Inspiring technology, shattered myths and finding unicorns that exist – Our community conversation

Over the Summer season, we here at FinTECHTalents placed several members of our Steering Committee in the hot seat and asked them to comment on some of the major themes we will explore as part of the Festival in November.

Find out whether our community feels technology, on its own, can inspire and determine if the future of financial services will need banks and how to capture *that* unicorn in a rainbow, scattered glitter storm.

Enjoy! (and register for your Sweet Bird ticket now!)

Florin Boldescu, CDO, BRD – Groupe Société Générale

Florin Boldescu, CDO, BRD – Groupe Société Générale

Where we are going – do we need banks?

I think banks will continue to support the overall financial ecosystem, they will adapt, change and transform. At the same time, the market will be more open, democratized and diverse: incumbents, FinTechs, neo banks and big tech companies.

Can technology – on its own – inspire us?

It already does this, from the moment we bought the first PC at home, tablet or smartphone. We are not only using them as tools, but we have changed our behaviour: how we work, consume, communicate, travel etc. We are inspired also about the people behind the tech: Jobs, Musk, Gates, Zuckerberg.

How do you get non-technical people excited about a new technology – that won’t see real impact for ’10 years’? 

I think it’s a double way process: Tech people to be interested in the end user/be aware about the context, market, customer and business people being excited by technology. It takes time for both of them.

How do you find a unicorn in a glitter storm?

I think you should follow a flexible framework: a specific number of criteria (the value they propose to bring by solving a problem, scalability, market, team/quality etc) applied to multiple startups but in the end probably 0,1% will become a unicorn. In a way it’s like finding the next Ronaldo or Messi😊

What technological/cultural/conventional myth has been shattered for you recently? If not – which ‘myth’ should be?

That education, age or income is something you need for easily absorbing technology. If you look at the massive success of Mobile Payments in Asia or Africa…it is something hard to imagine a decade ago or less.

Diana Biggs, global head of innovation, HSBC Private Bank

Diana Biggs, global head of innovation, HSBC Private Bank

Can technology – on its own – inspire us?

It does excite certain types but it’s the impact on people and planet that makes it truly inspiring – hence the importance of understanding (and caring about) your customer and of storytelling as a skill.

How do you get non-technical people excited about a new technology – that won’t see real impact for ’10 years’? 

Tell the story in a relatable way. Find analogies from across history (know your audience here, as different things will resonate) and remove as much abstraction as possible to demonstrate the potential impact (even if that means using lego…)

How do you find a unicorn in a glitter storm?

A team who are focused on the client (i.e. understanding and solving for a real problem) and have demonstrated ability to execute.

Jayson Callies, CTO, Seattle Bank

Jayson Callies, CTO, Seattle Bank

Where we are going – do we need banks?

Yes and no – With open banking more verticals will have the opportunity to directly lend, hold, and provide payment mechanisms for monies or the transfer of wealth. The recent announcement from Facebook regarding Libra is an extreme example of some of the possible ways banking will become obsolete. However, at the end of the day, there are currently services banks provide that will take a long time to replace. Both because they may be highly regulated and FinTechs don’t want to come under that scrutiny or because they may not be lucrative or cost effective enough for a challenger to care. Commercial banking and the nuance in those relationships is an area that will require some time to replace. Currently most FinTech is targeting the quick win of the consumer market to gain scale, most of these challengers, especially the ones whose business models are based solely on interchange fee income, are in for a rude awakening as those fees continue to be compressed and they then become required to charge their clients either a subscription fee or other fees to make up the difference.

Can technology – on its own – inspire us?

Absolutely – As technology advances, possibilities increase, and inspiration ensues.

How do you get non-technical people excited about a new technology – that won’t see real impact for ’10 years’?

Ooh – This is can be very difficult, you have to paint a very elaborate picture and be able to tell a story that is very personal and relevant to the audience. I.E. autonomous vehicles are coming and in the future you will not need to own a vehicle you will just say “Alexa have a two person vehicle pick me up at 5 am and drive me to the airport” or “Imagine a world where your grandkids won’t learn how to drive” or “0-fatalities”. In any case you need to be able to provide the value prop.

How do you find a unicorn in a glitter storm?

