I have to say that Laurent Nizri did a fantastic job putting together the Paris Fintech Forum of 2017 and provoking a wide range of discussions in finance and technology. I had the opportunity to discuss fintech adoption both on stage and privately with executive management, including CEOs and innovation officers of some of the worlds largest financial institutions, as well as the leading lineup of fintech innovators, in domains such as regulatory technology (regtech), blockchain and digital currencies (bitcoin, ethereum). I represented Crowd Valley and our part in the paradigm shift.
The key take away from the first event of its kind in 2017 is that in financial services and technology adoption, the pace of change is now past its tipping point and we need to reset past assumptions and update our vocabulary.
At the end of the day it's simple. We’ve been talking using buzzwords such as ‘crowdfunding’, ‘robo-advisory’, “peer-to-peer lending’ etc. Using hyped up or archaic expressions makes understanding trends happening now unnecessarily difficult and complex. At the same time, there are enormous implications of talking about terminology from 2015 as archaic. The pace is truly astonishing.
Open interfaces are a fact of life..
.. and even beyond that, a force of nature. Specialization, digitalization, modularization, what ever the term used, means a way to serve the client better by plugging in to leading services for the specific use case. Chris Skinner from The Finanser, a thought-leader in his own right, made a distinct observation that ‘b2c’ and ‘b2b’ are effectively redundant terminology, replaced by the concepts of open interfaces, the API economy and the ultimate aim of providing the best possible service to the end client.
Despite understanding the technical architecture, at times at least, I would argue we do not yet fully grasp the implication of specialization and open interfaces and how the entire sector will transform as a function of them. What does it mean for the market once banks are forced to expose services to third party vendors (result of PSD2)? What about when virtually anyone can pull a specific function, such as a KYC check from a specialist vendor? Or a full compliance and vetting workflow or secondary transaction through a single API call or function? All the while more and more people are gaining access to the Internet and becoming computer literate. Soon enough, we are going to find out.
Fintech is ultimately about customer centricity
A recurring framing of the conversation was that technology is being deployed in order to better meet the customer, on the customers terms. Earlier I’ve heard concepts of financial services not ‘being a distraction’, but a ‘part of life’. Or in an investment banking context, how standards and structure introduced can be a tool to empower the deal maker, originator or investor through access to data, information and the right tools.
It's good to be humble in considering the origin of innovation, at the end of the day in todays world still, most people do not switch their banking relationships even when offered a shinier and better experience. The switching cost is not worth it for a marginal improvement, we have to aim for a radically difference experience and level of service if we want to overcome that barrier. And whether upstarts create this experience, or existing institutions through acquisitions, cooperation or competition, it's largely irrelevant to the end user looking for the best service.
Whatever the distinction, the focus is clearly on customer value and whoever ends up introducing new innovation that takes hold, an upstart or an institution, it should be the end user that realizes the benefits with an improved transaction. Framing the discussion around how to use the best in class tools and technology for the customer benefit is a good way to consider fintech in 2017.
A few words on approach
“That’s great, but it could never work in this sector because of [insert excuse here].”
Whatever form it takes, the mentality of fintech and innovation being driven solely by the upstarts (or institutions for that matter) is false and naive. We should be better than this discussion and capable of seeing the benefit of a comprehensive focus on the value delivered to the end user as the ultimate goal. That’s why we’re all working in this market, is it not?
The regulatory aspect is also fascinating. Despite the general consensus now being to work closely with regulatory bodies, one can only speculate what it may indeed mean with the proliferation of digital currencies, computer literacy and increased connectivity. Over 7 billion people and many opportunities for a software developer to build the bank or finance service he or she always dreamed of.
The article is written by Crowd Valley CEO Markus Lampinen and the full version published on Crowd Valley News.
Est. 2009 Grow VC Group is building truly global digital businesses. The focus is especially on digitization, data and fintech services. We have very hands-on approach to build businesses and we always want to make them global, scale-up and have the real entrepreneurial spirit.
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