Fintech conference season: the biggest October takeaways

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Missive’s Dominic Edge, rounds up some of the most interesting trends and themes from October’s biggest fintech events.

Autumn is one of the busiest periods in the conference calendar, with a number of major events taking place across the capital including Sibos, the P20 Conference and PayExpo to name but a few.

With hundreds of leading banks and fintechs jostling for their share of spotlight, it can be challenging to keep abreast of all of the latest developments from the stage. But fear not. 

We’ve filtered through the noise to bring you a concise overview of the top themes from October’s biggest fintech events.

Open banking was front and centre at Sibos, with a number of senior executives opting to focus their talks on the topic. The past few years have been blighted by a combination of bluster and ambivalence, which Imran Gulamhuseinwala, Trustee of the Open Banking Implementation Entity, is keen to change. “2020 will be the year for adoption in the UK, and there is a lot of discussion on how to extend open banking from just current accounts,” he said. “4 million [people in the UK] can’t get access to credit. We want to try to use competition and innovation to fix this, and we think that open banking is the way to do it.” Tony McLaughlin, Managing Director at Citi emphatically called on the industry to deliver innovation through open banking, declaring  the publishing of APIs “the equivalent of building branches on the high street.”

As expected, AI was placed on a high pedestal, with a number of companies preaching its many benefits. “Emerging technologies [such as machine learning] can advance application areas such as market surveillance and data analytics methods – technologies that allow us to uphold market integrity,” said Carl Slesser and Hanaa Bengtsson of NASDAQ. Nadia Sood, CEO of CreditEnable took a more cautious tone, however, opting to dive into the unhealthy biases that can perpetuate within the technology, pointing to real world examples of gender and age bias. “AI needs to be developed in a consequential, thoughtful manner for [its] promise to be delivered on” she warned.    

Over in Westminster, P20’s annual conference brought together global payments industry leaders, government officials and more to discuss regulation, cybersecurity and financial inclusion. Given the event’s close proximity to Parliament, concerns over the UK’s global status in a post-Brexit landscape crept to the top of the agenda. Lord Mayor for the City of London and international ambassador for UK financial services, Peter Estlin, forewarned that whilst India, China and Africa are currently behind the UK “they’re going to catch up pretty quickly.” As the leader of innovation in the financial services industry Estlin sees it as the UK’s social responsibility to lead the race and collaborate far more than it’s already doing. “The world has got pieces of a jigsaw, but no picture,” he suggested, imploring the UK to mastermind putting it all together.

Missive’s Kitty Guillaume, who hosted media at the event, thought that the ongoing debate about the role of cryptocurrency was a particularly interesting take away from the event. “Libra has pulled cryptocurrency to the top of the media’s agenda this year, which has overshadowed a lot of the exciting developments in the sector. P20 brought these developments to the fore, exploring how the industry can come together to drive financial inclusion globally.” 

Elsewhere, Maha El Dimachki made headlines at PayExpo, warning that the Financial Conduct Authority will be clamping down on payments institutions which “flout” the regulator’s safeguarding requirements of client funds. She was equally scathing of Mark Zuckerburg’s declared work ethic of ‘moving fast and breaking things’, stating that “corners can’t really be cut if you want to overcome financial crime.” For the fintechs looking to break the status quo in the audience, this stern warning will bear weight as they look to grow and scale. Away from the show floor, founder of Worldpay and Clearbank, Nick Ogden was voted as #1 in the Payments Power 10 as a result of his continued contribution to the industry.

It’s been a busy period for the industry, but one which is likely to set the pace of innovation and growth for the coming year.   

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