taken months or years have occurred in a matter of weeks. Across Europe, we’ve seen increased use of contactless and mobile wallets, and higher levels of e-commerce as people become more willing to embrace technologies that make their lives easier. These new habits will define what’s to come.
“The agile nature of fintechs means they have played a vital part in supporting this trend, yet 2020 has also been a challenging year for many fintechs themselves. Nevertheless with many people now recognising the benefits of paying digitally, this presents huge opportunities for fintechs to continue to provide new solutions for the benefit of consumers, merchants and businesses. We expect these opportunities to continue to arise into 2021, resulting in increased collaboration between established financial services institutions and fintechs.
“Visa is here to help fintechs scale their businesses, find the right partners and ultimately deliver innovative user experiences to consumers and businesses. We’ve recently extended our Fast Track programme, providing our fintech partners with the tools they need to grow and connect with certified partners. To complement this, we have just launched Visa Fintech Partner Connect, a programme which offers European financial institutions and merchants a suite of enhanced solutions combining Visa’s capabilities with those of carefully selected fintech partners.”
Albert Maasland is the CEO of Crown Agents Bank, a UK regulated provider of wholesale FX and cross-border payment services. He agrees with Jana about the importance of digital financial services increasing this year.
“2020 might be looked back upon as the year that we all stopped moving. But money didn’t. In fact, it became a pinnacle year in the development of cross-border payments. Though tumultuous, this year saw access to digital financial services finally recognised as an absolute essential, rather than a convenience. We proved ourselves more adaptable than we could have imagined, and made huge industry advances to meet the challenges that we faced.
“Now, the challenge is to keep this momentum going and direct our efforts to the most important solutions. In 2020, governments, banks, communities and global organisations collaborated with fintech to make financial inclusion a priority. Ensuring that money can keep reaching the people who need it most as quickly, cost-effectively, reliably and securely as possible will stay at the top of our list at Crown Agents Bank. And in 2021, we can take this a step further.
“While traditional industries grappled with the need for accelerated digitalisation, the benefits of partnerships and collaboration, versus building in-house, have become more widely accepted. Looking forward, tech hubs in markets like Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa are still untapped, despite being based in some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
“In the coming decade, we should look beyond the likes of Silicon Valley for the brightest innovators across the globe in order to offer the best digital services. Lockdown has reminded us how fantastic it is to have such a connected world and it’s time to broaden our horizons.”
Monika Liikamaa is the CEO, Co-Founder and Chair of Nordic payment service provider Enfuce. Like the others, she believes access to digital financial services is the future of the banking industry.
“We believe sustainability is the next step in banks’ evolution. The traditional banking industry is essential not only to an economy but also to the global climate change problem. By granting loans and investments in different financial sectors, banks have a considerable influence on these industries’ development and sustainability impact.
“During 2020 we have seen interest among banks in encouraging a positive approach towards environmentally conscious business and sustainable lifestyles. Many of them have already set their own sustainability targets, as well. Banks have a perfect position, as they are in the middle of the value chain, to support consumers in adopting a low-carbon lifestyle, empowering and supporting other companies to reduce their carbon emissions.
“However, due to the Covid-19 situation, a lot of banks are in the process of reviewing their priorities. If the pandemic continues, we may see a reduction in budgets that financial institutions dedicate to their sustainability programs, which could slow down our way to zero-emission lifestyle. Still, it is important to keep investing in solving environmental challenges – according to EY, “sustainable economy could lead to an economic boost of US$26t by 2030, creating more than 65 million new jobs.”
“Even though the Covid-19 has caused delays in sustainability activities for many, we can clearly see that the banking world is awakening and putting sustainability back at the top of their agendas for 2021.”
Edgardo Savoy is Chief Technology Officer of TransferGo, a global money transfer service. With over 25 years of product and technology experience, he agrees that digital-first services have been a trend of 2020, as long as they are accessible.
“2020 has been a turbulent year to say the least, but fintechs have weathered the storm with support from a universal reliance upon digital-first services. But the pandemic has reminded us of the responsibility we have as innovators in financial services to ensure our solutions are accessible and can accommodate those traditionally excluded from the system. There’s no doubt this year has left many feeling further isolated and adrift from the benefits of online financial services and so next year this will be a priority for fintechs to address.
“Importantly, we’re already starting to see change happen. Partnerships are forming to marry the speed and innovation of fintechs with the reach and experience of established institutions to ensure no one is left behind by the digital shift. It’s this momentum that we anticipate will continue throughout 2021.”