Hoping to unwind on the AVE back to Madrid after a frenetic 2 days at Mobile World Congress, I can't help but ponder my insights and learnings as we cut across the Spanish countryside at 300 KM/H. It's been an exciting two days, focused primarily on meeting
with financial institutions and scouting for innovations and possible disruptions in fintech.
My take on the congress, in so far it applies to the financial services industry -
I expected to see and hear a lot more around mPayments. MC and Visa dominated the audience's attention with early announcements on Monday. I think they are on to something, but cannot push hard enough to disrupt the status quo for fear of upsetting their
I was excited to see so many banks walking the floor. I saw a lot of familiar faces from around the globe, but not surprisingly, most had that same fearful look on their face. All banks are clearly aware of the imminent disruption in their industry brought
on by digital, and more importantly, mobile technologies. The MNOs diminished presence at an industry-sanctioned event was not the reinforcement banks were looking for.
Related to this, most FIs I spoke to are suffering from paralysis by analysis. Banks are clearly aware of the imminent disruption their industry is set to face, but I am not so sure they facing the problem head on. Many came looking for answers, without
knowing whom to ask. One bank I met with had spent their sole day at the conference meeting with an incumbent MNO, the mother of all IT consulting groups and an almost defunct mobile OS; the epitome of disruption (irony: on). My recommendation was they meet
with LetoBank, Sean Park and Ubuntu and/or Firefox; their response was… no comment.
There was common trend around the democratization of smartphones. FireFox and Ubuntu are doing this through their open source software; Nokia with their US$15 Nokia 105 that comes with internet and email connectivity. All three will certainly help bring
smartphone-like features and usability to the masses in the emerging and developing markets, and with it bringing advanced opportunities for mobile-based financial services beyond payments.
Lastly, and in so far as hardware is concerned, I found wearables to be both interesting and popular. In the fintech space, they provide an excellent opportunity for banks and insurers to start gathering additional, non-finance related personal information
that can eventually bring personalized products and pricing to their customers – ie, health insurance.
All in all, I thought it was a great show and really happy to see the concerted effort that disruptive startups and established players (outside of the incumbents, of course) are setting forth to transform their industries through mobile technologies.