The Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS) is the flagship event of Innovate Finance and this year, sat at the heart of #UKFinTechWeek (April 4-8) and was in-person for the first time since 2019. For me, it was not only the first time for me as an IFGS Speaker, this was my very first in-person event in 2022. In the environment of the Guildhall, London – inside and out (the Food Court was great!) – there was the space to chat, listen and soak up the lively atmosphere without feeling overly hemmed-in, except in the Exhibitors’ Area which was just too much for me quite quickly. Great for the exhibitors though! There was a truly packed Programme covering #Banking, #InsurTech, #PayTech and pretty much every other flavour of #Fintech you can imagine.
Data & Innovation: 9 Do’s
I had the pleasure of discussing the assertion Fostering Innovation: Data is Power on-stage with four differently-expert people from different backgrounds:
- Markos Zachariadis, Professor of Information Systems at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) and Chair of Financial Technology
All five of us obsess professionally about Data in the business of Financial Services:
- Charles’ firm ComplyAdvantage, founded in 2014, specialises in AI-enabled tools for AML, CTF (Counter-Terrorist Financing) and Sanctions;
- Plaid, founded in 2012, is a leading Open Banking platform operating in the US, Canada and Europe and Dan’s focus is influencing policymakers;
- Denisse’s firm Eb’s financial risk management platform, Sherloc, is designed to help SMEs factor in financial risks caused by activity or events;
- Markos’ work is wide-ranging and impactful on so many levels, it’s almost impossible to summarise in a few words but his expertise covers PayTech, Platforms and Data Standards
- As a non-Teccie subject matter expert on AI, Data and Innovation, I think about how the business differentiates between what it can technically do – and how that fits with the firm’s Purpose and its promises to Customer, an area increasingly defined as Corporate Digital Responsibility
We packed a lot into our 35-minute slot (more info on the Summit here,)and here are the 9 key takeaways as I heard them:
- When it comes to Data for Innovation, rely on what you have, and not on what we might need or profitably use
- Focus on putting in place robust (Systems) infrastructure FIRST
- Think about People and Regulation – not just the Data
- Remember that if the firm gets Data ‘wrong’, you can destroy your business: at-scale consumer-focused businesses must have Credit, AML and Fraud as core competencies
- Getting Data for Innovation ‘right’ also includes knowing precisely who your customer is, and having your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Lifetime Value (LTV)
- Data-enabled innovators need common definitions, standards, vocabularies and more applied regardless of national or international differences: that should be a primary deliverable for regulators and governments
- BEIS should legislate NOW for a Consumer Data Right
- Be prepared to pay much bigger salaries for Data professionals than you will think
- If you’re innovating with Data as the Business Plan, go deep where you can add Value: if you can’t go deep, you won’t be adding Value and there will be no business there
These and others are the considerations any conversation and narrative on Data and Innovation should include, and NOT (as so very often) jump straight to the Technologies, especially AI, and stay there.
Some Other Takeaways
From other sessions I listened in on, I found stand-outs in 3 areas:
- DE&I in FinTech a Live & Big Issue
- Financial Innovation ‘Methods’: Have They Changed?
- Open Finance Remains Key – but Crypto & NFTs Worth Following
DE&I in FinTech a Live & Big Issue
Numerous speakers raised this in various contexts, from this now being a definite strategic intent for the firm (where even 12 months ago it was not) including non-developer roles, apprenticeships and how this should also be a key Job to be Done for the new Centre for Financial Innovation & Technology (CFIT). Alex Marsh of Klarna UK was forthright, calling out the persistence of ‘white males giving capital to white males’ as a factor in almost non-existent Diversity in founding teams. As Aisha Gani of Bloomberg in her moderating session put it: ‘How disruptive can FinTech really be if so few women and people of colour get funded?’ Quite. Talent in general was a key strand of debate and discussion: Markos Z reported that 80% of all the talks mentioned this as a key factor in moving FinTech as a whole forward.
Financial Innovation ‘Methods’: Have They Changed?
Andy Ellis, Head of Digital Assets at Natwest emphatically thinks they have, calling the approach now ‘dramatically different’ to 5 years’ ago. He observes a ‘Mature movement in the ecosystem’ and relationships with the 60 or so FinTechs he works with as an exchange of fair value with SaaS vendors.
Open Finance Remains Key – but Crypto & NFTs Worth Following
The movement to Open Data (and Open Finance) will continue and can accelerate if Governance, Standards and Consumer Protection (finally) catches up (in my view). This probably means that the ‘flurry of innovation’ many speakers commented on as a feature of the 2020s will continue, and intensify, so the ‘competition’ will hot up, fuelled by ‘VCs (are) flooding in’ (again, a common view). I confess I worry a lot that NFTs are another flavour of the Emperor’s New (Financial) Clothes, and that Crypto is yet another hype cycle that will bring enormous customer detriment and systemic risk in its wake. I find myself really turned-off by the uncritical enthusiasm and unabashed marketing masquerading as ‘analysis’ there is so much of now, although the IFGS sessions I attended were NOT of that ilk, in the main. I totally acknowledge (1) I have a major knowledge gap on Crypto and (2) not ALL protestations of democratising finance are just words.
Inspired to Learn (More)?
And all that said, DeFi and Web 3 definitely made it on to my ‘Do the Research’ items on my personal action list, partly inspired by the Fireside Chat with Marieke Flament about the NEAR Foundation. I’ve been interested in Open Banking/Open Insurance as a near-term disruptor for Insurance for a couple years (see below) and in many ways, to me, these concepts take the underlying driver of decentralisation and Data disintermediation to a next-stage and therefore are important new knowledge areas for anyone leading, working in, advising, and/or ‘NED-ing’ a Financial Services firm. Phew.
Even Better Ifs?
I know what it takes to design and execute an event like the IFGS. It was done really, really well. But it would great to see Innovate Finance CEO Janine Hirt and her team leading the field in another way: in her opening address, Janine’s call to action for FinTech as a whole was to ‘… (put) the people for whom we create, and the people we create with’ at the very heart of everything, every day, as standard. Where were the people for whom we create, included in debates and discussions, their voices given a platform to help FinTech understand how what we’re doing does – and doesn’t – get their Jobs Done? Brilliant people like Rachel Kent on-stage evaluating Kalifa, and advocating for the Future Regulatory Framework (FRF) to be that ‘golden chance to fix issues on credit and more’ is super, but does not take the place of the real-world consumer and their advocates being an intrinsic part of talking about what – and importantly WHY? – we do what we do, and its value to them. But, there’s always next year …
Interested in more on Open Banking/Open Insurance?
Shân Millie is GK’s expert in FinTech; AI/ML & Digital Governance; and Corporate StoryTelling. She specialises in supporting new and scaling firms on strategic executive advisory; business & market development; applied customer insight; and value proposition development and testing.