☃️ Fintech After Dark: Predictions and reflections on a year in Fintech

Sarah Hiraki

 · 12/11/2019  · 12/11/2019

On December 4, 2019, 11:FS’s Fintech Insider kicked off the holiday season with Fintech After Dark: Christmas 2019. Fintech Insider regulars David Brear, Simon Taylor, Jason Bates, and Sarah Kocianski, were joined by Richard Davies, COO at Revolut; Scott Abrahams, Head of Acceptance and Payments at MasterCard; and Megan Caywood, Head of Digital Strategy at Barclays. The panel of experts, along with 200 holiday-jumpered and enthusiastic fintech nerds and decision-makers, (let’s be honest, there’s a lot of overlap in that Venn diagram) descended on Revolut headquarters in Canary Wharf to celebrate an incredible year in fintech.

Alongside the podcast recording was a raffle fundraiser in aid of Save the Children. Prizes included a fintech stocking, vouchers to city pantry, and Champions League Tickets. Funds raised at the event would be put to use rebuilding schools in Mozambique after the two cyclones that hit the country earlier this year, with 11FS matching all donations to help make a bigger impact.

The evening began with an introduction from Fintech Insider host David Brear, as he drew parallels between the ever-changing world of fintech and payments to the journey through time in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or, as he put it, the more familiar The Muppet Christmas Carol. Brear welcomed on stage his three “Scrooges”: Davies, Abrahams, and Caywood, and they were interviewed about their reflections, perspectives and projections for the industry.

🏦The Ghost of Finserve Past

For the panel, memories of a time before sleek app-based experiences are defined by sluggish response times, endless paperwork, and bureaucracy. Megan Caywood, described a frustrating experience as an expat opening a traditional account in the UK and the sting of trying to use her UK bank account across multiple currencies,

“I made the mistake of using this traditional bank card abroad, and of course they don’t tell you the exchange rate. Everything was just so painful. We’ve come a long way since then.”

While offline paperwork and cumbersome phone interactions were emblematic of the pre-fintech era of banking, Davies explained that it was really about perfecting service lines. “There are clearly customers that want different channels of service.” Davies said.

“And It’s not necessarily just an age thing, people can still  want different things. But the biggest single trend over the last few years is people wanting that amazing mobile banking experience.”

Abrahams agreed, “The people that are successful are the people that understand that some things really haven't changed. The businesses that are doing the best have one or two key things, like Revolut with multi-currency and FX–that's one thing you start with that drags a lot of people in.”

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👻The Ghost of Finserve Present:

In post-crisis 2008, customers have become a lot more savvy. So, where are we now

Host Sarah Kocianski asked the panel about the greatest improvements they’ve seen in the industry lately, and if there were any breaking developments that made them truly excited.

The panel was unanimous: the greatest improvement is user holding all the cards (💳) and having complete control over their finances. From a single app view of statements, instantaneous information, and a greater focus from banks and payment companies on customer experience. But, they agreed, there is still so much to be done.

Davies added an emphasis on frictionless services for small businesses, as cracking the code for personal finance has enabled business users to have access to features previously unheard of.

“It comes back to the customer. I’ve spent a lot of my career working with SMEs and so I’m really excited by what’s going on both in Revolut and the wider market to solve issues for SMEs,” Davies said. “To create invoices, to create expense solutions, to create payroll solutions, to create solutions for accountants. All of these things for small businesses who have been so neglected historically.”

🔮The Ghost of Finserve future:

What does the future hold for payment companies? With a backdrop showcasing an illustration of a gravestone adorned with the image of a bank and the letters “R.I.P.” the panel made some predictions about the future: more change.

Some big questions emerged over the course of the conversation: Is there still room for payments companies to specialise? Will finance go the way of telecoms companies, becoming so massive that they become “pipeline commodities?”

For Davies, the trend of consumer-centric experiences will be critical. “The really interesting question for me is about personalisation and predictive services.”

But at the end of the day, business is business for Abrahams. “You’ve got to have an angle, you can’t start a business without a really good angle,” he said. “You see that with fintechs; with a number of ‘names’ failing, and also a lot of mid size banks on the ropes.”

The tone of the conversation was optimistic, and the mood; celebratory. As the discussion drew to a close, there was one last moment to reminisce, and the acknowledgement that the only constant is change.

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