Another tough one – For me it really has to do with the value prop of the product/service and the management team. You can have an amazing product but without great management (they have to absolutely believe in what they are doing) it can be DOA, in a real-time world execution is key. Too many start-ups try to be everything to everybody and stretch themselves so thin that the whole business suffers. A good management team will realize they need to focus on the core strategy first and iterate at a fast pace but not so fast that the product suffers (downtime, lag, etc). Sometimes an idea or product is a Unicorn but it may require that the inventor/creators get out of the way and let someone else run the business. Also many times FinTech’s are providing a feature not a product, maybe they need to partner with someone else to turn it into a unicorn.

What technological/cultural/conventional myth has been shattered for you recently? If not – which ‘myth’ should be?

The world is not round! 😊

Mitesh Soni, senior director, innovation and FinTech, Finastra

Mitesh Soni, senior director, innovation and FinTech, Finastra

Where we are going – do we need banks?

Banks have provided banking services with a product mindset for many decades. That’s because the technology at the time was product led and not very customer centric. In the last decade we’ve witnessed the massive growth of big tech who have mastered the art of consumer driven design. Consumers have increasingly grown accustomed to simple, instant and digitally native experiences. So banks that are not adapting to this strategy will become commodity providers whilst those that can provide services that can offer predictive and personalised services will excel.

Can technology – on its own – inspire us?

Technology on its own is not all that inspiring. When technology is used creatively to solve big problems then it can be very inspiring.

How do you get non-technical people excited about a new technology – that won’t see real impact for ’10 years’? 

People get excited when they can see and feel the technology in a playful way. Future technologies that can be experienced in a lab can be a great way to connect the human to future technologies.

How do you find a unicorn in a glitter storm?

With a great deal of scrutiny, luck and like fishing, if you are patient and know which pond to fish in then you will have greater success.

What technological/cultural/conventional myth has been shattered for you recently? If not – which ‘myth’ should be?

Life sciences and technology like CRISPR have shattered the conventional reality that all diseases can be cured through DNA editing and sculpting out the DNA that is erroneous.

Patrick Mang, head of innovation for global markets, HSBC

Patrick Mang, head of innovation for global markets, HSBC

Where we are going – do we need banks?

If we didn’t have banks we would recreate them. Banking performs an inescapably necessary function in a modern economy of credit allocation, liquidity transformation, and risk distribution. Insurance does the same. I recommend “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk” by Peter Bernstein.

Can technology – on its own – inspire us?

No. Technology is a means to an end. Science Fiction can inspire us. Human ambition can inspire us. Technology on its own is a soulless, God-less void.

How do you get non-technical people excited about a new technology – that won’t see real impact for ’10 years’? 

Through story telling of Utopian world of clean air, limitless power, interplanetary colonisation, and progress towards a Kardashev Type II civilization.

How do you find a unicorn in a glitter storm?

Uh, feel for the horn?

What technological/cultural/conventional myth has been shattered for you recently? If not – which ‘myth’ should be?

Google does no evil.

Melanie Palmer, CMO Nucoro

Melanie Palmer, CME, Nucoro

Where we are going – do we need banks?

What’s the role of a bank? Look after our money? Invest? Provide Insurance? All of these things? I think what we think of as a bank will be very different in the future. As financial engagement goes up and technology gets better, getting the most from our finances will be what we expect from our “bank”. Therefore, a business that can make smart decisions with our money and that can offer best in class services, whether that be by them or via partner, is the type of company that will win. So where we are going I think what we’ll really need is some sort of ‘Holistic Financial Optimiser’ (Catchy I know!)

How do you get non-technical people excited about a new technology that won’t see a real impact for ’10 years’?

I think as Fintechers we get just as excited about what sits behind the user experience as we do for the front-end. Take AI for an example, we talk about this ALOT but if we look at Google Maps, consumers don’t care that it’s AI, they care that it helps them get from A to B in the most efficient way. We need to focus on the customer impact on their daily lives, not on the technology itself.

How do you find a unicorn in a glitter storm?

Hold a glitter carrot at arm’s length and wait for her to come to you. Actually, do unicorns even eat carrots? Anyone? Let me get back to you on that one.

What technological/cultural/conventional myth has been shattered for you recently? If not – which ‘myth’ should be?

To my joy, I think the myth about personal finance being complicated is being shattered. It was a world of jargon, suits and intimidation; and whilst we still have a long way to go, I get the feeling that finance in general is finally starting to shrink away from this. In its place, we’re seeing more innovation, more focus on customers and greater accessibility.