Words by Sarah Hollinshead
The hottest trends and key announcements from Money20/20 Europe have taken centre stage in recent publications and social media posts, with themes in artificial intelligence, blockchain, biometrics and open APIs emerging as the top issues. (See a great example here: http://bit.ly/2tj4BQA)
Whilst a breadth of impressive technological innovations were explored, it was the individuals that really shone at the conference in Copenhagen in June. An impressively diverse mix of industry leaders gathered from a wide range of institutions; large banks, new players and FinTech start-ups to technology companies, law firms and regulators, all portraying their central role in the changing eco-system around money.
In line with the superhero theme that ran throughout the conference, RFi Group has selected 12 ‘FinTech Superheroes’ from the marvel-ous line up at the event who showcase the superpower to transform how we pay.
Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter and Square
This world-renowned innovator opened the event on the keynote stage, inspiring thousands of attendees with his outlook on the future of money, perhaps not surprisingly, it is a world without plastic cards. He outlined Square’s vision to entirely mask the inherent complexity of payments, and how Square aims to complement the existing eco-system, rather than attempt to displace it.
You don’t have to be the first. You just have to be the best.
Ashok Vaswani, CEO, Barclays UK
Heading up a bank that is older than the United States, change and innovation is imbedded in the DNA of Barclays. This ethos is embodied by Ashok as a leader, who wants to see the financial community come together, transforming traditional business models to create a better society. As a nod to the digital consumer, Ashok ‘hashtagged’ inspiring quotes throughout his presentation, with #letsgoforward and #trulyconnectedfinance most apt to sum up his overall message.
Every company MUST define a societal purpose, otherwise what’s the point?
Giovanni Dapra, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, MoneyFarm
Robo-advice was a big topic at Money20/20, and Giovanni sits at the centre of how this innovation is going to transform financial experiences for customers. This forward-looking entrepreneur believes ‘FinTech’ will have a completely different meaning in five years, with APIs allowing some companies to move beyond just disrupting a micro-service and ultimately take the lion’s share of the customer journey.
APIs have the potential to really put the customer at the centre, the question now is who is going to ‘own’ that customer journey.
John Salmon, Partner, Hogan Lovells
Regulation is never the most exhilarating topic of discussion, but it is essential in today’s climate. John is the man to make it bearable, and that is a superpower that cannot be ignored. John is responsible for Europe’s first lawtech product, a collation and summary of the most relevant regulatory content where larger financial institutions can receive a comprehensive PSD2 tool and FinTechs can learn how to navigate through FCA Authorisation.
People tend to be really negative about regulation and to be fair, it can be complex and costly. But if you better understand the opportunities it provides, that is a real advantage for you in the industry.
Superpower: Master of the labyrinth
Oscar Nieboer, Chief Marketing Officer, Paysafe
Oscar stands out due to his wealth of experience across payments, with previous positions at Betfair, Virgin and Paypal, and joining Paysafe late last year. Paysafe hit the headlines at Money 20/20, announcing the implementation of Mastercard’s new AI-based fraud solution with Citibank. The company sits in a unique spot at the centre of the value chain, with a portfolio that connects businesses and consumers globally by providing frictionless, empowering solutions.
The best way to notice us is when we are not here.
Superpower: Invisibility (of payments)
Rita Liu, Head of EMEA, AliPay
Having launched in Europe only a year ago, Rita is responsible for the incredible buzz surrounding this Chinese giant in this market and the magnitude of its growth in Europe in such a short time. With so many financial products in the Asian market, Rita discusses the importance of a particular focus in the European market, in particular, on expanding capabilities for merchants around payments. With no timeline in place for expanding into the consumer payments market, Rita is moving slow and steady, analysing each country’s own priorities in payments before expanding. Definitely one to watch!
We are using technology to drive and democratize financial services. It is not just creating fancy technology, it is more using it to serve the underserved.
Superpower: Queen of ubiquity
Daan van den Eshof, Product Manager at Rabo eBusiness & Ole Christian Olssøn, Vice President Sales, Signicat
These two executives illuminate the power of cooperation and partnership, bringing digital identity excellence to the Dutch market. It was clear by the end of the three days how entrenched payments and identity were, and Rabobank have taken a driver’s seat in the European market, backed by Signicat’s leading excellence in the space. Both admit it was a learning curve together, but one that was enhanced and fast tracked due to the collaborative nature of the businesses.
You can always develop and buy technology, but partnerships make the value proposition more powerful.
Every innovation discussed here at Money2020 stems from digital identity. Until you know who you are dealing with, the future of the payment cannot begin.
Josh Bottomley, Global Head of Digital, HSBC
Josh is an excellent example of how experience from outside financial services is crucial during this digital revolution. Coming from Google, Josh has reinvented the way banking works, making significant changes to culture, operations and structure within HSBC to stimulate innovation. That innovation expands worldwide, with the potential to really impact the underserved around the world.
The combination of biometrics, cloud and big data is going to completely remove friction and ultimately transform banking.
Marieke Flament, Managing Director, Europe, Circle
Marieke is another impressive leader entering financial services for the first time. A computer science engineer by background, she has travelled the world with her work, and was most recently at Expedia, where she gained unprecedented knowledge about the changing digital consumer. Circle has expanded from its licensing in March 2016 to a presence in 18 countries. Social payments is a brand new category that could be considered coined by Circle (pun intended), with massive players such as Facebook getting involved.
Money should be fast, free and fun.
Tram Anh Nguyen, Co-founder, CFTE
Tram quit her job in financial services four years ago, after nearly 20 years in the industry, with an ambition to do something bigger and better. She has now co-founded an online education programme (with her equally impressive husband) which aims to help finance professionals adapt and upskill to suit the rapidly changing industry. The programme also includes more basic principles to encourage financial inclusion around the world, an area of passion for Tram and one that should always be considered when analysing the impacts of technology around money.
Over the years, finance professionals have come to believe that fewer people will be needed in the industry, due to automation and tighter margins. This is a wrong view of the world, because finance is not getting smaller, it is getting bigger.
Anne Boden, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Starling Bank
Of the often grouped “neo-banks” of the UK, Starling Bank definitely had the most presence at Money 20/20, with multiple speaking slots and impressive announcements all around its mission to provide a healthier financial life for everyone. Following the incredible momentum after the launch of its current account in March, Starling Bank announced its expansion into Europe, with the Republic of Ireland the first stop in. Anne takes particular pride in their open APIs platform, as the first bank to have a marketplace where developers can build on the platform, allowing products to talk to each other in ways they've ever been able to before.
The most influential technology is API technology - it's the future of banking, it's the future of money.